I've been excited about selling my 2007 Golden Heart finaling manuscript to Bell Bridge Books. I've also been intensely curious about what happens next. But with the publishing industry bursting at the proverbial seams, I reasoned other publishers might be different. So I approached some friends--three other debut authors who also are going through the editing process--and asked if we could get together and compare notes. They generously agreed. Please welcome in alphabetical order: Anne Marie Becker, Julie Rowe and Maryn Sinclair.
Anne Marie Becker: Thanks for having me today, Donnell. I'm excited to share the editing portion of my publishing journey and look forward to reading what others have experienced. I signed the contract for my debut novel, Only Fear, in January and promptly set about savoring the emotional high. Another milestone reached, bring on the wine and chocolate.
But reality soon hit. I'd be editing a novel I hadn't read in 18 months (talk about fresh eyes!). And I'd have deadlines that weren't set by me.
The panic was quickly replaced with curiosity. What would it be like to have someone working with me to make this novel fantastic? I looked forward to the challenge. (I'm crazy like that.)
Here are only some of the things I've learned as Deborah Nemeth (a.k.a. my amazing editor at Carina Press) challenged me:
- Track Changes is my friend. (Thanks, Deb, for the forewarning of all the humungous red boxes that would dot my manuscript upon opening it! They weren't so bad after I got into it.)
- How to make a proper "em-dash" in Word. (Press shift-option-dash.)
- "Further" and "farther" are different. (And I tend to prefer "further.")
- Save often. Especially when using Track Changes while going back and forth between multiple documents. (My computer took to throwing hissy fits every so often and freezing up.)
- Don't make your heroine cry too much. One of Deb's most valuable comments was a quote from Orson Scott Card's Characters and Viewpoint: "If your characters cry, your readers won't have to; if your characters have good reason to cry, and don't, your readers will do the weeping."
- Throw out as many dialogue tags as possible. Instead, use an action statement that shows who is speaking. (But, if you have to use a tag, "said" is often best.)
- Repetitive words and phrases are redundant. (Though I try to catch these, several slipped through the cracks. Deb caught many of them. Extra eyes are invaluable!)
- If a hero's eyes are green on page five, they should remain green (not change to hazel) on page 105, unless genetic mutations are part of your story.
- "RUE" = Resist the Urge to Explain. Trust that your reader will understand, rather than repeating words and gestures. (All of my readers will be of superior intelligence and excellent taste, of course.)
- Trust your editor. There's always more to learn about my craft. (Yes, this one I knew already, but this process was a great reminder.)
Only Fear, Anne Marie Becker's 2009 Golden Heart winner for Best Romantic Suspense will be released by Carina Press September 5, 2011. (Please visit www.AnneMarieBecker.com for more about Anne Marie.
Julie Rowe: I've been writing for over ten years and have 15 or 16 completed novels sitting on my hard drive. I've taken dozens of online classes and attended many conference workshops in the hopes of learning that special something that would put my writing over the publishing hurdle.
I finally figured out what that special something is: hard work and a damn good editor.
I've been finaling in contests for years, the Daphne, Finally a Bride and the Golden Heart. I've received lots (I'm afraid to count them) of "good" rejection letters with personalized feedback. I've also worked through a dozen revision letters from a variety of editors (with no commitment to buy the book), resubmitted the manuscript, and still received a rejection rather than an offer to publish.
I learned so much from those revision letters. I learned that editors are hungry for a riveting story, intriguing characters and an emotional journey that leaves them breathless.
I learned that I'm not writing for me, I'm writing for the reader, and that the two are NOT the same.
I learned that a good editor can see the overall promise of your story, the small details that make it unique and problems the author can't.
My novel, Icebound, due to be released by Carina Press November 14, 2011, was initially written in 70 percent heroine's POV and 30 percent hero's POV. Editor Kym Hinton sent me an encouraging, detailed revision letter (with no commitment to publish) suggesting I remove or change ALL of the hero's POV scenes and go really DEEP within the heroine's POV.
It took me a few weeks, and it was a lot of work to revise that much of the manuscript, but the result was WOW! I submitted the revised manuscript and three months later got the call with an offer to publish.
I've worked through another developmental revision letter with my editor, and I'm astonished all over again at how much better the story is. She doesn't tell me how to write, she suggests I do things like enlarge some of the secondary characters, change up the dialogue in a scene to better show the hero's character growth and use plain English instead of some of the medical jargon I use out of habit.
We've brainstormed title ideas and scene revisions, and my editor has been available to answer questions. Next, we'll get to the line edits, but I'm not worried. I welcome the next stage of the process.
To learn more about Debut Author Julie Rowe, check out her website at http://www.julieroweauthor.com/
Maryn Sinclair: In the movie Pearl Harbor, which depicts an event in 1941, there's a building in one shot with "est. 1953" on it. Two characters in Days of Thunder call Tom Cruise's character Tom instead of Cole--his name in the movie. How come no one caught those things? Editing is the difference between a clean product and a sloppy one.
When Donnell mentioned a combined post about our editing experiences, I thought, how do I express how important the editing was to my very first published novel, Sexual Persuasion? I'm not talking about leaving off a quote mark or forgetting a word. I'm talking about major story flaws--things sharp readers find that cause them to swear off an author. A major problem for me is when two scenes happen at the same time from different POVs. For example: my hero, Alex leaves my heroine, Charlotte in the street-level entrance of her apartment. He's too wound up to sleep and and goes to his friend's restaurant. Meanwhile, Charlotte climbs the stairs and finds her sleazy ex-boyfriend in her apartment. Her assault scene takes less time than Alex's restaurant scene, yet I didn't account for the time discrepancy. Charlotte calls Alex. He rushes back. Um, what did Charlotte do all that time? My editor saw that. I didn't. What to do? I had my traumatized heroine delay calling Alex, equalizing the time difference.
Oh, here's a goodie: In a flashback scene between my hero and his male lover--my hero sits down to his favorite meal that his lover made for him: chicken topped with shrimp. Hel-lo! My hero is a vegetarian and has been since the age of ten. That one really embarrassed me, and I questioned whether to even mention it because it sounds like I didn't know Alex. I did. I do. Really. But somehow that one slipped by me. Are you ready? It also slipped by a couple of critique partners, two edits by my fantastic primary editor, and the line editor. That's right. A couple of critiques and three edits missed that fact. The third and final editor caught it. But really, I should have detected that ages ago. More importantly, I never should have made the mistake.
Those were important mistakes, which makes me wonder how many errors pepper my other books and why editing, good editing, is so important. A toast to the Loose ID team for excellent editing and for making me look better than I am.
Maryn Sinclair's Sexual Persuasion was released in May, 2011. Maryn was also a guest on Five Scribes earlier in 2011 http://fivescribes.blogspot.com/2011/04/erotic-romance-making-of-story.html To learn more about Maryn, visit her website at http://marynsinclair.com/
I ask you, readers, aren't these women fantastic? I so appreciate their sharing and their candid perceptions about what took place before, after, and during their editing processes.
As for me, Donnell Ann Bell, my book still unnamed at present (formerly Walk Away Joe) but is due for release from Bell Bridge Books September 15, 2011. As soon as I have a title, I'll be shouting the novel's new name, you can count on it!
The novel just went to copy edits. It's been through a two-page, single-spaced revision letter, and intense editing by Senior Editor Pat Van Wie, and since we've covered redundancy above, I'll just say my editor addressed most, if not all, of what Anne Marie, Julie and Maryn talked about.
The major thing I learned about editing is the importance of follow-through, and staying in character. For instance, in chapter five my heroine takes a gun out of storage and puts it in the top of her closet for protection. Pat asked, what does Melanie do with the gun? Nothing, I replied, it's illegal for her to have it in her possession. Pat simply said, do something with that gun. (After much hair pulling, I did. Imagine my relief when it added an important layer for all the characters involved).
My editor's perceptions as far as character growth were also right on. In chapter three, my heroine fearlessly decides no one will force her from her home again. So what do I do when I need to create the black moment where all is lost between the hero and heroine? Take her out of character and have her contact her realtor to sell her house. Yeah, that was effective. (Not.)
These are things my fantastic critique partners never caught, but my editor did. I also think that after working with her these many months, her vision for this book is equal to mine.
For more information about me, my web page is www.donnellannbell.com.
For anyone in the process of submitting or revising, I hope the experiences we've shared will help you make it through your revisions unscathed. One final bit of advice. Sit back and let your editor's words digest. I suspect it won't make much sense at first. It's still your baby after all. But revision is a collaborative effort. It's also a wonderful learning opportunity if you treat it as such.
Questions, comments? We'd love it if you'd share your experiences.
Happy writing, revising and editing.