No Tea For The Fever: EDITS!



I have a very bad habit.

I use my Blackberry as a bedside alarm clock.When it goes off, I pick it up, turn it off.

And then I check my email.

Not cool, I know. When you wake up in the morning, you should be giving thanks for another day and plotting how you will take over the world–not checking to see if anyone has emailed you since the night before.

So, Sunday morning, my Blackberry buzzes. I roll over and pick it up. I can hear Tog in her room singing “Where Is Thumbkin” very softly.

Just one new message.

From Sulay Hernandez, the editor at Touchstone/Fireside who bought my first novel: No Tea For The Fever.

Dear Aliya,

I finished re-reading your novel this week and I fell in love with your writing all over again. Fantastic. You have a fantastic style, the characters feel real, and overall you have one hell of a storyline. I’m not here to make your book different, just work with you to make it the best book it can be.

Below are your editorial notes. The novel is in really fantastic shape so I mostly read with an eye towards rounding out the overall ‘narrative arc’.

Without further ado:

By the way, you have one of the strongest opening chapters I’ve ever read. Instantly draws you in!

I re-read Sulay’s words over and over until my vision went blurry. She fell in love with my novel all over again? I have one hell of a storyline? She really believes in this book? Good gravy.

I rolled over and shook TH, waving my Blackberry in his face.

“My edits, my edits! Sulay just sent my edits. And she still likes my book!”

TH opened one eye and glared at me.

“Are you awake yet?” I asked, holding my Blackberry one inch away from his face.

“No.” he said.

I fell back on my side of the bed, clutching my Blackberry tight, as if the email might vanish if I dropped the phone.

I’ve been waiting for Sulay’s edits for some time now. And honestly, I’ve been a mess. I’ve been itching to get to work on delivering a tight, final manuscript.

For one thing, it’s my job. And the acceptance of my final manuscript means the delivery of another check.

But more importantly, this is a huge step in my journey to novelist. And I was eager to hear what Sulay would have to say about how to tighten my book.

I read through all of Sulay’s notes, nodding my head and silently agreeing with everything she said about plot points, dialogue, character development and pacing.

The edits are manageable. I can definitely see what needs to be done and how it will make the book stronger. I can’t wait to dive in.

Later that day, TH and Tog and I went to visit relatives. On the New Jersey Turnpike, I took my Blackberry out of my bag and shook it in TH’s direction.

“Yes, Aliya. Tell me what she said.”

I read Sulay’s email. Ending at the line: By the way, you have one of the strongest opening chapters I’ve ever read. Instantly draws you in!

TH raised an eyebrow.

“Strongest opening chapters, huh?”

I shrugged.

“That’s what she said. You wanna hear it?”

“Yeah,” TH said. “I do.”

I pulled out my laptop and opened up the latest version of the novel and began to read.

Before I could get two paragraphs completed, I had to stop.

Maybe I’m too close to it. Or maybe I’m just nervous.

But suddenly, I hated the book. Strong opening chapter? I felt like it was slow and plodding. I couldn’t read another word. My stomach sunk. Novel. Ugh. Edit. Ugh.

I hope this is normal.

Once I sit down to work on the edits, I’m thinking I’ll feel differently.

At least, I hope so.

Dear readers: How do you separate yourself from something you’re working on so you can properly critique it? How on earth am I supposed to live up to Sulay’s praise? I feel like there’s no way I can produce the book she thinks this can be. And why am I so freaking scared?

I’d love to hear from you.

15 Responses to “No Tea For The Fever: EDITS!”

  1. carleen Says:

    Totally normal. Take a deep breath and follow your editors advice where it makes sense to you and ignore it where it doesn’t. And trust that your editor is telling you the truth.

  2. Angela B. Helm Says:

    You’re almost there Aliya! I’m sure that this is all normal — it’s letting something go that you’ve been working on for some time. Since I’ve never written a book, I will just compare it to moving and the anxiety that can bring cuz I’m moving soon. You KNOW you want to move and you’re even moving to a better place, but suddenly there’s nostalgia. . .and this has your NAME on it to boot! My point is that I think this is totally normal and that editor wouldn’t lie to you girl!!!! GREAT luck and I can’t wait to read it!!!

  3. slb Says:

    she says that it’s already in really fantastic shape! you’ve already delivered a manuscript that lives up to her praise. all she’s asking you to do is fine-tune it. try approaching it from that angle.

    & if you figure out how to distance yourself from your own work enough to adequately critique it, let us all know.

  4. jay1 Says:

    congrats! no butterflies that you’re feeling can possibly out weight how exciting it is to get an email like that. i mean, c’mon. your novel is almost on the shelf, yo! butterflies!?

    anyway, as far as your question, the last thing i wrote that had to be critiqued and edited by someone else drove me nuts.

    i ended up re-writing it so many times that i almost lost why people liked it in the first place. as far as critiquing my own stuff, i either give it to my best friend who almost thinks exactly like me and let him make suggestions or i just sleep on it.

    i almost always wake up in the middle of the night or the morning before a piece is due and realize how i could have phrased something differently and what not, and made it better.

    congrats again.

  5. Mignon Says:

    I do the same thing with my blackberry. It really is a bad habit lol. I agree with the comment above — you’ve already got the goods and that alone is worth exhaling a bit. You’ve produced a product that she loves.

    I know I’m scared about things I write because my name will be attached to it. This is new territory for you, its only natural to feel some apprehension about it.

    Relax, go do something you enjoy that has nothing to do with your novel. Get a massage. Get a pedicure. Go to a movie. Leave your BB at home (that way you wont be tempted to reread that email and stress out or get apprehensive). Once you’ve relaxed your body and mind you may find you can look at your work with fresh eyes. It’s been working for me lately.

  6. theprisonerswife Says:

    First, relax. This is probably normal, maybe you need to take a step back for a day or so, then go in. You’ll be fine. Can’t wait to read the “the best chapter EVER” & the book!!

  7. Tiesha H. Says:

    aliya s. king! you are one of the strongest writers i have ever had the privilege of reading in the glossies! when she says it’s one of the strongest opening chapters she has ever read, i believe it! matter of fact, i’m itching to read it now. (don’t you want to publish an excerpt here?!) so what i need for you to do is push down that fear you feel until it’s under your feet. then i want you to step on it, and get over it!!

    think about how when you wrote the book that she fell in love with, you weren’t writing it to impress her or anyone else–you wrote it b/c it was organic. it came to you that way. that’s exactly how you have to approach the edits. not as a hype or an expectation that you have to live up to but as perfecting your novel.

    p.s. i, too, am a ‘berry stalker. and i don’t even get that many important emails. i guess it’s just become a habit. :)

  8. Tiesha H. Says:

    p.p.s i once heard that when we are most afraid, it is because we are on the verge of something great! *insert marianne williamson quote here*

  9. Hanif Says:

    Let me get this straight? She said it was great, one of the best openings she’s ever read? Then you go behind her and read it and it sounds blah? That’s probably because you read it a hundred thousand trillion times. Don’t change the game in the 9th inning. Remove your self from it for a little while. I’m sure the edits have a deadline, so as quick as possible take yourself away from the Novel, almost to where your not thinking about it. Then dive in fresh and tweek what you need to.

    When i’m working on something whether writing a piece or fixing something in the house, it always helps me to go away and do something different for a little while, then when I come back, every thing is fresh and seems to be working smoother than before.

  10. Yolonda Says:

    Congrats and very exciting. You will knock her out the box with your talent…sounds like you already have

  11. tyrone Says:

    It’s just nerves. Your editor sounds like a great critic so just follow her advice and you’ll be fine. Remember, she LOVES the book. You just need to tighten it —- so it will spend many weeks on bestseller lists :)

  12. Michael Says:

    I do the exact thing as you every morning @ Blackberry as alarm clock and instantly checking email after turning the alarm off. :)

    I think as writers we all go back to something we write and have the tendency to be extra self-critical. If you’re editor feels that strongly about it, though, then I think in due time you’ll regain confidence in the opening as soon as you complete whatever tweaks were suggested.

    You’re scared because it’s your first novel, but I am soooooo excited for you.

  13. mamajanna Says:

    Li, I know that feeling well. Check out my post on your Writing 101 – Show don’t Tell blog. It’s the last one. By the way, I’m prouder of you than you’ll ever know. Nice picture in Essence, too!

  14. Megademus Says:

    I’m getting excited.

  15. cherryl252 was here Says:

    i do the same thing. not the blackberry, but hating what i’ve written. well, hate is too strong but…like after i write it, it’s the bomb! one week later, i reread it and it’s the worst sh*t ever put on a page.

    don’t be nervous. you already got a crew of folks ready to buy – and meet u at book signings. :)

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