Swoon Author Karole Cozzo: Trust the Process
Ever since way back when, Swoon Reads has promised to “pull back the curtain” on the publishing industry, and in keeping with that vow, I’m sharing an actual super-not-so-secret text exchange between me and my Swoon Sib, Melinda Grace.
See, editing is this magically wonderful process that you enter feeling like the somewhat sluggish, terrified-yet-optimistic caterpillar building the chrysalis, having nothing to go on but hope and trust (or in the writer’s case, candy and caffeine) that if you embark on this journey, something beautiful and magnificent will emerge.
I mean, it has to. These are the laws of nature! Every instinct is leading you in this direction! (Oh, and you may or may not have signed a contract and promised you’d have said edits done within a particular period of time.) So yeah, the magic has to happen. It must. And like the caterpillar, you hope and trust that it will. You have your supportive author community. Your team of amazing editors. Your trusted betas and CPs. And your smart, creative, dedicated mind that got you to this point.
… did you ever have one of those shirts or skirts that had a pesky string hanging from the bottom? You think, let me give it a little tug, tear it off, and I’ll be done with it. Then the next thing you know, in mere seconds, you’ve amassed yards of string in your hand and you’re left staring at it in confusion, wondering how it all fell apart so quickly, wondering how you succinctly destroyed something you were just trying to fix.
Yeah, that’s basically what first round edits feel like.
You realize by cutting a scene you destroy a theme you’d spent two other chapters developing. You go back and cut those chapters, and realize that by cutting a theme, you’ve obliterated a big part of a character’s personality, and have to go back and get to know him or her all over again. And then when you go back and get to know him or her all over again, you realize half of your character’s thoughts or dialogue are no longer working because now their personality has changed. And if their personality has changed… are they even on the journey that was the entire underpinning of your story?
Subplots are axed, creating gaping holes that need to be filled immediately with new scenes. These new scenes inevitably disrupt the flow of the original plot, which now has to be reworked. Darlings are killed, mercilessly, and in the instances of characters being nixed, maybe fifty percent of your chapters need to be reworked to reassign their contributions.
Feel like giving up yet?
I’ll tell you what I told Melinda, who was actively losing her Novel Editing V-card as we spoke. TRUST THE PROCESS.
It’s scary, because it feels like everything is falling apart and you’re losing control. It actually brings to mind the feeling of driving a car on an unexpectedly icy road, the tires sliding out from under the steering wheel’s control, and having to fight every instinct to slam on the brakes and turn the other way. Instead, any driving manual will tell you to go with it. Don’t fight it, but allow it to happen.
You may feel like you’ve lost hold of everything, but the truth is, you still have that smart, creative, and talented mind that got you this far. And although the process will take your time, patience, frustration, defeat, hopelessness, and fear, the process will happen. Something beautiful will emerge. And you will feel proud, amazed, elated, and victorious for sticking it out and producing something even more incredible than the first draft.
I have now published three books with Swoon and have more projects in the works. I have benefited from the input of not only Holly, Emily, and Kat, but several others at Swoon/Macmillan who have contributed to the process. And EVERY SINGLE TIME it is still hard to trust the process. I always feel like I’m losing control and it’s slipping away.
I want to recognize the aspiring authors who are taking it on without a team or past experience to guide them. For just a moment, I’d like to be your team, and I’d like to remind you to trust the process.
It does happen. It WILL happen. And it’s going to be magnificent.