Monday, April 11, 2011

Edits, Edits, Edits

What I'm reading: The Sex Club by L.J. Sellers (and despite the title, it's a mystery, not erotica, or even a romance); Detachment Fault, by Susan Cummins Miller.

Another reminder – please check the Contest and Deals & Steals tabs above. There are some great bargains (and on a lot more than just my books).

This Just In: An article I wrote about characters is featured at the Guide To Literary Agents Blog. Please pop over. Please? And spread the word.

I've been dealing with edits for several projects lately, and they've all been different. I've got edits from a publisher, edits I'm doing myself, and edits from a professional editor I've hired. I thought I'd share.

First are the long-awaited edits for one of my mystery short stories which will be part of an anthology. This is one of two connected stories, but I've only received edits on the first of them.

These edits come from the publisher. I get a marked up document (using the dreaded "Track Changes"). Her instructions say to accept any changes I agree with, and leave Track Changes on for anything I add or change myself.

Upon opening the document, I discovered that most of her edits are changes in speaker tags. I figure it's easy enough to accept them, because if she can follow who's speaking without those particular tags, other readers shouldn't have any trouble.

(Hint, if you're not familiar with Track Changes: every time someone touches the document, it'll show up in the margin as an insertion or deletion. This means if someone changes "the" to "a", you have to approve the deletion of "the" AND the insertion of "a". This can be a royal pain.

However, if you highlight the section with the changes, and look at the "reviewing" toolbar, there's an icon that allows you to accept all the changes (both insertions and deletions) for the highlighted section. There's one that lets you accept them for the entire document, but I wouldn't want to do that at this stage of editing.

The editor also has comments in the margins, and a few "vague" suggestions, such as, "if you want to expand this section, we're OK on word count." Those are up to me to deal with as I see fit.

The next edits I'm working on are for books that have already been published. I've requested my rights back, as the publisher has changed its imprint, and I'm not sure mine fit with the new line. These have been through a professional editor. However, I wrote them years ago, and there are a lot of things that could use an update. And, on reading, I found that this editor wasn't as thorough as she could have been. As it was my very first book contract, I assumed that she was making it "perfect." But on my read-through I started finding a lot of things that could be stronger (and again, lots of characters with names starting with the same letter, overused words, and lots of places where the word choices could be stronger). So, I've been feeding it to my current crit partners, who haven't seen this book, chapters and making sure it's as strong as possible before I re-publish it myself.

Lastly, I've decided that book #4 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series would be far too long in coming, since book #3 doesn't come out until 2012. Also, at the moment, the publisher releases books in hard cover only, which greatly restricts distribution. So, since it can be read as a stand-alone, I've decided to self-publish it. Now, one of the "stigmas" of self-publishing is the misconception that all self-published books are inferior because they're not edited. This is just plain false. And although I have confidence that my writing is strong, I would never put a book out that hasn't been touched by professional eyes.

To this end, I've hired an independent editor. Yes, it costs money, but why ruin my reputation by putting out a sloppy piece of work? If someone reads a poorly edited book, they're not going to pick up another one you've written.

Here, the editor prefers to work in sections, sending me about 5 chapters at a time from my manuscript. She sends it in two versions: one with all her changes showing in Track Changes, as well as her comments, and a second file with all her changes accepted, and only the comments visible. At this point, most of her changes have been wording or punctuation type suggestions, and I haven't disagreed with many of them. Then, on the second file, I can respond to her questions or comments. The biggest difference for me here is that ultimately, I'm publishing the document, so I know exactly what I want once I have the completed manuscript. I've found most of her comments to be spot on, and where I disagree, I let her know why, but ultimately, all the decisions are mine.

For example, when I was going through edits for When Danger Calls, the editor wanted me to show a seven minute combat scene that I'd glossed over. Since she worked for the publisher, I did add it. For an independent editor, I don't have any "obligation" to make the suggested changes, but there's an inherent trust that she knows what she's talking about, and I'd be wise to pay attention.

Tomorrow, my guest is LaVerne Clark – she's coming all the way from New Zealand to be my guest. Please come back!


Amber said...

Great advice! I have planned on using professional editing for my work, as well. I can see the many advantages of doing this.

Good luck with her solo expedition! :)

Amber said...

Oops, I meant *your* solo expedition.


Funny that was the subject of this post. :)

Courtney Rene said... much more work than actually writing the story. Thanks for the great post.


Carol Kilgore said...

Great post. I'm editing, too.

Mary Ricksen said...

Great tip Terry!! Thanks!

Misty Dietz said...

Thanks for the always helpful information, Terry. I tried to leave a comment on the literary agents blog, but I couldn't get it to work for some reason. Congrats on the great review! :)

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for your comments here. Yes, editing is part of the process. I like fixing what's on the page; getting it there can be hard.

Misty - I think the blog owner has to approved all the comments, and no telling how often he does. I left a response and it hasn't shown up either.

Jemi Fraser said...

There are so many different levels of editing. I love seeing what someone at your level does with it all. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

LaVerne Clark said...

I like the editing stage too Terry. It means I've managed to finish the story!

I bet its been fascinating to see how you've evolved as a writer while working on your first contracted book. Pretty exciting too to add all those things you hadn't thought of before and which will strengthen the existing story.

Look forward to seeing you tomorrow : )

Jodie Renner said...

It's a real pleasure working with Terry on book #4 of the Blackthorne series. Terry is an excellent writer, and a treat to work with.

Diane Craver said...

Hi Terry,

Great article. If you don't mind me asking, who is your professional editor? You can email me at I want to hire someone to edit my WIP when I finish it. Thanks ahead.