Writing Historical Fiction: Relinquishing Control

This week, I am finishing the copy edit review of The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte and will soon send it back to my publisher for design and production. I find myself having mixed feelings. I am happy with the book, and I believe that with my editor’s help, I have made it a far better book than it was a few months ago.

Yet, I know that once this pass is over, my ability to make substantial changes to the manuscript will end. During the proof review, I’ll be able to fix any remaining typos and grammatical errors, but it won’t be appropriate to do intensive rewrites. Whatever shape the manuscript is in at the end of this week will be the condition in which it goes out into the world. My baby is moving beyond my control.

This will be the first time I’ve experienced this phenomenon to this extent. I’ve worked in educational publishing for 24 years, and I’ve had short stories, poems, and one non-fiction YA book published before this, but not a novel. Unlike any project that came before, this book has taken two years of my life. Sending it out feels like a deeper level of vulnerability than I have ever experienced. I have waited thirty years for this day to come, but I never really thought about what it would feel like. The important thing to remember is that even with something that means so much to me, I don’t have to be perfect. I only have to do the best I am capable of at the time—and I think I can honestly say that I’ve done that.


Filed under Publishing

10 responses to “Writing Historical Fiction: Relinquishing Control

  1. Hi Ruth! It’s Meredith! I was just looking over your site and it’s great! I was wondering if you would like to have an article or two about writing historical fiction published in The Copperfield Review. If you want to check it out at http://www.copperfieldreview.com, go ahead and let me know what you think. We’re always looking for historical fiction writing articles.

    • Hi Meredith! I’d love to. Thank you so much for asking. I’ve looked at the Copperfield Review site a couple of times since I started following your blog. What would it entail? Would you want me to write a new piece, or were you interested in repurposing something that’s already on my blog?

  2. I’ve been to many-a book signing (all SF/F authors, FWIW), where the fan hands the author a book to sign, the author immediately flips to various pages and makes corrects to typos and other small changes, then signs the book. (Mind you, these are authors with massive backlist and they do this on any book handed to them.)

    So, if you’re really dedicated to fixing the boo-boos, it’s never too late. 😉

    And congrats on the Copperfield Review! How exciting!

  3. You are so right. It never has to be perfect, it only has to be our best. And it feels so good to be able to say that, doesn’t it! 😀 Congratulations for making it this far with your story! I hope it does well in the world.

  4. That sounds both exciting and terrifying! The best of luck to you and your baby ^^

    • Thank you, Jen. It is a bit terrifying. I’m going to finish my post-edit read through today, then exchange evaluative emails with my editor, and then (I hope) we’ll be good to go.

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