Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Evolution of a Page

By Amy MacKinnon

I think it was our second meeting when I submitted twenty pages of my manuscript, then tentatively title TETHERED, to my writers' group. This is Hannah's feedback from that night. I was wreck showing it to them, but see how kind her notes are -- and they weren't overwhelming either.

This second page is what I submitted to Grub Street's Muse and the Marketplace two years ago. I signed up with Little, Brown editor Asya Muchnick. Beforehand, she read 20 page of my manuscript, making careful notes on each. It was waiting in line for my critique when I met Gail Konop Baker; what a blessing that's been. Asya gave my manuscript a careful, thoughtful edit. I floated out of there.

Now this third page is probably the most marked-up of the bunch. That handwriting belongs to my editor Sally Kim. After sending me a two page editorial letter with an overall structural critique (what needs tweaking, what doesn't work, what needs more depth), she then did a careful line edit of the manuscript. Now don't let anyone tell you editors don't edit anymore. Here's physical proof they do and do it beautifully.

And then the lovely, lovely copy edits. Now when it's your turn to open that huge bubble-lined manilla envelope and pull out your manuscript, you'll be tickled to see a key with all of your characters' names, every major business, each setting. It's quite a kick. It might also intimidate you a bit to know a professional grammarian has laid eyes on your words. Not to worry, s/he is on your side to make your book the best it can be. There will be a lot of marks. It might scare the bejesus out of you so much, you close the envelope back up again -- for a few days. I'm not saying I did this, but I might have. Once you plunge in, though, you find it's not nearly as humiliating as you feared. In fact, I asked my bestest friend Heather Grant Murray, also a copy editor, to go over it as I did. I love copy editors.

Then the best part happens. Your first pass pages arrive. For the first time since you sat down at your desk all those years ago, you see how your words will appear on the page. Isn't it magnificent? Lynn Amft designed the interior layout and she is brilliant. The very first design I was shown, I loved. She captured the tone perfectly.

Looks like quite a bit of work by many hands, doesn't it? But imagine, that's just one page...


Gail said...

I've been reading TETHERED and it is amazing and haunting and atmospheric. Wow, Amy. Just wow!!

Anonymous said...

I am blown away by how few marks anyone put to your pages and how few marks are needed. Beautiful stuff!

mohanley5 said...

Great voice...I need more pages!!!
Can't wait to buy it :)


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Gail, you're too kind. And thanks for reading it.

Kira, I was too, but then Sally's comments were all over the page! Every one has an opinion and I'm thrilled anytime someone I respect offers one. The key for me is that word respect. I couldn't bring this to an actual writers' workshop because I would need to know the source. Some feedback can be toxic.

Thank you, Mo! Your support means so much!

Larramie said...

I've missed my calling....oh to be a copy editor at least for TETHERED! ;)

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Larramie, you are too kind. I can't wait to hear what youthink of it once you have a chance to read it. I'd send you a galley, but I don't know who you are...


Eileen said...

ooooh I can't wait to read this! I actually tried enlarging the pictures so I could read the first page.

Lisa said...

You're drafts were so clean! I also can't believe you've got the whole iteration on hand to compare. Thanks for sharing this process.

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Eileen, I did too! I'm ridiculous.

Lisa, I've saved everything related to this. Maybe next week I'll share some of the 73 rejections I received on my first manuscript.


How to Party with an Infant said...

Great you have proof of editing! I just envy the relationships writers seemed to have with their editors.


Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Kaui, I remember when the sale of your novel THE DESCENDANTS was reported on PM. I'm a huge fan of yours. You got amazing reviews everywhere. Thanks for stopping by.


Ello - Ellen Oh said...

So cool! Oh cool that I can read one page! I want to read more! MORE! Can't wait for it to come out!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Ello, I can't wait either!