When the editors asked me to rewrite OUT OF BALANCE yet again, I asked why. I was told the ending was “unrealistic.” Today, while reading, “Romancing the Publishing Industry,” in a back issue of WRITER’s DIGEST, Brenda Novak commented that “because of these optimistic endings, romances have, on occasion, been criticized as unrealistic.” Although my novel, OUT OF BALANCE, isn’t strictly a romance, it does share a happy ending. That is, it did, until the editors asked for a “realistic” rewrite.
Being the people-pleaser that I am, I complied with the editors wishes and rewrote the ending. I deleted the “happily-ever-after” and substituted “and we all compromised and tried to get along” ending instead.
Guess what happened? I received a phone call from the editor-in-chief. I was at my day job living out the realistic ending of my own life and was unable to take the call. When I picked up the voicemail on my break, I heard the panic in the editor’s voice.
“Umm…we received your rewrite…and…Um…. there were some SIGNIFICAN T changes. I’m not sure where we are going to go with this. Please give us a call. I’ll be in tomorrow and will clear my afternoon to speak with you.”
Uh-oh, I thought. Not again. More and more bad news. Doesn’t anyone receive good news after the publishing contract is signed?
Apparently, those are the exceptions, not the rule. Or, in my case, maybe I am the exception.
Reluctantly, I rescheduled my afternoon and made the dreaded phone call.
“I’m so glad you called,” my editor said, after it took her a moment to recognize me. After all, I’m just one horse in a stable full of authors. “We received your rewrite. I don’t have the manuscript in front of me, but I noticed it’s full of repetition, spelling errors.”
“Repetition? Spelling errors?” I lamely echoed.
“Well, yes, you spell words the British way,” she said.
“I do?” Damn, it must be all those British copies of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella and Nick Hornby, I’ve read. I never can wait to read the American release, which often is months after the books are released in the United Kingdom. I didn’t know I had started writing like the British. I guess someone would have noticed if I called the back of a car a boot rather than a trunk, but I hadn’t gone that far. At least, not in this manuscript.
“So, what are we going to do?” I asked.
“Well, it needs a line edit,” she said.
Didn’t I just have one of those? I thought. Or are line edits like oil changes and you need to have one every 3,000 words?
“What else?” I asked.
“There are two options,” my editor said. “Well, no, there are actually three. One, we could send the manuscript to the evaluator for a second opinion. Two, we could send the manuscript to a new evaluator and see what that person has to say, but remember, this is fiction, and everyone’s opinion is subjective. Or we could see what book reviewers have to say. If the reviews are favorable, we’ll keep you on. If not, we’ll drop you from the contract on the basis of item four: failure to deliver an acceptable manuscript.”
Wow. I can go to the boxing ring with the reigning champ and risk being beaten up again or I can compete against someone else. Or I can go play with the tigers in the arena and either live or die. Just what every author dreams of, right?
I considered my badly worn, overly tired, beaten down and battered about manuscript and the original version that was as sparkly and new as an imperfect diamond. But aren’t all diamonds imperfect? And people still risk their lives to unearth them, sell them, buy them, and wear them, right? What if I took my imperfect gem of a novel and found a way to bring it to the public without it being hacked to pieces and taped back together again? Could I do it? Would I do it? Even if it meant giving back an advance and stepping away from the professionals and trusting my gut?
I talked with people I know and trust to assess their opinions. The overriding opinion was, “Do whatever it takes to keep your contract. If this book does well, an agent will pick you up and you will never have to worry again.”
I just don’t know.
What I do know is I am done with rewriting the book. I told the editor that, and I am willing to go it alone if need be.
Let the tigers into the arena. I will fight with what I have left and see how far it will get me.
Whether I live or die one thing I know for sure: OUT OF BALANCE will be published.
*Here’s my happy ending: OUT OF BALANCE was self-published and has out sold my last traditionally published book in the first month!