A couple weeks ago my Del Rey editor called me up to talk about revisions for TRUTHSEEKER, the little paranormal romance I’d written for her. Now, my agent had mentioned a few days earlier that she’d talked with my editor, and that my editor had some concerns about the level of romance in the novel. I wasn’t, personally, absolutely certain that the romantic elements in the first several chapters really meshed with the rest of the book, so I was okay with that.
This is what my editor actually said, though: “I’m afraid the book might fall too perfectly between romance and fantasy, and therefore satisfy neither. Would you consider rewriting it to remove the hero’s point of view and strengthen the heroine’s?”
I said, “Er.” And then, “Er, my agent didn’t mention striking the hero’s point of view…”
My editor, somewhat wryly, said, “She was probably afraid to.”
Now, my editor made it very clear that this was a request to be considered, not an order from on high. She was even willing to give the book to one of the house’s romance editors, to see if they thought it might do better *as* a romance, which I thought was pretty cool of her. (Although it gets into a whole different set of complications, because I’d probably want to publish it under a different name, then, and…yeah, all sorts of things. Anyway.)
Obviously this is a bit of a shock, for a writer. The book is about 86,000 words, and the hero’s point of view is about 20K of that. My first thought (after “buh, uh, uh, um, uh, buh”) was, “Well, I can almost certainly *reduce* his point of view…” I told my editor that I’d have to re-read the book and see what I thought, but I’d certainly take the idea of cutting him entirely into consideration. She thanked me, and added that although she’d read the book twice, she still didn’t, in the end, really feel like she *knew* the heroine very well.
*Augh*. The book *definitely* needs revision, in that case. I sort of reeled and said, “Okay, that’s a really good thing to know, that’s very important,” and went to think and re-read and try to deal with that problem.
Clearly, reducing the hero’s point of view so I can get further into my heroine’s head and let the reading audience know her better is one way to deal with it. It’s not going to change the *story*, just the delivery of it. Right now, though, boy howdy does it feel stiff and awkward and unwieldy. I’m trying to remind myself that I really need more than two chapters of revisions to be able to say whether this will or won’t work.
The truth is, it probably will. Here’s a secret about editors: they’re usually right. Not always, but usually. And this kind of thing is part of the job. Most of the time you’re not asked to rewrite a third of the book, but sometimes it happens.
It behooves you not to throw a hissy fit. Even if in the end you decide your editor is wrong–and that *is* an option; if for some reason it turns out this just really is *not* working, I will be able to go back to my editor and say, “Look, I tried, it turned into a cludgy mess, how else can we approach this?”–you’re going to go a lot further on an attitude of, “Agh, okay, holy crap, let me step back and think about this,” than you are on “OH MY GOD YOU WANT ME TO EVISCERATE MY BOOK!?!” Ultimately, we’re *all* trying to get the most sell-able book on the shelves as is possible. My editor didn’t ask for these changes because she’s mean, or because she hates me, or because she hates my book or wants me to flounder in obscurity. She asked for them because, in fact, she’s trying to make sure the book hits solidly in the ranks of what people want, and so my sales numbers stay strong, and so I get to keep writing and publishing more.
We can’t know if it’ll work. We can do our best, and one of the things that’s part of *my* job as a writer is to understand that my editor has, y’know, a pretty good idea of what works within my genre and what doesn’t. (So does my agent, who liked the book as-is–but my agent also represents romance, whereas my editor is more like me (and many sf/f readers) in that she doesn’t read romance at *all*, and so the romantic elements of the book as it originally stands weren’t so much to her taste. If they weren’t to her taste, she figures there’s a big segment of the sf/f audience for whom they won’t be tasty, either.)
This is a bizarre job, guys. It’s hugely creative, but it’s also hugely commercial. Do I feel like I’m selling out, or selling short, by seeing if I can change the presentation of the book to make it more palatable to sf/f readers? Absolutely not. It’s my *job* to give people what they want, and if that means I have to take my ego off the plate (which to some degree, with this book, I do, because I was *proud* that I’d managed the romantic elements as well as I had!) and go back to the keyboard, then that’s what I’m going to do.
Which isn’t a very romantic, frothy, happy-bunnies way to look at it, I admit. But the business side of this is just as important to me as the creative side, so it’s a-revising I go.