He was a burning pyre of concupiscence in a sarcophagus of despair.
Yeah, I actually wrote that. Sounds like something that would have fitted right in at the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, Best Beginnings for the Worst Novels Never Written. And here I thought I didn’t do purple prose.
Fortunately for me, Kristin Nelson, my lovely literary agent, caught it and crossed it out right away. I remember staring at the bright red line through my darling words. I was highly tempted to reject that particular editorial change and reinstate the sentence. It was pithy, it was strong, and it was startling imagery. It was mine, my own, my precious.
I’m glad, however, that I acquiesced on that one.
In a way, that little experience is symbolic of the trust I place in Kristin. By now her niceness is probably legendary, but most readers of her blog probably don’t realize that she is also a terrific editor. Not that I went along with everyone of her editorial suggestions–Kristin would be the first to tell you that I struck out my own way on some major story decisions. But when she took the trouble to delete one particular sentence, it was my trust in her, rather than anything else, that made me go along, cuz I didn’t realize how ridiculous the sentence was until much later.
Give at that point we’d been working together only a couple of weeks, how do I know she is that good? Easy, because she sent me a long list of editorial points right after our figurative handshake and everything she asked for made SCHEMES OF LOVE stronger and better. Some of what she wanted made hellish rewrites, because she had exposed underlying weaknesses in the story that I hadn’t even considered. But judging by how quickly the story sold, and what a relative cakewalk I had with revisions from Bantam, it was well worth the effort.
How quickly the story sold brings me to another point. The first editor who offered for SCHEMES OF LOVE did it within three days after the manuscript began making the rounds. Part of it was pure luck, that the manuscript hit her desk when it did. The other part of it, however, had to be Kristin. I don’t believe any editor is ever completely free from the to-be-read pile. That particular editor, even in a moment of relative lull, probably still had various manuscripts lined up. That she chose to read what Kristin sent in right away tells me that one, she trust’s Kristin’s taste and selectiveness, two, Kristin probably did one heck of a job selling it over the phone.
The funny thing is, the ms sold to Caitlin Alexander at Bantam in the end. I have never heard of Caitlin before, nor was Bantam even on my radar–and I’ve been writing a while, and know the names of many editors at different houses. So this is where Kristin’s familiarity with editors and their tastes and what they are looking for really paid off big time.
Big time. Therefore, I don’t understand why Kristin even has to explain that nice doesn’t mean wimpy in negotiations. Ask anyone of her clients. They will tell you she is a tough, shrewd gal. Not beneath that niceness, mind you, because there is nothing surface about her niceness, it comes from empathy and sensitivity. But just right alongside each other, the triumvirate that is Kristin Nelson: shrewd, tough, and nice. (I’d throw honest in there too, but I don’t know the 4-part equivalent to triumvirate.)
I’d go on, but I’ve homework piled up and 4000 words to write for the week. Plus, I’d better disengage my lips before they become permanently attached to Kristin’s posterior (haven’t seen it, but I’m sure it’s nice too). Hehe.
Next Tuesday, But I’m So Much Better than What’s-Her-Name!