Wednesday, May 12, 2010

There's Edits And Then There's Edits

First – thanks to Karin for being my guest yesterday. If you haven't read her post, or left a comment (there's a PRIZE, gang), Go. Do. It. Now. Winner announced Thursday, so there's still time today.

As I mentioned, I got my edits for WHERE DANGER HIDES back from the editor late Sunday. I refrained from opening it until Monday; otherwise I might have been up all night, and done a sloppy job.

She'd said it was a very clean read, not much for me to do at all, and that I could probably turn it around in a couple of days. Feeling pretty good, I opened the document. My first reaction was, "Did she send the wrong file?" because I didn't see any markups. I scrolled down, and at the bottom of page 7, at the end of the first scene, was her first comment. It said, "Great beginning." I felt even better. The next comment came at page 16, and was a "LOL." I was stoked.

Then she got down to business. Although most of the comments weren't significant, there were markups of some sort on just about every page. Now, I wrote the book about 2 years ago, and since then, have written 2 others, revised one, and also tackled a couple of short stories.

Rather than immerse myself in the characters and story, I opted to make my first pass simply hopping from comment to comment. Many of them were word changes (she actually added 3 justs after I worked so hard to cull them!) adding italics, or other minor bits of construction—changing a pronoun to a proper name, or vice versa. At this point, I was ignoring the story and just looking at whether the sentence worked with her suggestions.

This is the same editor I worked with on WHEN DANGER CALLS, so I felt comfortable with her style. She always makes suggestions, never demands. All the comments come in via Track Changes or Comments, so I can see what she might have added or deleted. I can agree or disagree.

After the obvious (and yes, there were typos and omitted words, and calling Wendy Wanda, etc. No matter how perfect the book is when you turn it in…it isn't.) I looked at some of what I call second level suggestions. These were more than a strict grammatical rule kind of changes.

For example, she wrote: "This makes the sentence awkward. You might be able to just change the word “from” and make it work, or delete “from one of the dining rooms”. Your call."

Or: "This isn’t necessary, but if you want to keep it in, you can."

Or this one: "You can keep this in here as is if you want, but it’s hard to see Dalton thinking this way. Perhaps a different phrase would work better?"

She's not telling me what to do; she's telling me it should be better. I can decide how to fix it, or not. And I can leave a comment back telling her why I did whatever I did.

She notes inconsistencies, but she doesn't verify them. She'll say, "Wasn't he wearing black before? Please check."

The next level is the one that's going to require backtracking and re-reading scenes, because the comments deal more with the characters. For example:

Comments like these: "You might want this to be onscreen to add more emotion to the scene. It would be a nice touch!;-)"

And: "How would Blackthorne feel about Dalton giving Miri data? Do you think Dalton should comment on this, or perhaps think about it? This would just be another reason for him to get in trouble with his boss."

Or this: "Please review the scenes with Octavio as I think there may be something missing in the sequence of events. It seemed odd that Octavio was in control and then Dalton was in control so quickly."

Or this one, that should be easy: "Please add an endearment or name here for a more emotional statement." However, coming up with the 'right' endearment in my books is always a challenge. It can be a milestone in a relationship, and I struggle to decide when it's going to happen, and what the other character's reaction will be, and exactly what the endearment should be. A lot of this is probably based on my own biases—around here, "dear" is used sarcastically, as in, "Yes, dear, anything you say, dear." I've never liked 'baby'. And then, I try not to repeat them from book to book. I noticed one author used "luv" as her generic endearment term across all her books. It lost meaning for me, because it sounded like the author said it, not the character.

One thing I learned after my first book came out, was that wonderful as editors are, and as wonderful as you know your manuscript is, you can't turn it around if all you've done is scrolled through markups and comments and addressed them. So, I'll be reading the manuscript critically, from Chapter 1 to "The End". It's about 101,000 words, so it's not something I can do in an afternoon. But I have to get back into the story, into my characters' heads, so I can make the content fixes. It's kind of like what we're doing with the house.

We're changing things, but we're not moving walls or rearranging appliances. Everything is where it should be, but we want it to be better. Which is why we spent most of yesterday (and a heck of a lot of money) ordering things like new floors, new faucets, cabinets, sinks, etc. They'll go where the old stuff went, but when we're done, the finished product should be much better than it is now. So that we can look around and do the homeowner equivalent of my editor's final comment: Great story! Love it!:-)


Mason Canyon said...

Sounds like you are definitely headed in the right directions, especially with the final comment.

Thoughts in Progress

Terry Odell said...

Let's hope so. And let's hope the book gets picked up for review by some of the major publications, because that's the only way the libraries will buy it, and that's the target of the publisher.

Diana Castilleja said...

I love those kinds of edits. :)

Alan Orloff said...

Tough to beat a "great story! love it!" Congrats!

Suzanne said...

Sounds like great editor feedback. I remember getting my last revision note, thinking "Oh no!" then getting to the end and finding "We're 90% there." LOL. I think that was good.

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hey Terry, I enjoyed reading your responses to your editor's comments. I also struggle with endearments - you want the relationship to grow and develop but as an author, some endearments run smack into your authorial wall. I had an aunt who said "hon" for everyone and it became de-specialized for me. Always a pleasure to visit here.

Clover Autrey said...

Good editors note where improvements can be made without taking over the story and rewritting herself. Sounds like you have a good one.

Terry Odell said...

Diane - yes, I like to see enough to know that she really paid attention, but not so much that I have to rewrite and rearrange entire scenes!

Alan - Thanks.

Suzanne - 90% would be very good. So far, I've never been asked for serious revisions. Major tweaks, maybe, but most of the framework gets to stay.

Maggie-yeah, I hate it when total strangers call me 'honey'. Grrrr. Yet I have to put MY feelings aside and figure out what the characters will say.

Clover--I do like this editor. A lot!

Stephen Tremp said...

Getting those track changes from an editor can keep you up all night long. I do the same thing, wait until I have time to sit down when I'm well rested, refreshed, and have some quiet time. I have great editors. God Bless the editors of the world.

Stephen tremp

Mary Ricksen said...

My kinda edit!!1

Debra St. John said...

Editing does take on different "personas" so to speak. There are definitely different levels to it and different things you need to do at each level. Sometimes we're taking things piecemeal and fixing them as we go, and other times we need to totally reimerse yoiurself back in the story.

It's quite a process. Good luck!

Terry Odell said...

Stephen - agreed - the continuity factor is critical.

Mary - :-)

Debra - thanks. I'm into immersion this round.

Tiffany Green said...

Terry, I enjoyed your post. Wish my edits were so light. Good luck with your books!

Terry Stonecrop said...

There's so much more work to getting a novel out there than I imagined when I started writing fiction. Good luck with it!

Terry Odell said...

Tiffany -- sometimes I wish I could turn in a draft and let the editor do the hard stuff!

TerryS - thanks -- and I got your book order packed up. It'll go out either tomorrow or Friday, depending on the weather (we had a bit of snow last night; more expected).

Maryann Miller said...

That is so neat. I have a similar relationship with my editor at Five Star, and it is such a pleasure to work with someone like that. I end up taking more of the suggestions when they are presented that way instead of a demand. What is the old cliche about "honey?"

Terry Stonecrop said...

Thanks, Terry! Don't risk your life. I'm a patient person. Only the young need instant gratification:)

Maribeth said...

Thanks for the insight. Really a most helpful post.
Giggles and Guns

Sharon Ervin said...

I love editors who edit: make constructive suggestions and provide an idea of what might make what I want to say clearer. A former newspaper reporter, my one-time nightmare editor tossed a story back and said, "Change this. I don't like it." What didn't he like? "The lead, the story." Okay, toss it. "No, our readers need the information." Then he could write it, because I had no idea what he wanted and he didn't either. In nine published books, I've had dream editors, people who acted like they were on my side to turn out the best books we could. And, boy, could they communicate

Terry Odell said...

Nothing beats a good editor. And that's probably why at the RITA awards both the author and the editor are recognized.

Rob Walker said...

Sometimes even agents tend toward micro-managing a writer in the name of "career building" when what is going on is that the agent began as an editor and he thinks he knows better than you....and sometimes an editor does same...asking far too much in the way of change to the point of being factually wrong. Other times you land the perfect editor but typically she or he is too smart to remain in a business that pays him or her less than what a teacher makes, so the smart ones get away - go into law or some other field and you are once again "orphaned" and have to start over again. I begged more than one editior to please never ever leave me but they do....


Jemi Fraser said...

That was super interesting for me Terry. I've never heard details on how an editor works before. Those kinds of comments are incredibly constructive - love it! And how nice to have the person you work with be so upbeat and positive. Lucky! :)

Terry Odell said...

Rob -- yeah, life happens, doesn't it?

Jemi - as always, happy to share.

P.L. Parker said...

I've been through the easy ones and then the hard one - I liked the easy ones better. LOL. But it's a learning experience. I try to keep my own personality in the story but add in the editor's suggestions. Works best for me.

Terry Odell said...

PL--yeah, the easy ones are nice. But there's always that worry that if there aren't enough comments, that maybe the editor was in too much of a hurry. So far, my editors have always let my voice come through.