For months, no make that over a year, I toiled over every single word, every period, comma, emdash and exclamation point. Should this sentence start with a noun-verb or should I throw in one of those dreaded “ing” words? How many adverbs are in this paragraph? 22? That should be fine. Page 86 has 15 exclamation points. Do you think the reader will understand that Summer Leigh is angry? Maybe not. Add 7 more exclamation points and say “Damn it” a few more times. Don’t want to be ambiguous.
Hours and hours of painstaking creativity. When I finally wrote the words: The End, I opened up a bottle of wine and danced around my living room naked. It was 9 AM and the visiting preacher was slightly shocked, but I didn’t care. The book was FINISHED! Woo hoo!
Then, the next day, I started editing. More hours. More angst. More torment over every word, emotion, subplot, and character arc. I know Summer Leigh better than I know myself. I understand every breath Dwight makes. I know his hopes and dreams and understand his five marriages and five divorces. Personally, I fell in love with Anton. And the cats, Goren and Sipowicz, are a pair of the funniest cat clowns ever. I poured my heart and soul into each character. I created a flawed, but lovable, band of merry men/women.
Here’s where the artistic integrity comes in. When the publisher made suggested changes, my heart fell to the floor and the dogs took it outside and threw it around the yard for an hour or two. CHANGE my characters? Those beautiful, funny, snarky characters?! Rename the cats? Are you insane?!?!?
These thoughts rattled around my befuddled skull for about 3 seconds. Seriously, 3 seconds. The word, published , danced in front of my clouded eyes and I sold out. Who needs a funny sidekick? Who needs cats? Shoot, if they told me to move Summer Leigh to Orlando and make her an accountant for Disney World, I would have. If they suggested that instead of Dwight being a civilian contractor who was injured in Iraq, he should be a crop duster in Honduras, I would’ve been good with that too.
So much for artistic integrity. The way I see it published is published. In five years, when I’m the next Nora Roberts, I can release the book in its original form. Until then, I’ll be happy to sell millions of the revised story.
There’s a really good chance that the publisher of hundreds of romances a year might actually know more about what sells in the genre than I do. 🙂 So, I’ve decided listening to their suggestions is a good idea.