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first (eighth) draft

August 19, 2017

at the beginning of this month, i submitted my first round of edits to my publisher. but when i say “first draft,” i mean first draft sent back to M&S. because “first draft” is a misnomer. technically, this is my eighth draft. when steph was sending my work out to publishers, we were sending out my seventh draft. when i first submitted to steph, i was sending her my fifth draft. lots of people have asked me “oh, so you do one round of edits and you’re done?” or “so you submit and then they publish in a few months?” which kind of shows how cloak and dagger the publishing industry can be sometimes, and also reflects the fact that us writers just kind of… write, and don’t often ask the questions we need to ask/aren’t always clued in to what happens on the other end of the manuscript.

people often ask why it’s going to take so long for my book to come out. the pub date, for now, is spring/summer 2019. here’s how the timeline went and will go for this whole process:

  • july 2016: i queried steph (with draft number 5 – i had written and rewritten the whole manuscript over the past few years), she asked to read my whole work, and by the end of the month i had signed a contract and she was my agent!
  • the two of us worked on edits from september to november; during that time, i banged out two more drafts.
  • we queried some writers to see if they’d endorse the manuscript (which means reading it and writing a blurb-like statement saying how much they liked it, etc.; agents take those endorsements and attach them to the query letters they send to publishers, with the intention of giving the query more clout.)
  • by january 2017, endorsements had come in, and steph sent the manuscript (draft 7) out to a list of publishers.
  • by february, i had meetings set up with two publishers. this is when it moved really quickly – within a week or so of these meetings, the manuscript went to auction, the two publishers bid against each other, and i went with M&S.
  • so then i had to keep the news secret for four months and that was the most difficult part hahahha
  • i got the editors’ schedule and first ideas in march
  • in april, i got my official edits
  • i started really editing in may and was a hermit woman for the summer; the tough part was not being able to tell anyone for the first month or so why i was avoiding people and spending lots of time in my apartment.
  • and my due date for the first round of edits for M&S was august 4.
  • i just had a call with my editors the other day, and as of next week i’ll get another set of comments/edits and will have till november to work on them.
  • after that, i believe the next round of edits happens at the beginning of the new year.
  • my final date for the finished ms is feb 2018.
  • after that, it goes to line editing and copy editing, and gets looked over for M&S style.
  • then i get the final proofs some time summer 2018.
  • and as of fall 2018 i have advance reading copies.

so that’s the process. once you write it out, and see the timeline, it makes a bit more sense. sometimes people’s books need less editing, or they’re with a publisher that does fewer rounds of edits, and so the pub date, from announcing, is only a year or so away. my actual book will be done quite in advance of the pub date, but then there’s publicity to do, etc.

writing out that timeline also helps me, because i have a tendency to use the word “lucky” when talking about my writing, and once i type it all out, i realise how hard i’ve worked for this. i’ve worked my ass off. luck was me finding my wonderful agent by virtue of picking her off of the transatlantic website. the rest was a combination of me putting a nose to the grindstone, and being surrounded by powerful, generous editors who gave me their time and helped me shape up my ms.

first draft, eighth draft, tenth draft: the number doesn’t really matter. every step of this process has been ridiculously fun, and – in the absence of using the word “lucky” – i feel so happy to have found a team of amazing people who have helped me get to where i am.

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