I got my edits back.
Other writers keep telling me that this is the hardest time, waiting to see what your editor is going to do to your work. I've been nervous about it, I confess. Another writer friend of mine who was recently published has been telling tales of his editing process, in which massive swaths of text, sometimes whole chapters, had been removed. I was bracing myself for the scalpel, rehearsing my defense of chapters that I feared were not long for this world.
I got a note from the apartment complex office yesterday, saying that I had a package, and when I saw the return address, I knew Santa was here. Bonus: getting to open the package in front of the pretty young ladies working in the office and impress them with my fancy pants authorliness. My favorite among them (yeah, I have a favorite; leave me alone with my wicked old man ways) was actually talking about throwing a book release party for me. Thanks, Santa.
After returning to my apartment (hurriedly so I wouldn't pass out from sucking in my gut much longer), I started reading the letter and bracing myself for the cuts.
Except there weren't any, aside from a few sentences here and there. There were lots of tweaks, some questions and requests for clarifications, requests for more material in a few specific areas, and some legal questions. But no chapters with giant red X's. My original conception of this book is going to be very close to what comes out, almost frighteningly so.
As I dig into the manuscript page by page, making the small changes, I'm learning a lot about my writing. A few things I've realized just in the past 24 hours:
*I begin far too many sentences with the word "and". I'm not stupid; I know it creates incomplete sentences, and that's bad, by golly. But it's always been something I've done, a stylistic choice I made when blogging to give my work a conversational flow. That's fine for the immediacy of online writing, but in a memoir, it had to go. Just deleting them has improved the flow and tone dramatically.
*I am far too vulgar for my own good. Sheila didn't go through like a puritan missionary, striking out all my blue material and replacing it with family-friendly phrasing. What she did was recognize when I needed a strong word and when I was just being lazy. In every case so far that I've replaced an obscenity, it has strengthened the writing. She left the ones I felt I needed without flinching.
*Julie, on the other hand, is not quite as vulgar as I make her sound. Sorry, Julie. I think what happens is that when she gets upset, Julie achieves an eloquence that sticks in my mind, so I tend to quote her in those situations. Those are also the best opportunities for F-bombs, however. The final version of the book will present a much less sailorish version of my lovely bride. (Just so you know, however, the two edits I did to clean up her image a little? Total spin. She really did say the nasty things I originally reported. They just didn't seem so cute on the written page.)
I'm sure there must be some sort of cosmic plan involved in giving two foul-mouthed people like Julie and myself a child who is physically incapable of repeating the off-color words and phrases that occasionally slip out in front of her. (If by "occasionally", you mean "daily".) Lord help us when she starts spelling out words on her device by ear, or starts programming them into it by herself.
If you doubt for a moment that Schuyler's story landed on the desk of exactly the right editor, you should know that when I wrote about Schuyler's favorite movie (King Kong, of course), Sheila corrected my spelling of one character's name and fleshed out some other information as well. Is my editor a King Kong fan, too? THAT, my friends, is Fate at work.
So I'm back to work on the book, happily so, and feeling more confident than ever that hooking up with St. Martin's Press was the best thing that could have possibly happened to this book. I know there are people out there who doubt the value of a good agent or a good editor. For me, however, they've made all the difference.
The photo at the top of this post is looking like the odds-on favorite for the book cover, by the way, and I think that's great. Schuyler wasn't posing for some metaphoric conceptual shot, either. She was laughing at something, I snapped the shot while she giggled behind her hand, and a split second she had moved on. It was only later that I realized what I had captured. It was the luckiest of shots.