Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Okay, so here's another weird thing about the process of copy editing for me...

I'm very superstitious when it comes to some aspects of creating a book.

Before I can begin the process of writing a book...

....I have to have the perfect title.

And the perfect first line.

And the perfect character names.

Those three elements are critical.

Sometimes, it takes me a long time to get those three things.

Sometimes (most times), I have at least one of them before I have any idea what the story is about.

And once I have all three things, I never, ever change them.

I have this (probably stupid) feeling that if I do, something bad will happen. Heh....

[Side note: I was recently visiting my editor at FSG and was looking at her shelf of works-in-progress. I commented on one of them and she said, "It has a different title now." I was so shocked by that!]

The first (and very critical) sentence of my next book (The Short, Sad Life of Tooley Graham) is:

Owen Jester tiptoed across the gleaming linoleum floor and slipped the frog into the soup.

The copy editor is suggesting the addition of "pot of" (as in "pot of soup") to give the reader the right visual.

I know that makes perfect sense.

I know that "pot of soup" instantly clarifies the image and conjures up the kitchen and the stove and the whole scenario.

I know that that sort of mental image is very, very important.

But it sounds different than that first version that is so etched in my mind.

However, I think I'm finally going to drop my silly superstitions and listen to my more practical mind and make the change.

(By the way, please don't call the ASPCA. The soup is not hot. The frog liked swimming in the soup.)


kcushman said...

I have those three elements in place before I start a story, too. But I will change them--if absolutely, positively necessary. In the case of the Tooley first line though, I agree with your first instinct--adding "pot of" changes the rhythm. So much of this writing we do depends on sound and rhythm. Sorry if I'm a fly in the ointment--or the soup.

Kirby Larson said...

My vote's with Karen. And my crazy thinking is this: your story is *really* being told by a kid character who isn't likely (unless it's part of his/her character) to be so precise as to say, "pot of soup."

A compromise might be "into the soup pot." But I still prefer plain old soup.

Barbara O'Connor said...

Thanks for the feedback. And you know, I'm feeling like I should follow my instincts and stick to the first version.

And now I'm going to stop obsessing. (Yeah, right...)

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

I'm 4thing the opinions here. I like the rhythm of the original, too. ;-D
btw-- a GREAT first line!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Add another vote to the original.

And I absolutely have to have the title before I can write which is why I am working on Flyboy instead of PlantKid because PlantKid has no title.