10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #10

See Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9.

#10: If a publisher accepts my novel, they’ll just make a few changes and print it.

ScissorsAcceptance of a novel for publication means a publisher is happy with the heart—the essence—of the overall story and believes that publication of said story shows strong potential for bringing in a good financial return. But that doesn’t mean the novel is perfect. Not by a long stretch.

Rare is a manuscript that doesn’t need some level of work. That’s what the revision stage is for.

Revisions? Say what?

The newbie says in a timid voice, “But I thought . . . well . . . I guess I thought the publisher would . . . well, you know . .  . just have the manuscript proofread and then print it.”

Uh no. Before publication, manuscripts can go through quite a bit of refining (depending on their needs) before the printing. Many authors like me went into publication without knowing any of this either, and we sort of learned as we went along. I’m happy to remove some of the mystery about this process. In fact, I wish someone had told me.

Novels typically take a full year after acceptance before they appear on bookstore shelves. After authors sign a contract and fulfill a few housekeeping tasks with their publisher, the biggest task facing them is revisions.

Growing Pains

Revisions is the stage all published novelists have experienced (and usually groan about). Nobody really enjoys this part, yet, as in my case,  my novel was so much stronger after this important step. Think of revisions as a story going through growing pains. The process isn’t fun, but in the long run, it serves a useful purpose.

For my first novel, Fatal Illusions (Kregel), I worked with three different editors at different stages over the course of a solid year before the novel was ready for publication. Two editors said my main subplot needed to undergo a petty drastic overhaul. I wasn’t sold on the idea at first. In fact, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the task ahead of me.

But this was just my emotions talking. I’d spent about four years creating the manuscript and was very attached to the story in the state when I submitted it. Seeing it any other way was challenging . . . at first. Now it was time for me to submit to the voices of experience (“tough love,” as one editor put it) who could take the best of what I’d done and make it even better.

And that’s what they did.

Thankfully, my editors were wonderful to work with. They patiently and gently led me through the seemingly gargantuan task of cutting whole chapters and plotting a whole new direction for my subplot. They did the advising; I did the writing. Yes, it was a lot of work, but by the time we were finished (after a lot of back and forth), I began to see how much better my overall story would be.

Light-years Better

Looking back, I can see how valuable this stretching process was. I learned so much about plotting, I saw that my editors really were on my side and could make my story better, and my finished story was light-years better than what I had originally submitted.  In the long run, revisions proved to be an indispensable stage on my journey to publication.

Were revisions easy at the time? No. Did my pride get bruised a little? Yes.

But in the long run, the process, though humbling and intimidating, was worth every minute.

The final payoff came when I held the finished printed novel in my hands. The truth punched me hard—I was a published novelist. With God’s leading, I had achieved my childhood dream. The moment was like being present at the birth of my daughters. I’ll never forget that feeling.

God and I had done it. Together.

Well, that wraps up my series about newbie misconceptions. Does this information remove the mystery and better help you understand the publication process?

Do you have any questions about the road to publication I can answer? I’d love to hear from you.

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