My work on the rest of the series halted in July of 2015 when I received Constance’s feedback. Hanging up the phone and head in my hands, I felt she went into the book with a bias. She had read it like a romance novel. She didn’t get the book.
Critical chapters and meaningful scenes that wove the roots of the ideas behind the Creative Gift and Voice went unnoticed, essential threads of the concepts that would be revealed in later books, things I had worked so hard on. Small things like a reference Martha Stewart who did not yet have portions of her empire established and my reference to Harry Met Sally (released in 1989) did not escape Constance’s young college-trained editing eye. She questioned my use of the term CD, they were not invented in 1988 but they were. Check it out.
Frustrated and trying hard not to show it, I gave an overview of the series, the purpose behind the questions Kathryn was asking and that the romance between Kathryn and James is just a beam of light on a much larger, universal stage. I asked if it would have been helpful to have the looking back view provided by the original dream sequence. She said it would have influenced how she read the book. She agreed that putting that view back in was important to the story.
Somewhere in my office, I have my feedback notes provided on that call, a reminder of how the Creative Voice works inside us. I took her advice on a couple of things and removed the Harry Met Sally and Martha Stewart references. I also shortened the title to The Rules of Life. I had wanted to use that title before, but it was taken by another author who wrote a non-fiction version. I thought I couldn’t have the same title. I was wrong. Look at my individual Rules, see them at work? https://rulesoflife.wpengine.com/individual/
Yanking up my big-girl panties, I went back to work on my story. I knew what I had to do.
Editing the book, I stayed true to what I wanted to say. It quickly became a lesson in writing my truth, from my own voice and not from the feedback of someone else. It forced me into a corner but something else opened, a confidence I couldn’t have conceived back in 2013. Ideas for the series flourished, I researched and kept copious notes. I wrote a new preface and moved the dream sequence to a later book.
I watched the numbers fall as I revised the book, another one of Constance’s critical notes. But as the ideas flowed it was clear I needed more space: the series grew to nine, not because I couldn’t reduce my word count, it was because I had a story to tell. Creativity was flowing through me, a turbulent river rushing to the ocean of thoughts I’d had over a lifetime.
In April of 2016 I sent it back to the editorial company, whose website also touted links to literary agents and publishing houses. I got an email back almost immediately: 570 pages was too much. They wouldn’t even look at it unless it was 500 or less, possibly the gold standard in the industry to meet their ROI target. They recommended working with one of their editors to help me learn how to write, I said no.