Birth of a Nightmare, Death of a Dream (Part 2): Acceptance, the First Stage of Grief

I should have known that things were going to be strange when I got both a rejection letter and an acceptance letter from the same press for the same novel.

A friend tipped me off that a small indie press in California was looking for novel-length sci-fi and fantasy manuscripts. “I have one of those,” I told him. Most fans of the genre I knew did, in one form or another. He encouraged me to send it to Leucrota, pointing out it wasn’t doing me any good sitting in a footlocker. I re-read it, and polished it up as best I could in a couple weeks. It’s hard to look at something you wrote many years ago and feel great about, especially early in your writing life. I killed a mountain of adverbs and passive tenses, and then sent it.

Four months later, rejection: “I think your writing is up-to-speed, but the world building is a little slow in the beginning and gets in the way of the story. Basically, we’re looking for something that integrates a character-driven plotline a little earlier on, something a little less high-fantasy.”

Fair enough. The book was front-loaded with information, to a degree. My centuries of imperial history, my legacies of reptilian overlords and pagan incursions, the duties of my courts and temples and so on, they all could have been more deftly integrated. And if you didn’t want high fantasy, well,  you were looking in the wrong place. I wrote a letter thanking them for their consideration.

A month after that, acceptance: “We had a hard time coming to a decision with your manuscript, and we tossed it back and forth for a while. The issue was not your writing–you are definitely a talented writer–but the story itself. There are many positives to your story line, but there are also drawbacks that made us hesitant to take you on. It just took our rejection letter to you make up our minds.”

Okay, awesome. I still don’t know how this happened. But I was certainly into the idea of publishing what would be my first novel (aside from some rather girly teen horror I co-ghostwrote in what turned out to be short-lived but exciting job for a production company. But let’s stick to one industry meltdown at a time).

So, Leucrota wanted the book, but asked that I do a significant rewrite of the opening chapters. I agree. The first round of edits would be a “content edit,” addressing matters of pacing, plot, character development—story stuff. Then we would move into a “line edit,” looking at the specific language, before the final “copy edit” for typos and such.

The book was set to come out in a year. My first round of content edits came five months later. (In all fairness, the editor assigned this task spent part of these five months on vacation in Hawaii, and why the hell would you do work when you can do that?) What I got was some unholy crossbreed of all three editing phases. None of the issues regarding pacing were addressed. I did get plenty of vague unhelpful comments in the margin like “?” and “not sure” and my favorite, “A bit melodramatic.”

Apparently, the rising of Nojin the Lord of the Drowned, a demonic sea monster, in the midst of a desperate battle between the Black Fleet and the Imperial Armada, was written in a manner this editor found to be “a bit melodramatic.”

I don’t know how to write a pirate battle involving a sea monster and make it subtle. It’s really not the kind of thing that lends itself to nuance. Especially when there’s a warlock involved.

Anyway. I ended up cutting forty pages from the novel. My line-editor was amazing and I loved her. My copy edit was virtually non-existent.

All that was left to do was select a cover and go to print. It gets better here, folks, so stay tuned..

(TO BE CONTINUED! CHECK OUT THE FINAL INSTALLMENT! IT HAS A HAPPY ENDING!)

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