A Speed Bump in the Banana Peel

Those of you who have followed this blog probably know more about the writing and editing end of the publishing industry than you ever wanted to know. Spoiler alert: More to follow.

The first stage of editing happens on this side of the continent. There’s self-editing—the changes made on a daily basis as I write the first draft. The second stage is done by Bill, my husband, and my long time agent. On the other side of the continent editing comes in three stages—the editorial letter, copy-editing, and finally galleys.

Even though it is more than three decades ago, I’ve never forgotten my first ever editorial letter—the one for Until Proven Guilty. The words are engraved in my heart, and I can quote them verbatim: “This book takes place over a two week period. All days are consecutive. No days are skipped. Unfortunately, between Wednesday and Thursday, there is an extra unnamed day. Please fix and return the manuscript to us by Monday.” That was on a Friday. No pressure.

I searched through the manuscript, found that extra day, and was able to duct tape most of the scenes into one of the other “consecutive days.” But there was one scene that hit the cutting room floor because I didn’t have any more nights. It was a scene in a bar between J.P. Beaumont and Anne Corley which really turned their relationship red-hot, thus making what happened between them later more believable and more understandable. For years I’ve been the only person grieving over that missing scene. Now you’re missing it, too. Thanks a lot, right?

Tomorrow morning at O-dark-thirty I set off to participate in the Tucson Festival of Books. Last week, I told you I wanted to have Sins of the Fathers done before I left town. Guess what? It isn’t. It’s at 86.4 percent, but that’s not done. And why is that? Because yesterday, during a bit of self-editing, I hit a speed bump. One of the characters mentioned doing something the day before, when my Name and Timeline File clearly indicated that could not be the case. As my daughter says, apparently I’m as calendar challenged in real life as I am in fiction. I hadn’t added in an extra day. I had dropped one. Oopsie.

What to do? Well, the timeline said the book started on a Tuesday. At first glance it would seem easy to simply move the beginning to Monday. I did that, but then I had to read through chapter by chapter and sort out any interior references to the day of the week. When I hit Chapter 13, I finally had the action sorted into a proper sequence, and that was a huge relief because I needed to have the weekend clear to be … well … the weekend.

Let’s just say it was a lot of time consuming, hard work. By the end of the day I had moved the word count forward a mere one percent. For the banana peel part of a book, that’s really paltry progress. My manicure appointment is coming up in a few minutes. That was supposed to be a reward for finishing the book. Now it’s going to have to be a reward for fixing a problem, but it’s a lot better to find it now and fix it now than to have a some sharp-eyed copy editor blow the whistle on the issue a month from now.

Onward and upward. You can bet I’ll be working on the plane.

See you in Tucson.

I’m really looking forward to some sunshine.