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Friday, September 19, 2008

How to let go of a manuscript

1. Receive copyedit of Going Too Far from editor at MTV Books. She has also included a green pencil to make changes with, so your marks will be differentiated from her blue marks and the copyeditor's red marks. There is also a note from her that says, "This is your last chance to make substantive changes so DON'T SCREW THIS UP OMG!!!" Actually that is not exactly what it says, but that is how you read it.

2. Read through copyedit. Add some things and take out some things with your trusty green pencil until the manuscript is perfect. Both the copyeditor and the editor have used a very light hand. There are no problems. There is nothing to worry about.

3. Worry.

4. Read through copyedit again. Add a few last things and take out a few last things with the green pencil that you have now been gripping tightly for seven days. Wonder if you really wrote this manuscript, because it's great, and the person who wrote it is obviously a lot smarter and a much better writer than you are.

5. Realize you are going insane. Vow to get rid of this thing tomorrow morning.

6. Now it is tomorrow morning. Drop off child at school. Go to UPS Store to make copy of manuscript. Think of one last change you want to make. Realize you do not have the green pencil.

7. Drive home. Look for green pencil. Green pencil has disappeared. Realize that no one REALLY cares whether you use green pencil. Tear house apart looking for green pencil. Look suspiciously at kitten. Steal green pencil from child's Future Car Designer Kit and make change.

8. Drive back to UPS Store. You are going to be very angry if the UPS Store is full of green pencils, but it isn't. Make copy of manuscript. Count manuscript pages to make sure they are all there. Examine copy. It is not dark enough. Make another copy of manuscript. Count manuscript pages again. Check copy machine carefully for lost pages.

9. Return to car. Throw copies into the floorboard, on top of Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. Laugh at irony.

10. Drive to FedEx box. Check manuscript one more time. Manuscript is dirty, wrinkled, and tired. It looks like it has been run over by a train. Hope your editor understands that coffee and chocolate cupcake stains are a sign of your dedication and professionalism. Slip manuscript into envelope and seal. Check mailing label. FROM: Jennifer Echols. TO: Jennifer Heddle. FROM: Jennifer Echols. TO: Jennifer Heddle. This is right. Right? One time when you were querying publishers, you sent a query letter to a publisher who said they sometimes took a year to answer. When you received their reply after only a few days, you were sure it was an acceptance letter! In fact you had mistakenly addressed the query letter to yourself. FROM: Jennifer Echols. TO: Jennifer Heddle. Right.

11. What else can you do to stall?

12. Come on now. You are 3/4 finished with writing a new novel for Simon Pulse. You need to get back to that today. Let go.

13. Consider keeping the manuscript for the weekend. It isn't due until Tuesday. You could FedEx it on Monday. You could spend the weekend taking a comma out and putting it back in, taking it out, putting it back in. Consider the likelihood of your husband divorcing you.

14. Use phone to take photo of FedEx box.

15. Realize the men at the lawnmower repair shop across the street are watching you.

16. Realize the radio is playing Fall Out Boy's version of Michael Jackson's "Beat It." Beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it, no one wants to be defeated! Just beat it beat it beat it beat it beat it beat it--OKAY! Dump package into FedEx box.

17. Open FedEx box again to make sure package has gone down, like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally.

18. Drive to jogging trail. Run three miles. Get head out of Going Too Far. Get head back into new book for Simon Pulse. Take deep breaths. Let go.

19. Approach car cautiously, deathly afraid you will find stray manuscript pages lying on the seat.


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Oh Jenn, how alike we are!! This cracked me up. Especially *look suspiciously at kitten* because my kitten was so after my red pencil! (I guess they have since changed up the color of the pencils. Or maybe they like to keep things interesting.)

You did good!

Danielle Joseph said...

Jenn, lessons learned from your post: 1. Stock up on green pencils. 2. Clean the inside of my car. 3. Buy vanilla cupcakes and most importantly, I'm not the only one who would turn my house upside down looking for a pencil! Enjoyed your post:)!

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

I've got several extra green pencils if anyone's ever desperate for them.


Victoria Dahl said...


I love you.

Also, just to make you break out in a cold sweat... My editor gave me exactly ONE DAY to copy edit my latest story. One. Day. Thank god it was a novella.

I rocketed through that thing. Clean copy edit. No problem. Also, did you know "chaise lounge" is actually chaise LONGUE?!?!?!

I took it to Fed Ex the next day. Popped that baby in the box. Walked out with a bounce in my step. Got to the car. And realized I'd forgotten to make a copy of the one and only edit of my ms.

Ah, well. If it was that important, the publisher would have a copy, right? RIGHT?

Jan Blazanin said...

This is too funny! I sent Jen Heddle my revisions two months ago and have been checking my e-mail every hour since. I have recurring nightmares of receiving comments like, "Sorry, I thought you could write. My mistake," or "I enjoyed the joke. Please send me your REAL revisions." Now you tell me I have to deal with copy editors too? Give me strength!

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

Oh, the copyeditors are a real joy. I had one on Accent who (I swear, I'm not making this up) would use the word "icky" as commentary.

Just remember, the power of STET is yours!

Jennifer Echols said...

Ah, well. If it was that important, the publisher would have a copy, right? RIGHT?

One would hope.

*looking accusingly toward the Avenue of the Americas*

Kris Kennedy said...

You don't know me, but I know Victoria, and I was asking questions about copy-edits today, and she laughed at some of my fears (in a good, 'I totally get it' way') and sent me here.

I almost fell out of my chair laughing. Especially the Checking Of The Envelope.

Oh, and my edits are apparently fine if done in 'any regular pencil.' (Regular? REGULAR? What's that supposed to mean???)