Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Editing: It's About the Big Picture, Too.

Don't forget, you have until Friday to leave a comment on Kris Bock's post and be entered in the drawing for her books, so scroll down. Also, in conjunction with my generous donor of copies of What's in a Name? I'm extending my donation until Sunday, so there's still time to help cancer research. Buy links here.

Late Tuesday afternoon, I got my first round edits from my new Five Star editor, for ROOTED IN DANGER, my 3rd Blackthorne, Inc. novel. So, it’s back to editing. And back to Track Changes.
First step was to go through all the ‘insertion/deletion’ points, which were virtually all things like punctuation. I did notice that she’s a ‘sparing use of comma’ person, whereas I tend to use them more liberally. Those are easy enough to accept.

Then I read through her comments and dealt with the easy ones first. I like her eye—she pointed out several places where I’d used the same word more than once in a brief passage, or was inconsistent with usage, such as having both R&R and R and R in the manuscript.

My heroine came from money, and I’d referenced the “Society Pages” in the manuscript. My editor questioned their existence, and I had to stop and poke around a bit, to see if newspapers still reported on the social scene. They do, but it meant a bit of tweaking to get the wording more up to date.

In several places, she thought a word or phrase I’d chosen didn’t suit the character or situation, but she merely pointed that out, and didn’t suggest more appropriate wording.

Here, I had to come up with a better word or phrase. Shouldn’t be difficult, although at this point it hit me that I have no clue about this book anymore. When I went to my very first file, I realized I’d started the book in mid 2008, and finished it in January of 2009. Then it went through the submission process, and was accepted for publication in February of this year. Since then, I’ve been busy writing other books.

So it’s not a matter of simply finding a better word. It’s immersing myself into the entire book. If her comment says, “Not sure what you meant by this,” my response is, “Neither am I.” It’s not going to work if I look at a paragraph out of context and try to fix something. It means going back and reading the entire scene, or chapter, or ideally, the entire manuscript again. Given the 9 day turnaround, it would take a lot of effort. But the alternative is a piece of work that might not be the best it could be.

Can I always reconstruct what was going on in my head when I wrote a line? Or even a scene? I know when I’m writing, it makes sense to me, but maybe not to a reader. And three years later, not to me anymore, either. So it’s a matter of re-reading, getting a feel for the characters, and writing something that works.

If you try to fix something without knowing exactly where it stands in the book—what’s happening in the character arc—then fixes are likely to be disjointed. What’s happening in the scene? In the relationship between the characters? Would the heroine be wary around of the hero at this point, or has she begun to trust him?

Another issue – timelines. I normally keep track of when everything happens, even if it’s just “Day 1” or “Day 5.” But for some reason, I can’t find a file with these notations. I did find one day’s work that had “Fix Timeline” written at the start of Chapter 15. I can only hope I did so by the time I got to the rewrite phase.

Then there was the comment at the end of one scene: “What month is this?”
I had no clue. But I did discover a reference to hurricane season early in the book, which meant things were likely taking place between May and November. Not much help.

A good deal of yesterday’s writing time was spent dealing with chronology. This book, unlike most of the rest of mine, covered a lot more time. I see paragraphs that say, “In the four months since…” and have to figure out when stuff happened, and then go back and layer in a few references so the reader gets a feel for the overall timeline of the book.

And I’ll remember that I need to make sure I don’t lose track of time when I’m working on my next book.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

I like to do the easier edits, too, and knock those out before any global revisions or continuity errors, etc. Good point about remembering the big picture when we edit.

Jaime Samms said...

Sounds like a huge undertaking, but like you say, taking the time to do it right is going to mean the difference between a seamless MS and one that tosses the reader out as they try to figure out when and where they are in time and the character's head. This is a good reminder for ant writer to stop, or at least slow down, and, as Mike Holmes would say, "Make it right."

Good luck with your edits!


Dr. Charley Ferrer said...

I appreciate all your comments. I guess for me the part about editing is that you waited almost a year to get the info back in the first place (or did I misunderstand). I'm so used to writing, editing, reviewing and publishing and within 6-months from starting to write the book is out in the world. Granted, I write non-fiction sexuality and self-help books. I've self published several books thus am not used to waiting forever for someone to come back with more info or wanting revisions which then you don't hear about for another umpteen months. Is this really the way it is? Is the process so very long? Am working with a new publisher now and she's frustrated with my need for input and being a part of the process and I'm frustrated with her lack of the same. Is the process really where the author has no say or input in their work? And where the publisher can publish whenever they want within the time from alotted. (1-year after editting) That just seems "wrong".

Thanks for the input.

Live with passion,

Dr. Charley Ferrer
Clinical Sexologist, Author
Radio/TV Talk Show Host

Coming June 17th

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth - yes, if you don't know where in the story something's happening (or even a little point, such as ... does X know Y's name? you can get burned. In a mystery, where you're dropping clues, it's important to know what's been revealed, and who knows what.

Jamie - I LOVE Mike Holmes!

Terry Odell said...

Charley - When you finish a manuscript (which may be six months or longer after starting it) and submit it to the publisher, it may take them months to get back to let you know if they want it. Then, after that, it can be more months before they start the editing process. Add in the time between starting the book and finishing it, then querying it around, it could be a long time since you've looked at it.

It's not the same with self-publishing, since you don't have to wait for acceptance, or the publisher's release schedule.

I've only dealt with one publisher that held a book up, and this was a very small press--virtually a one-person operation. So when had health issues, everything stopped.

To date, all of my editors have been very good about discussing reasons for changes.