Monday, November 29, 2010
Here’s the cover for the third book in the Ladies of Summerhill series, Love by the Book. The edits I’m working on right now are for this story which will be released in July 2011.
Not all writers enjoy editing and that may be a big understatement. We do so much revising before we turn in a book we feel we’ve practically memorized the text. And still we find things we need to improve or correct. But I’ll bet we’d all prefer not to see our precious manuscript back again until it’s in print with a gorgeous cover. Of course that’s not the way it works.
We send the book off to our editor and back it comes in about a month bleeding with red ink and the dreaded editorial letter. My editorial letters had gotten shorter with each book and that’s a very good thing. It’s filled with suggestions for improvement in the areas of story structure and characterization. It’s a collaborative effort between my Thomas Nelson editor and my freelance substantive editor.
It’s amazing to me how much they can find to improve upon! I’m blind to my own work at this point. Fortunately, they’re not. They see the manuscript with sharp eyes and clear vision. They find inconsistencies in the plot (I always have some) and in the characterization (I always some of these, too.) Not just the inadvertent changes in hair or eye color, but the changes in personality and behavior that can jar the reader. What seems fine to me when I’m writing doesn’t always sound so great to my editors.
The three of us have a long conference call to iron out the problems—what I should add in terms of scenes, characters, subplots, details and what I should delete. Sometimes I need to move scenes around. Sometimes this process entails ripping the book apart and putting it together again by completing rewriting the story. Not a job for the faint of heart.
My Thomas Nelson editor sends me a bound copy of my manuscript and my substantive editor sends me an e-mail copy with lots of track changes. I work from their suggestions which amazingly don’t contradict each other and also from the editorial letter.
The first thing I do is take a deep breath and pray I can do a good job in the allotted time. Then on the editorial letter I start to make notes about how I want to tackle this project. Usually I fix the big problems first, then deal with each section at a time. I write the new scenes, and delete the ones I won’t keep. Before I’m finished I will have reread the entire manuscript at least three times. Each time I find plenty of opportunities to improve it.
My revised manuscript is due to my substantive/content editor this Wednesday. Gulp. I’ve had a month to complete a massive amount of work and I’m glad it’s coming to an end for now. I hope I fixed everything my editor wants, but I won’t know for sure until I hear from her again in about two weeks. Then I’ll have a few weeks to do line edits and then it’s Christmas—or maybe New Year’s.
I developed, wrote and revised this story in 4 ½ months. My first two books were already written when I sold them, although they needed a lot of revision. This new one was written from scratch. A year or two ago I never would’ve thought I could write so quickly. It used to take me years to write a book and I believed I couldn’t go any faster. But a contract sure changed many of my preconceived notions!
I have to add that these edits have made me a much better writer. They’ve taught me more than all the writing books I’ve read or classes I’ve taken. So thank you, Natalie and Lisa!
I’d love to hear about your experiences with substantive/content edits. I know some writers have few revisions, but I can’t be the only one who has received detailed editorial suggestions. Can I? How did you handle them?