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10,916 Revisions Later

Editing the manuscript, September 2017

He looked at her with a worried look and […]

“Say look again. SAY LOOK again! And I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker! Say look one more time!”

[…] with a last look, he […]

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, here it is again. What the hell was I smoking? Not the thesaurus, apparently.”

Don’t mind me, I’m just arguing with myself. The 330-page manuscript is a bloody battlefield with insertions and deletions in red ink. I’m editing—there will be changes.

It’s time for an update on the book project. Over the past few months, several of you sent words of encouragements, shared relevant articles and asked for news. And what did I do? Uh … let’s just say you won’t see the big-screen adaptation of the manuscript anytime soon.

That query letter I sent in April? Yeah, I never heard back from it.

When I reached out to a publisher last spring, I had a yes-no scenario in mind. Somehow, it didn’t occur to me dead air would hang over the computer. I knew a “yes” was about as unlikely as winning the lottery, but I was almost looking forward to receiving a rejection email. I was even planning to print it out and keep it—my first battle scar!

But the awkward silence that followed my query caught me off guard. Were the letter and the first ten pages of the book that bad that they weren’t even worthy of the standard rejection email?

This is where you notice the value of feedback—without it, you’re kind of lost. I did the next logical thing and I started doubting myself. For a few weeks, I couldn’t even open the manuscript because I was afraid I would spot one of these unmissable and embarrassing typos at line 2. Then I came down with a full-blown case of imposter syndrome—well, obviously the manuscript is awful, I’m a failure, a pathetic excuse for a human being, I can’t write, etc.

I don’t have this boundless optimism and resolute self-confidence some people possess. And let’s face it, I’m querying for a novel that, to date, no one else but me read. Was I completely delusional? Did I breathe in too much of this “I’m awesome ’cause I’m my own person” North American attitude?

And then, the weirdest thing happened. Mid-June, I ran out of reading material during a Starbucks break. Out of sheer boredom, I opened the Kindle version of the manuscript I had as a backup.

A few minutes later, I caught myself laughing.

Yes, I laughed. I laughed at what characters I created were saying. Sentences I wrote made me laugh.

I closed my Kindle and frowned. I’m not usually the type of person who laughs at her own joke. Have I reached a new stage in the psychopathology of delusion?

Later that night, I read two more chapters of my own book as if it was just another novel on my Kindle. I’m slightly ashamed to say that I liked it. “Well, at least, you’re consistent,” I muttered to myself.

This is when I decided to move on to a new, more constructive stage. My logic went as follows: my query letter and the first few pages of manuscript passed unnoticed because they weren’t good enough. I could fix this. I could get better.

I gave myself a month to go through the manuscript with new eyes and make it absolutely perfect. I loved this new plan, which was just as well because I didn’t have any other.

Late at night, after spending hours editing CEOs, interns, politicians, friends, managers, university professors and obscure strangers, I edited myself. And even though the manuscript had gone through many editing phases before, this time, it was different. I’m not going to claim that I’m more enlightened now because I AM A MOTHER—between us, being a parent teaches you a lot about yourself but fuck all about much else—but I felt I had the benefit of hindsight.

Of course, at some point, it was awkward. Do you know that moment when you put your iPod on shuffle mode and start questioning your taste in music? Editing your own prose feels like that.

Yet, I still loved the story, the characters and the plot. I stand by it. I mostly edited for style, said no to elegant variations, killed adjectives—basically anything that would slow down readers.

The process didn’t take a month but almost five. I didn’t correct a few typos but made 10,916 changes in total—that’s what Word claims, anyway.

I feel the same satisfaction you get from wrapping a gift perfectly. I’m happy with what’s inside the book and I think it’s prettier after this editing work.

I have my confidence back.

And I’m back to querying.

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