I have no idea if the following is true (at least from the editor’s perspective – it is from mine), but this is what I imagine happens after an author submits a rewrite. The imagining keeps me going, anyway, while I wait to find out what happens next …
Author: After two months of intensive work the story has changed shape, two of the characters have been merged the new ending is in place, and every comment in the margins is addressed. If I fiddle with my latest masterpiece-in-the-making any more, I’m more likely to do harm than good. It’s not perfect yet, but I hope it’s in a good enough place that my editor will be thrilled with what I’ve done, and will agree that a few minor tweaks will raise it to children’s classic status. Attach to email. Press send. Wait.
Editor: Oh look – 1 pm. Anyone going for lunch?
Author: I sent the manuscript off a full five minutes ago, so presumably she’s on page 20 by now, and completely gripped. I feel a bit guilty that she’s going to get home late to her family tonight because she’ll be so engrossed by the text. Can she see the makings of a children’s classic yet? Is she shouting round the office how fabulous it is? I hope she’s not disturbing too many people in her crazed excitement.
Editor: I see my inbox has gone up from 112 to 113 unread emails . Must check … when I get back from the sales meeting.
Author: She’s had the book for 4 hours! She’s a fast reader. Has she finished it yet, I wonder? What does she think?
Editor: Wow, this sales meeting is going on a bit today, isn’t it?
Author: She’s had it for nearly 18 hours. Or has she? Did she actually receive it? Maybe it got lost in the internet. Or – wait – maybe she’s trying to tell me something. Perhaps her silence means that she’s gently preparing me for the worst. Perhaps, instead of being a children’s classic in the making, it’s actually worse than it was before. Perhaps I’ve gone backwards. Perhaps she’s just trying to work out the kindest way of telling me.
Editor: Dear Sophia, just to let you know your MS arrived safely. Can’t wait to read it!
Author: Oh no! My editor has a life. She has other things to do and – I’ve just remembered – other people’s books to edit. Books with deadlines sooner than mine. But that’s fine. I can deal with this. I just have to do all those tasks that were piling up while I was madly finishing the rewrite and that will take my mind off things. Oh, and I must make a note about that change I want to make to chapter 43. And the shift in the main character’s motivation. And the ending. The ending is still wrong. Why can’t I sleep? Why is it four in the morning? Why is it Saturday? That means I have to wait until Monday for a reply. Unless she emails me over the weekend, of course. Editors work over the weekend, don’t they?
Editor: Thank god it’s the weekend.
Author: It’s 09.14 on Monday morning. The kids are safely at school. It’s not too early to check my emails yet, is it? Would she have replied to me first thing? Yes, she probably would.
Editor: Anyone want coffee?
Author: She hates it. I’ve done the whole thing wrong. I should have left out chapter 3 – that was my fatal mistake. They’re now having meetings round the office to work out who should let me down gently, and who will explain that actually, they can’t publish it after all. And now it’s 09.20! Unless they’re in those meetings what can she possibly be doing?
Editor: Three sets of line edits signed off. Goodness, that was intensive. Oh look – a gap in the diary. Might get round to starting some of those unread manuscripts today. I wonder what authors do after they’ve submitted a manuscript. Must be wonderful. All that shopping and cake …
And so on, until the editor finds time in her diary to give 80,000 carefully crafted words her full attention, and to compose a suitable reply.
Eventually the author learns to sit back, relax and take it all in her stride.
(I’m having serious second thoughts about chapter 3.)