Today we are beyond honored to have the incredible Jill Santopolo (Penguin editor extraordinaire) here with us to talk about Shattered Souls by Mary Lindsey. She tells us how she fell in with the novel and shows us how it progressed over the editorial process between editor and author.
We hope you enjoy the post and be sure to share any questions you may have in the comments. Jill and Mary will be answering your questions all week. To make any image larger, just click on it.
And now I turn it over to the true professional, editor Jill Santopolo:
Hi Books Complete Me blog readers. Since I’m here today talking about Mary Lindsey’s novel Shattered Souls, and since Mary is a debut author, I thought it would be fitting to talk about beginnings—specifically the beginning of Shattered Souls.
Beginnings, as I think most book lovers would agree, have a big job to do. They introduce the reader to the setting, the character, the world, the genre and the writing style of the book they’re about to read. The beginning of a book is like the author’s pact with the reader—the author lays all of this information out, and the reader can agree to go on this literary journey with the author, or not. It’s also the place where writers start dropping in facts that make the reader wonder about things. “Why was Rose accustomed to hearing the wails of the dead? Why was she afraid she wouldn’t come back after she died? Why was she expecting to come back at all?!” A good opening poses questions like this, making the readers turn pages to find the answers, and getting sucked further and further into the story as they do.
When Mary’s agent first sent me Shattered Souls—then called Soul Purpose—one of the things that drew me into the story was the prologue at the beginning. In that prologue I saw writing that was evocative, suspenseful and passionate. I understood the genre of this book and got to know some interesting characters and the world they inhabited. And I was left with the good sort of questions—the ones that made me want to read more.
After I acquired the book, I line-edited that prologue a bit, but left it where it was. It was one of the things that drew me into the story, so I didn’t want to change it too much. Chapter one, though, was a different case. I had concerns that Lenzi—the main character of the novel, who we meet for the first time in chapter one—was a little too whiney and grumbly. She and her situation seemed a bit of a let down after the exciting characters in the prologue, and there seemed to be too many people in that first scene with her, which made it hard to get to know Lenzi on her own. So I asked Mary to re-imagine that chapter.
Here’s what the beginning of Shattered Souls looked like originally, and what my notes to Mary said:
Then Mary sent in her second draft. The prologue seemed perfect to me! And I liked the new first chapter—a lot. I thought it showed Lenzi’s vulnerability and her strength—two qualities that made her a relatable, likeable character. Mary also introduced the voices in Lenzi’s head much sooner, which increased the suspense in the first chapter tremendously and gave the reader more of an idea of Lenzi’s world and the genre of this story. Mary also cut out the other three characters in the first scene, so we got to know Lenzi all by herself before we saw her interact with anyone else. Mary is a champion reviser, and I thought this revision of chapter one was stellar.
In fact I liked that new first chapter so much that after I’d read the whole revised manuscript, I suggested to Mary that move the prologue (the one I initially loved so much) to a spot later in the manuscript and use this new chapter one as the opening. The prologue, I felt, actually gave away too much information. And I thought the narrative tension in the new first chapter would be able to draw readers into the story and hook them. It also had enough information to create that pact with the reader, giving them information about the character, the world, the genre and the style of the book. And it posed some great questions.
So this is what the opening looked like in draft two after I wrote notes on it:
Mary agreed with me about the prologue, so that got shuffled further into the novel. And the first chapter got sharpened. But it wasn’t quite there yet. In the next draft, I suggested losing the first three sentences—even though, as you can see, two of those were sentences I suggested in draft two. I’d initially suggested them because I felt the first sentence wasn’t strong enough on its own. But even with my added sentences, I didn’t feel that first sentence was strong enough. When something isn’t working, sometime the solution is to add to it. Sometimes the solution is simply to delete it. In this instance, we tried it both ways, and the deletion worked.
Here’s that draft with my notes:
After she got my notes, Mary fiddled with the opening some more and then the copy-editors and book designers had their go at the manuscript. When all that was finished, this is the opening that made it into the final book (you’ll notice that a few sentences flip-flopped with one another from the last draft, and I think the effect is much stronger this way):
In looking at these drafts, it’s incredible to see how different the opening of the published version of Shattered Souls is from the way it initially arrived. But I also think that all the work Mary did on the opening made it stronger, more powerful, more evocative, and more enticing—it gives enough of the story without giving away too much, and introduces us to a character who’s intriguing and sympathetic. (At least, I think she is!) It took a lot of work over a lot of months to get this right, but in the end, I think Mary really nailed the opening of this book, and it makes me smile every time I read it.
Mary and I will be answering questions in the comments all week, so if you want to ask us anything about beginnings, the editorial process, or other publishing matters, please feel free!
And thank you to Cindy, Nicole, Kendra, Julie and Mindy for letting me stop by and visit today.
THANK YOU so much Jill and Mary! It's been wonderful having you.