I’m waiting, rather patiently, I believe, for an email. The email will have an attachment. The attachment is the edited version of A Light Shining, the sequel to my novel Dancing Priest. As important as the edited version is, the message of the email itself is also important.
The message contains the answer to a question. And the question is – does the first part of the manuscript need a significant rewrite?
A reader who’s read the manuscript says yes. The publisher, who’s read the manuscript twice, says no. The first report from the editor was a kind of rave, indicating no problem with the part in question. In my response, I asked the direct question: Does Part 1 need to be rewritten?
So I’m waiting. The answer, and the edited manuscript, are coming soon.
To explain why the reader had this reaction would be to give away a chunk of the story, so as maddening as it is, I can get more specific. The rewrite, if it happens, would not be minor. It would require some fairly extensive reworking of other parts of the manuscript, and possibly push the publication date back.
You might think, if the publisher likes it and the editor likes it, does this one reader’s report really matter?
The answer is: yes, it matters.
It matters because I trust the reader’s judgment. I trust the reader, the one who said Part 1 need to be written, along with some other things.
It matters to the point that my faith in the manuscript has been shaken.
And I’ve indulged myself – indulged is the right word – with the thought of chucking the whole thing. That isn’t going to happen, but it’s some indication of how I’ve reacted.
It’s not like getting one bad book review in the midst of a whole bunch of good reviews. Authors can fixate on one bad review, so they don’t read reviews at all. I read all the reviews of Dancing Priest. They were all good; a few had some minor criticisms (“Anglican ordinations don’t happen exactly that way!”) but they were minor points in otherwise good reviews.
This was a book review. This was a report by a serious reader. This wasn’t a reader whom you’ve asked for a jacket blurb. It was more serious than that.
How the editor answers the question is important, but it still may not be the deciding factor.
It’s been helpful to have been reading The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. I’ve been reading it for the TweetSpeak Poetry book discussion, and while the discussion ended last week (everyone else reads faster than I do), I decided I wanted to continue reading it closely and post on each of the three remaining chapters (which will also take me right up to the next book scheduled for discussion, The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker).
In Chapter 11 of The Artist’s Way, entitled “Recovering a Sense of Autonomy,” Cameron says this: “The creator made us creative. Our creativity is our gift from God. Our use of it is our gift to God.”
Cameron is right. And I take this gift seriously, but the receiving and the giving. In the middle of all of this personal, inward turmoil, I've found an odd comfort in those words, and in the book itself.
Even without the answer from the editor, I know what I am likely to do.
But I’m still waiting to see what he says.