Editing is an important part of the writing process. That’s why I sent my manuscript off to someone in the publishing industry. I don’t have an agent or publisher and I didn’t want to put something out there that wasn’t credible. My editor was to be my gate keeper and a window into how my book is seen by the publishing world. I found them through Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, who were recommended by a self-publishing company and someone in my writing group in the same week. I took that as a good sign. Cornerstones also act as agent scouts and if they like your work then you have a chance at a publishing contract.
The opening paragraph is positive and shows the editor has grasped what I was trying to do:
“This is a powerful, honest and lucid memoir that details seven so-called ‘psychotic’ episodes which take place over two or so decades. Through the framework of these episodes we join the author on a transformative journey not only through the troubled landscapes of the psychiatric wards but also on her own pilgrimage, from troubled twenty-something to a respected documentary filmmaker and campaigner for a new perspective on mental health and wellbeing.
“My Beautiful Psychosis questions conventional methods of ‘treating’ psychosis and psychotic episodes and points towards a radical vision where ‘diagnosis’ of mental illness makes allowances for spiritual growth and transformation rather than simply treating a perceived chemical imbalance in the mind.”
Reading back in someone else’s words what I set out to do is validating. It’s like in therapy where the therapist just repeats back the words you just used. It makes you feel really understood.
Then under a heading called general comments the editor has written:
“This brave and fluently written manuscript is not only a searing and honest account of what it is to experience psychotic episodes and a concomitant spiritual transformation, but it also has a powerful message to convey.
“The standard of writing is very high, lyrical and layered – it is immediately clear to the reader that you have spent a great deal of time styling your narrative, and you have a natural gift for capturing potent emotions and challenging situations in a manner which renders their full intensity without belabouring the subject matter. There is an immediacy and power in your narrative which conveys not only the passion with which you view the subject matter but also, of course, the turbulent experiences and dramatic awakenings that you yourself have undergone.”
But here’s the bit I’m really waiting to hear:
“Given the high standard of your writing, your platform as a filmmaker/campaigner and the strength of your belief in this message, I am perhaps not making too much of an assumption if I presume that your long-term ambition is to attract agent and/or publisher interest, in order to reach as wide an audience as possible.
“Indeed your profile, combined with your very readable writing style, means that this should not be an impossible dream for you, although I think there are one or two significant challenges facing you that you may or may not wish to overcome/address should you be seeking a traditional publishing contract or agent representation.”
Did I just read that it’s not an impossible for me to find an agent and/or publisher? My stomach flips! I’m back in the game. After spending six gruelling months last year honing and refining proposals, author biogs, chapter summaries, letters to agents, synopsis after synopsis all having to be taylor made to suit the requirements of each different agent, I was depressed. I felt despair at having such a wall of silence and no sense of how I was doing and how I should tweak what I was doing to succeed.
Investing £900 on this twenty page report on My Beautiful Psychosis was a gamble, one that now I feel was worth paying. A new hope has been born in me, that I might find a publisher if I keep working on it. Here’s more:
“It will be the purpose of this report not only to highlight the strengths of your manuscript but also to identify some of the issues that agents or publishers might find off-putting. If you do decide to address these areas, of course it cannot be guaranteed that you will, as a result, find representation or a publishing contract, but I do believe your manuscript will be the stronger for it, even in a self-published form, and will stand a stronger chance of reaching the wider audience you are perhaps seeking.”
Now the real editing work begins. And because of this report, I know just where to start.