I come from a blue collar background, good old working class folks that were far from fancy. As a little girl, one of my favorite things to do with my dad was to go with him when he hung out at his friend, Harry Crouse's used car lot over on Saint Joseph Avenue in my hometown of St. Joe, MO. As a little girl in my Mary Jane shoes and plaid dresses, I pretended to read my books and soaked up everything like a sponge. Between that experience and my dad's later training, I usually make car dealers want to weep when I go to buy a car because I won't just buy or pay sticker price. I have to make a deal and hammer out the details.
Those experiences, though, have served me well. Before my first novel debuted in late December and I had three more under contract to be out this year (2011), I had other submissions out in editor land. One of these is a full-length novel I titled Miss Good Samaritan. Last evening, I heard back from an editor I queried last year, who asked for the first three chapters, then for the full MS. She liked it, she said, although she had just read the first 45 pages but she wanted a lot of major changes. We're not talking enhancement here but serious changes in POV and in plot that I just found I was not willing to change. She was very upfront about requesting the changes but stated without guile that making her suggested changes would not guarantee a contract.
I read over her suggestions, mulled them over, and decided that I did not want to do any of them. I may have been spoiled by some of the editors who I have had the privelege of working with but her changes did not enhance, strengthen, or make my story soar. Instead, her ideas clipped the characters' wings. In my opinin, a good editor takes the tender bud, puts it in a vase of water and offers help to make it bloom into a beautiful flower. This editor wanted to prune my flower down to the stem, leaving little but the thorns.
I declined in the most polite way that I could. You see, those childhood days at the old car lot made me think. If a potential customer had come into the lot, looked at a car and liked it but asked Harry if he would paint it a different color, add some racing stripes, put in new seats, and heck maybe even a different engine without signing the papers to buy it, my dad's old friend would have said not just no, but HELL NO.
To me, what the editor asked of me amounted to the same thing.
So, in the coming weeks and months, it looks like I will have another MS to shop around but I have every confidence that I can find it a home where the editors will treat it with the same loving care that went into the writing, where someone will like it enough as it is to help it bloom.
I have, after all, the courage of my convictions, one more thing that my daddy taught me.