I still have sand stuck in the hinges of my sunglasses, and I’m feeling a little blue. Last week, my family and I escaped to the beach for a much-anticipated vacation on Emerald Isle. As everyone headed back to school, we made the trek to North Carolina where I spent my time shelling, reading, and biking. But now I’m back, and it’s time to face copyeditor revisions on what will be the final Merci Suárez book.
I find myself coming to the task with the same mix of emotions I had about coming back home. I think it has to do with grieving a magical time – as that is what the “Merciverse” has been for me. By the time Merci Suárez Plays It Cool publishes next fall, I will have been writing the Suárez family and the world of Seaward Pines Academy, in one form or another, for six years. The characters and their journeys have become so real to me. It’s no wonder that I’m sad about ending their story. It’s hard to let go of old friends, even imaginary ones.
It’s always exciting to get to this stage, of course. It’s when the book starts to feel real somehow. I wrote for a little under a year. Then, Kate (my editor) and I worked on the manuscript all of May and June, trading ideas for Merci’s new sticky situations. Now the copyeditors, book designers and art directors have begun to pour in their talents to bring it all into final form. It’s time for the story to become the book that kids, teachers, and librarians will hold. It’s not my own private experience anymore.
Which brings me to the power of revision. This is the stage where you have to iron out the differences between what you think you said and what is actually on the page. Clarity. Consistency. Tension. Reward. All of those things come into sharp focus as the more analytical habits of your brain take over.
What I’m finding, though, is that while revising a book is always tricky, it’s especially thorny in a series. You’ve got to make sure you haven’t gotten the facts of your world wrong according to your early books. (Believe me, fans will let you know.) For a final book, you’re also asking yourself if you’ve brought the whole story in for a good landing. You’re looking at the arc of the entire tale you were telling over multiple novels. The questions I’m keeping present are: Have I really taken an unflinching and honest look at Merci? Have I drawn her world and her concerns in a way that speaks to kids about all they are discovering about themselves and the people around them?
I’m still reading and re-reading, each pass laser-focused on something different. (I describe this a bit in my recent 1-min tip on revision.) I’m answering copyeditor queries (What day of the week is this? She was wearing sneakers in the last paragraph, but shoes here. Are we spelling the name this way or that?) but I am still line editing more than usual. My heart is getting ready to say goodbye to characters I love, and I want them to endure with readers the way Merci and her clan will surely stay with me.
This time next year, we’ll see the final result. Meanwhile, please enjoy Merci Suarez Can’t Dance while you’re waiting. Here’s a little snippet of me reading from the novel.
Where’s Meg this week?
Monday, 9/13 at 6pm EST: In conversation with my friend, Yuyi Morales, at Books of Wonder as she brings forth her newest picture book, BRIGHT STAR.
Friday, 9/17: Lecture at Elon University with pre-service teachers.
Tuesday, 9/21 at 12pm EST: It’s all things Merci as part of my Instagram takeover of Candlewick’s Instagram page in honor of Hispanic/Latinx History month.