In case you've wondered where I've been (though let's face it, you probably haven't), I've been in the editing cave for over a week.
To make things simple and vague, super things are going on with my nonfiction book generating a lot of interest, and I hope to have good news for everyone soon. With nonfiction, you sell based on a proposal, so the actual book doesn't have to be done before it's bought. (Sounds so back-asswards to us fiction writers, but yeah, that's how it works!) I had a completed draft when I went on submission, but as most every writer knows, we often feel like our babies are NEVER done. So yes, I've been tweaking it all along.
But as I went through the book, more and more I started feeling like I might be ill-prepared to properly describe or include certain experiences in the book. See, I'm writing about asexuality, and I want to write about it at least somewhat comprehensively--touching on different experiences, different kinds of relationships, and asexuality's intersection with other aspects of experience and identity. Short nods were given to asexual people of color, asexual people who are married, asexual people of kinky persuasions, asexual people of various religions . . . you get the idea. I initially had over sixty volunteer test readers in the early stages before I even went on submission, and I cleaned up most of the major omissions and problems that had developed out of my limited viewpoint on some issues. But I thought surely there was room for improvement, and as I shudder to think how awful it would be if I got important things wrong or left out vital information about one slice of my community, I put out a quiet little post on one of my blogs about wanting volunteers to read excerpts of the book pertaining to their specific backgrounds.
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Within four hours, I had over one hundred volunteers.
Over one hundred people putting up their hands to read a sample of my writing for free and react to it to help me make it better.
I had to put a cap on it after that because seriously, if even a quarter of those people followed through I was going to be drowned in feedback, and I spent the next THREE DAYS painstakingly opening each e-mail and sending each person the short excerpts of the book that described their experience or background. People were already sending feedback before I finished providing material to everyone who asked.
By Friday of last week more than half of them had responded. After the weekend, I had over ninety e-mails containing feedback for my book.
And let me tell you, the people in my community are very thorough sometimes. I think people were more encouraged to share All The Thoughts because the excerpts were short. Do you have any idea what it's like to open dozens of e-mails and each one has advice for you on what you should work on? And to do it for days and still have over fifty to go?
Yeah, probably not. This experience is not one I would recommend.
That said, most of the individual advice is pretty good. There are quite a few I've opened and read three sentences of "I just can't think of a thing I'd change, this is fantastic, I can't WAIT for this book to come out!" and then there are some where the responders are mostly sharing their own anecdotes rather than submitting additions or corrections. Some have been intense to deal with, requiring hours of time and research just to address a possible problem someone raised, and so far just a couple have been inappropriate (though not hostile). I've dealt with a little bit of incorrect language advice or "no, The Experience is NOT like that" (even though I'd heard it directly from someone who described their experience exactly as I'd written it). I'm dealing with all of it by allowing for broader definitions, varied explanations, and multiple examples. It's turning out very well, and more and more I'm becoming confident that the book will not have glaring omissions or unacceptable errors.
But boy is it emotionally exhausting to deliberately invite 120 people to tell you where you screwed up, and to patiently consider every single viewpoint.
I'm very tired of it at this point but I want to get all the edits in so I can have some time to let it settle and polish the whole product before I (if all goes well!) have to turn in a draft to a publisher or something.
It's an exciting and frustrating and tiring time for me. But I'll be back to normal soon. If I ever was normal in the first place.