I just sent the manuscript of my third Mary MacDougall adventure off to my beta readers and my editor. This book is a full-length novel, in which my plucky heroine goes on vacation with her aunt Christena in the summer of 1902. Their destination is Mackinac Island, but along the way Mary stops to do a little detecting on behalf of her first paying client.
Did the woman’s mother really die in the fictional town of Dillmont, Michigan? Or, to paraphrase the Bard of Avon, is there something rotten in Dillmont?
My beta readers are friends whose taste and insights I trust implicitly. From them, I will get the reactions of dedicated book lovers. Although they are always diplomatic in their criticism, they will, in the end, tell me what worked and what didn’t work for them.
My editor Marlo will do a much more thorough review. She will dissect the various plot points and help me hone in on what needs improvement and why. I always learn something new from each of her critiques, and I try to carry that knowledge over into the next book writing project.
Every time I send out a new book for editing, I’m reminded of an interview I did with Frederik Pohl, the great science fiction writer and editor. He talked about the necessity of being edited by someone who is merciless—“the person who looks for your weak spots and jabs you where it hurts.” The editor, he implied, is your very necessary adversary. And he said that knowing editors too long or becoming too friendly with them made it difficult “to get the final acerbic, violent response that is useful.” (You can read the entire interview in my ebook Four Science Fiction Masters.)
I do believe that the pain I might feel at a thorough scrubbing of my prose will, in the end, make it a stronger final product. You’ll be able to judge how well the process went when the third Mary debuts early next year. I have a wonderful cover which I will show you soon.