It sounds painful doesn’t it? Many authors talk about heading into their “cave” for the editing process and knowing that next week I will once more retreat into mine for The Star of Ishtar, it rather made it an excellent topic for today’s Magic Thursday. I thought I would share some experiences in editing with the super Samantha. (I am sure she won’t mind – ‘cause she wonderful!)
I received my first contract with Secret Cravings and I remember I sat there thinking, “This is it. I’ve finally got a publisher.” On some level, I knew the manuscript needed editing before it was publishable, but I thought, “It’s pretty good”. Nothing could have prepared me for the process itself though. Thankfully, my lovely editor was great. She got me started with a list of words I needed to be aware of. In no particular order, here they are:
were, weren't, was, wasn't, be, been & being
Now they seem so innocuous, just little words we use every day. Right? As she pointed out to me, they are passive and not so good in a novel. Cool, that all made sense - I think. I remember telling myself, “I can do this with ease”, until she explained the rule. I needed to limit their use to no more than three altogether in one page (now I can only talk of my experiences here – other publishers may have other rules where this is concerned). She did say this is not including dialogue (phew!). Now that blew my socks off. I would never have expected that. So for several days I highlighted those words, rewriting sentences (hoping they still made sense) and pulled those words out.
It took days! All done and now I can sit back and feel somewhat smug. Unh unh! Nope – how wrong was I? That was just the beginning.
My next round of edits arrived via email. I remember opening that first message and thinking, how was I ever going to get finished in the set period and do the story justice. Page after page filled with comments. It was hard, thinking of the months of work interspersed with comments and suggestions my CP made, but Samantha encouraged me to work page by page.
Some things were easy to fix, she read the story and made suggestions about things that were unfinished – what happened to... and who is… comments flowed. The great thing about that editing process was even though we emailed back and forth using track changes, I was encouraged to explain why I had made certain decisions in the balloons. The editor knew what I was thinking and my motivations, and I understood her queries because we formed a positive relationship. I remember discussing one character: Jemma (who you will meet in Starfire), and what had occurred to her in the Starline. Her questions as to what happened to her were valid. She wanted to know the result of the actions but I needed to explain to her why I wasn’t going to tell the readers what happened to her just yet. That it was the catalyst for the second book.
I sent back the last edits around ten days after we started and thought to myself that was it. Done. Ha ha (Famous last thoughts there). I thought I was done and dusted until I received an email from the Senior Editor. More queries, questions and things that needed consideration - immediately. I sat down and went through it all again. At the end, I sent it all back, so sure that this time that was it. Nope.
The Publisher this time emailed through with queries and requests. This time, I printed it all out (again), sat at the table with a highlighter, pen in hand, and re-read for like the gazillionth time through the manuscript. Finally, I emailed the few changes, listing them in the email with the corrected proof.
Finally, that was the editing process done. I did learn some very valuable things though. I thought I would share them with you and for anyone who is reading this and about to embark on their first ever round of edits.
- If like me, you are using new or made up words – double-check their spelling every time. For me Barsha and Arturian (not to be confused with Arthurian) were words that seemed to turn up in every spell check and step of the process.
- Finish your edits on time - especially once you commit to that period. Editors do appreciate when you have sick kids, etc but they also appreciate your commitment to work with them and the time frame so that the book release in its set slot.
- Don't be afraid to say no. Just have a really good and valid reason to say it. If she/he wants you to put the heroine in a purple dress… well, unless that same heroine is supposed to be still wearing the purple dress the next day, but you somehow managed to make it green at the beginning of the scene… you can say no. Okay, so maybe that was a lame explanation, but at the end of the day, it is still your story. They just want to help you make it the best you possibly can.
- Expect to be sick of looking at your manuscript. You are going to be reading it and re-reading it and then some more before you are done.
- Have highlighters on hand. You may even find a helpful when reading through your work.
Now as a thank you for reading my thoughts and experiences, I wanted to share an excerpt from Starline:
Eyes sore and weary from watching information on the changes and major events since her own time had passed, Mellissa reached out and turned off the screen. Amazing. So much had occurred, and to think, I have a chance to be part of it. She shook her head. But so much she needed to learn. Could she manage to do that? What a question to ponder, she thought.
Inside the cramped cubicle of a Security Officer protecting her from prying eyes, she recapped in her mind the wonders she had seen. Interstellar travel—a huge technological leap there alone, she thought, and the change in the governmental systems—so much to learn about. Meeting new species and forming alliances, not to mention colonizing other planets and even inter-species marriages. How amazing was that? In her time, they still carried on talk fests about the feasibility of “some day” considering travel to the stars.
She grinned. And here she was, Mellissa Davis, in space and travelling toward a future she couldn’t possibly have imagined. “George and Eliza would love this,” she muttered to herself.
“Who are George and Eliza?” McCord peered at her, making her jump at the sound of his voice. She had missed the thud of boots on the flooring during her musings.
Mellissa gulped, wishing the floor would open and engulf her. How could she explain without him thinking less of her, not to mention her characters? George, a rough tough space Captain, and his protégée and maybe sometime lover, Eliza? Was it really something you could just blurt out? “Umm, they are characters in a book,” she said.
“A book? Of course, they were still huge in your time. In ours, only the rich have them. The rest have bookpads.” He smiled. “Who was it by? I might be able to access a copy for you.”
Her discomfort deepened. “Umm, I was writing it.” Her cheeks grew rosy.
“Really? Wow. What kind of book is it?” He looked at her, and she was sure his interest seemed genuine. She cringed at the thought of telling him it was a romance. After all, wasn’t it maiden aunts that wrote this sort of stuff anyway? Let alone read them.
Uh oh, she knew what to expect, she thought to herself. “Umm, it was a Sci Fi Romance.”
He looked at her. “You know, some of the most enduring books from your time are romances. Fancy that.” He grinned, and she could feel the air clear a little. She still felt embarrassed, but not as much as she had.
“Yeah, in my time, romance writers are sort of, well, you know, the bottom of the pack…gaining ground though. We actually have whole associations dedicated to reading romance.” She grimaced up at his face in embarrassment. What must he think of me? I’m some kind of old spinster? But wasn’t that what I was on the road to becoming? an insidious little voice in the back of her head quietly asked. Thinking how she wished her character, George, could be half as sexy as Duvall McCord, she had to mentally remind herself that here stood a real rough-and-tumble Captain and not some figment of her imagination.
“Well, there is definitely a career waiting for you as a writer of romance.” He grinned. “Come on and I’ll grab you a coffee, and you can give me the lowdown on your characters…was it George and Eliza?”
She hopped up quickly and followed him to the mess. Really, it seemed funny how quickly she had settled into ship life, she mused. “So, do you believe in romance yourself?” he asked, and he seemed just as surprised as she did by the question.
“Romance? Yes, absolutely.” Her enthusiastic answer surprised him. It radiated clearly on his face, the way it screwed up slightly. “That’s why I own a bookstore and am writing a novel.”
“Hmm, yes, but did you live alone?” His query zeroed in on a spot she didn’t really like to explore. “I mean, is there a man in your life?”
His gaze zeroed in on her again. She hoped, in fact had prayed, that there was more to the question, and then reminded herself it couldn’t be real. Her imagination still looked for the possibility of a relationship that didn’t and couldn’t exist.
“Not really. I mean, my man is really George at the moment. It’s kinda hard to explain.” She floundered a little, looking for the right words. “The way I grew up, in an orphanage, I never really got to see how families worked together, and I guess it kind of made it harder for me to work out what it looked like, so I guess…” He looked at her strangely.
“Orphanage? I was a fosterling. The Gentry’s fostered me. They were great.” His face softened. “Really good people. It must have been hard with no one in your corner. And they gave me a fabulous sister.” Gently his hand extended toward her chin and raised it until her eyes looked into his. “Really hard for you though…” The words dropped to a trailing whisper as he leaned toward her.
Her eyes fluttered closed as the distance between them melted away. She knew he was going to kiss her. Knew it probably wasn’t a good or even wise decision, but she needed to find out if he tasted as good as he looked.
“Captain, Miss Davis,” Elara called, interrupting the moment. “I see you think it is time for coffee too. Wonderful!” Then she looked again, the realization clear on her face that she had walked in on something. Then Elara seemed to mutter to herself and headed for the mess hall door.
The moment broken, they looked at each other. A wry grin on his face softened the years and hardness from his features somehow. He turned, motioning her toward the door and the coffee that lay within. It didn’t make her feel any better though. She had nearly made a mistake. A big one. Hadn’t she?
To WIN a copy of Starline, please share one of your editing experiences.