Coming down to the wire on revisions

The next draft of my book is due to my editor on August 1st. I am working hard and expect to make the deadline. It’s been a long process, but I feel guardedly optimistic about these revisions. They’ve made the book smaller and more personal, refocusing it on a handful of relationships, and I’ve been pleased with what’s come out of the process. I don’t know how well it’ll be received, but that’s always a danger with every revision. I had a friend whose book deal was pulled after her editor disliked the direction of her revision, and that’s an ever-present danger when it comes to the editorial process. You need to proceed with courage and confidence despite the knowledge that sometimes your best judgement will possibly put you at odds with people whom you desperately need to be on your side.

This is sort of the mystery of writing. A book can only come from inside the author. The moment they start trying to please other people, they’re lost. And editors, agents, and critics know this. You’ll frequently have the spectacle of an editor saying, “Just do what you feel is right; stop trying to just make me happy.” And yet if you don’t make them happy, your book will not come out.

That’s why the publishing industry is such a chewer-up and discarder of people. In order to succeed, you need to fall into the very narrow aperture created by the overlap of your own tastes and the tastes of a variety of gate-keepers (including, ultimately, the readers). And many–perhaps most–writers simply cannot find that sweet spot. Usually they tilt too far onto the side of the industry, struggling to create works that the gatekeepers will like but that the author themself, in their own heart, knows to be lacking in soul. I think that’s a very difficult place to be. Selling out is hard enough–it completely saps all the joy from the process of working–but what’s harder, and what I see far too often, is when a person tries to sell out and finds that nobody is buying.