20 August 2011

Evolution of a Book -- Part Three: Working with an Editor

I like to think of them as potter people. People who look like us but are more eccentric, often with a flair of whimsy. They magically appear, complete a task effortlessly and disappear -- the exact right person at the exact right time.

Peter Archer is a bit of a potter person to me. He also exemplifies to me an East Coast intellectual. Granted, my impressions are just that... I have never met the man. He was the editor assigned me for The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master. I admire him greatly.

By the time I met Peter, via email and phone, Cathy and I had begun shooting the final steps of the Plot Series -- Step 22: How Do I Plot the Beginning of the End of a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay .

(As I write this post, I am struck by how the timing of the vlog steps fall into place according the principles of the Universal Story. At the time, if I was consciousness of that at all, it was buried beneath the task at hand -- writing a book worthy of publication.)

Thanks to Peter, the rough draft of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of the Universal Story Structure Any Writer Can Master turned into an amazing book.

I started the vlog with literary examples of novels, memoirs and screenplays to "show" the concepts covered. Where the vlog leaves off, the Plot Whisperer book expands to even more examples to guide you through the process of writing the story inside of you from beginning to end. Examples come from picture books, middle grade and young adult and adult fiction, mysteries, romance, literary, screenplays, memoirs and more. Visual aides are included throughout the book to help ground the more abstract concepts.

Beneath the surface of both the vlog and the book is the element I am most passionate about -- The Universal Story and how it affects not only stories but our lives, too. Knowledge of the Universal Story allows you to push aside all the words of your story to see the bigger picture both structurally and thematically. In the same was, the Universal Story allows you to stand back from the drama of your own life to see the bigger picture.

The what-I-like-to-call "spiritual guide parts" didn't fully emerge in the Plot Series vlog until Step 21: Developing the Threshold Scene after the Crisis in the Middle but they landed throughout the entire first draft of the book.

Even before I met my agent Jill Corcoran, an editor from my favorite West Coast publisher was reading a proposal for a book I called: The Spiritual Guide for Writers. Though he thought the concept right and me the perfect person to write it, I had not been able to successfully bring the ethereal concepts and fragments of dreams, the half-baked ideas and the inspiration beating in my heart down to earth.

Peter Archer helped me do that in The Plot Whisperer book.

Plot Whispers are specific plot tips and exercises to improve your plotting skills by integrating the concepts into your own individualized story. The Writer's Way is advice about how to expand your writing life.

Peter is outrageously intelligent and in my imagination embodies the East Coast. He lives near Martha's Vineyard or the Hamptons or some other iconic locale. He is a writer and a scholar and may or may not be in real life anything like I imagine him to be. Granted, the East Coast and West Coast are sisters in that we always vote the same. Other than that, I imagine East Coast people as more conservative and straighter than those of us on the West Coast. All that to say, I don't even know where Peter was born -- he could just as easily be from the West Coast but I love imaging him as the iconic gatekeeper of traditional publishing.

He brought out the best in the book and what I like to think of as the best me -- much like Step 16: Rediscovered Skills and Knowledge in the Middle.

The greatest gift Peter gave me was "getting" the spiritual ideas I had tried to articulate in the earlier proposal and failed. He not only "got" them, he allowed them to flourish. Not a full bloom because the concepts are still growing but the promise is there. It's the part of the The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master that I am most anxious to share and what makes waiting for the release date thrilling and terrifying at the same time.

Thanks to Jill and Paula and Peter, the book is complete and eagerly awaiting its debut. I could not have done any of it if not for each of you who read this blog and ask for plot consultations and attend plot workshops and buy my plot books and videos and visit the plot vlog and who continue day in and day out to pursue your dream of publication.

What a ride. The gift of jumping in there, sticking out your neck and sticking to it is standing back and watching magic happen.

Thank you.

The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of the Universal Story Structure Any Writer Can Master released by Adams Media October 2011. Available now for pre-order!

For immediate tips about the Universal Story and writing a novel, memoir or screenplay, visitPlot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. A directory of all the steps to the series is to the right of this post. Enjoy!