Manuscript Finished…What Do You Mean I’m Just Starting?

I don’t know how long it took me to make all the revisions. A lot longer than it should have, to be honest, but life was also taking me on a violent roller coaster, so I give myself a bit of slack. I’d already graduated with my bachelor’s degree in philosophy of ethics and started a nonprofit organization to help mitigate veteran suicide; revising The War of Ages Saga had simply fallen in priority.

Borders had long closed, a sad day for America. Lisa and I had been meeting almost every week for the past few years, working on her latest book while also going through revisions for mine. At that time, Lisa was the only person critiquing my work, but she had never read a fantasy book in her life. At least none that she could remember; however, she had over 15 years of experience as an editor, had already published many books and had gotten a deal to publish another (which I helped on 🙂 ). She chipped away my novice tendencies, yelled at my info dumps, and hacked at anything reeking of stilted. Lisa taught me the how of writing I was lucky to have her as my mentor.

After I had finished the revisions, Lisa told me to check it again. Which I did. Then she told me to check it one more time. Which I didn’t. I felt that I had already gotten to the point where I wasn’t going to find anything else and needed someone else to look at it. Once Lisa was satisfied that I wasn’t going to hand her a pile of grammatical vomit, she summoned her editorial powers and line-edited my manuscript.

If you don’t know how much of a gift that was, do a simple Google search and see how much it would have cost me to line edit a 145k word manuscript.

After a few months, I had my new manuscript in hand. Lisa was apprehensive to give it to me because she wanted to make sure I understood the changes she made and requested to be made. It took us another three months to go through the whole thing, and I had a well-polished book, ready for print!

But I was missing an important aspect, which I wouldn’t understand until much later, after having sent it out to agent, after agent, after agent.

What makes good writing, I believe, is true across all genres—conflict, prose, milieu, plot twists, character development, try/fail sequence, etc. Good genre writing is like adding condiments to good writing. Each genre has its own flavor and style, which is true for any creative medium (music, painting, etc.). Epic fantasy novels, as an example, tend to have no shortage of proper nouns, strange names, ancient prophecies, all drizzled with a healthy portion of foreshadowing (which might not unfold for many books into the series).

I had recognized this aspect of writing when Lisa and I would meet; she would make certain comments, and I would think, “You would understand if you read fantasy”. In my pride, I had believed that I would be able to provide those fantasy-style condiments to my story without anyone else’s perspective. I was (am) also poor, I couldn’t afford to pay someone to proof my manuscript, and most of my friends and family understandably want to wait to read the finished product. And so, from my point of view, manuscript revised and edited so many times I was starting to get angry at it, I was done. I was ready to seek representation.

“Now we get to work on your query letter,” Lisa told me with a smile that said I was about to hate my life.

“My what?” I asked her.

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