Friday, September 13, 2019

The Waiting Game

What is worse? Racing for the publisher’s delivery deadline?


Or that minute when the author wakes up at 3 AM, the morning after the typescript has been sent in, thinking oh I forgot to do/check/ write that!

Or is it the wait? Those long, long days when the author knows that the typescript is being read by the agent or by the publisher or both  The wait for the email to slip into the in box.

Or is it that briefest of moments, usually when the author is in the supermarket or in the toilet and the phone pings. They look. The email is there, from the editor. The subject matter is the title of the next book. And the decision has to be made...


Does the author read the top line….

Then a quick assessment of how long the email is?

Too short. This is rubbish and we don’t want it? Or We are happy to accept this for publication and have no further editorial comment to make.


Or it is a few paras – we loved this book but…..and there can be an awful lot of buts.

Or does anybody close the phone and walk away, leaving the email for later....

And then what happens. I guess it is a sort of private thing, what the response to that is. Does the author read the buts and accept them, or do they fight back and say... well no, I don't think you should change a word of this..… blah blah.


I guess that depends on how much the editor is trusted.

All this is because I have just delivered book 12, and it was 99% accepted, with one tweak and that was a problem I had asked her to find the solution for.

Book 12 brings its own challenges in a series. There's is a lot of baggage to be carried by the characters from book to book. My personal bug bear is serial fiction where the books bear no relation to each other.  Characters who have been shot/ nearly drowned/ learned fluent Spanish have no scars/ fear of water/ use a phrase book in Ibiza. And they never mention any dramatic incidents ever again, each book is its own wee island. Kids who don’t get older, kids who go to uni yet the family never suffers the stress of them having exams. I’m sure we can all relate to the trauma that causes.  

I think the term for it is ‘bubble crime fiction’. I may have invented that but I think I stole it from somebody else. It’s that novel that inhabits its own wee world and folk who were savaged by a Rottweiler in book 8  will happily walk into a house guarded by  a really bad tempered Rottie without giving it a second thought, not one warning word in the narrative, not even a 'oh god here we go again.'  Previous lovers are never mentioned, the interview for the dream job that they didn’t get is never remarked on.  The person who was promoted over them is never resented. They never comment on the fact they had shingles.  In one book coffee gives them migraine, in the next they are in Starbucks knocking back espresso like there is no tomorrow.

I do like to mention what has gone on before but doing that without exposing the author to the plot of the previous book can be a very tricky tight rope to walk.

Some authors keep very precise notes on their serial characters but I think that’s like keeping notes on your pals. Minor characters yes, but the main two? I know what they have gone through, it was me who put them through it.

So last week, Monday at 11.22 AM I send the TS for book 12 off. It’s my take on a locked room mystery. It started as an introduction all the characters one by one in a very Christie type of way, then it turned into something else totally. I couldn’t help it, I had been writing the wrong book.. or should that be ‘righting the wrong book’, from the very start.


 I explained so in my email to the publisher.  I think it’s good to ‘fess up…. ‘I think this isn’t very good, or in this case, I think you might ask me to rewrite the first 45000 words to match the second 45000 words. Or vice versa.

But no, she was delighted with it but did pick up on my reservations; two wee changes … and they were both bits I had written then culled… in some self-editorial attempt to purge the waywardness of the plotting before I realised  that the book was going to go that  way anyway.


When I pressed send at 11.22 am on Monday, I felt physically sick. The previous week had been constant 16 hour days to get it finished. It had been finished many times before that but then I realised it was the wrong book I was finishing.

At 11.29 AM, my other editor at the other publisher emailed me to say wouldn’t it be great if… she didn’t get any further than that. Nothing that she came up with was going to beat going to work then coming home to sleep for 24 hours.


But today, it all sounds very good. Book accepted with changes that will take a couple of hours. The new book suddenly appeared in my head 48 hours later so I am outlining that. (How does that happen- from crawling on the floor saying I’m not writing another word to BING!  Oh, that’s a nasty little murder, I must write about that!)   Numerous emails about the six books I have coming out next year. Yes six.


It’s all very exciting.

I think I need a lie down now.

Caro Ramsay
13 09 2019


  1. Caro, you are an inspiraton and I'm so pleased it's all going so well. The four-day week makes a huge difference (btw, did you ever get round to dropping your fifth day?).

    1. The four hour day is rapidly expanding … but the best laid plans and all that. There's so much going on next year that something will have to give!

  2. Sounds great! All that agonising was unnecessary. Now you can put it all behind you...until the next time...

  3. It's a bit like running a marathon. The first ten miles you are on your toes, the next ten you need to dig deep, the last six you vow that if anybody tries to talk you into it again you will kill them. Then, about a week after the run, you start to think 'I wonder if I could go any faster.'
    I believe giving birth carries similar emotions.

  4. SIX! No wonder you have two pieces of carrot cake. You must have the munchies way up there on the adrenalin high needed to turn out so much great work at that pace. I'm longing for a sugar cube just reading about it. CONGRATULATIONS as you march onward and upward!

  5. I confess that I had assistance with the carrot cake ! The six books are the first 3 of the series being republished, two paperbacks of previous hardback plus a new hardback.....well think that's what is going on ..