Beth Miller

Writing and tea


Chapter 1 saved from the knackers' yard

Posted on November 29, 2013 at 6:10 AM

Publisher's edits - tick.

Copywriter's edits - tick.

Feeling like it was all going nice and smoothly - tick.

Ready for a fall - tick.

Since the lovely Ebury at Random House have said they will publish my book (which is coming out on July 3rd, 2014, bate your breaths now), I have had little to do but tinkering. The publisher's and copy-writer's edits were brief, to the point, and made complete sense. So I did them, sat back, put my feet on the desk, and broke open a family bar of Galaxy. Ok, I didn't just do that, I also started writing The Difficult Second Novel, once I'd eaten all the chocolate, but essentially I was at peace. So that'll teach me. Be not at peace. That is my new motto.

For all at once there was a request (not from the publisher, but from someone whose opinion I take very seriously) that I cut down Chapter 1. Oh. Blast. Thought the book was finished. Well, OK then. Always room for improvement, I say. Never too late to do a bit of a snip, I say. After a bit of wingeing, and with a bit of help from my superb writing group (LOVE YOU GUYS - they're mostly Americans, I can say stuff like that to them), I lost 1000 words from Chapter 1. OK, now it maybe read  a little oddly, but I was sure I could sort that out by sticking some of it in other chapters. I submitted it, and felt pleased. But BE NOT AT PEACE.

Now came the suggestion that turned my blood yellow. Is that a thing? (No, it's not. I just googled 'turned my blood yellow' and got a Googlewhack (only one person has ever said their blood turned yellow, and when I read their account it didn't actually mention blood and seemed to be something to do with Lotus).) This was the yellow-blooding suggestion: 'I think the cuts haven't worked; we should just lose Chapter 1 completely, start the book with Chapter 2 instead.'

As though suffering from a slow gunshot wound, I spent a couple of weeks limping round the house, clutching my side, railing to the heavens. I wondered where I was going to cram Chapter 1's exposition, and dreaded how much of a knock-on re-write I was going to be in for. I wailed, I gnashed my teeth, I rent my garments (but no-one was interested so I took them back). And then finally I got a grip and realised that this was the very definition of a first world problem. I'm going to be PUBLISHED! None of the rest of it matters!

I got out my axe, which is shaped like a red rollerball pen, mainly because it is in fact a red rollerball pen, and I held it high above Chapter 1. I was ready to cut like I'd never cut before. Chapter 1 quivered in terror, far below. 'Die, you bastard!' I cried, and began to plunge my axe into its very heart. And at that exact moment I got an email. 'Actually, we're happy with Chapter 1 after all. Don't worry about removing it.'

I put down the axe, and gave an embarrassed cough, hoping no-one had seen my potentially murderous actions. They hadn't, because unlike JK in her cafes, I write alone in a bedroom. Then I patted Chapter 1 a bit, so it would know there were no hard feelings, and popped to the shop for another bar of Galaxy.

Categories: Novel, Agents