Monday, November 17, 2014

Looking At Edits To Dread Or Not To Dread by Janet Lane Walters

I've been published as an author for 46 years and I've been receiving edits from publishers for that long. The first thing that happens when these arrive is that feeling that you've made a lot of mistakes or that someone wants to change your story. Not so. Over the years I've seen a lot of changes in this process. I've also learned to take a lot of deep breaths before looking to see what I've done wrong. There isn't usually too much except for some dreadful habits I have.

Habit one is forgetting the question marks. I'm improving with this but there are also times when the question is asked but not punctuated. Another is typing sentences and leaving words out. Somehow in one's head the words are there no matter how many times you read them.

In the past four days I've done the edits for three books. Two because they were going to be published and one because I needed to clean it up and make it current to be re-released some day. In this one though it had been edited by me and by an editor or two I found one glaring mistake. His look bred contempt. But it said His look bread contempt. I either wanted to laugh or cry but I made the changes. On the other books there were comments like "Did you mean this?" After reading the passage, I wasn't sure what I meant. There were other comments about adding some details, especially since one of the books was the third of a trilogy and one does need to let the reader know who the mentioned people were and exactly what part they had or would play in the story.

So now I'll talk about how edits were received in the "old days." When I wrote short stories, I never received any edits. The editor made the changes they wanted done. I seldom found anything that was changed to make the story less than mine. Then I moved to writing novels.

Writing novels began in the days of sending off the entire mss. in a box and receiving it back for edits in a different box or in an envelope. The first few times, there were comments written on the pages, meaning one had to look at every page and decipher what the editor meant. Some of these editors rivaled physicians in the way they wrote. Then there was a revolution and the sticky notes came out and the mss. received was decorated. Some editors used different colors for different things. Little notes were discovered on these sticky things.

Now we come to today. Edits come via download and they still contain the color coded material. except you have to know how to take the notes away. This was a learning curve for me but I have mastered the process. Doesn't mean I love receiving the edits but the one thing I have learned is that these edits always make for a better and stronger story.

A final word of advice. When they arrive, take a deep breath and then start slowly. The second word of advice is do not accept all changes because you might miss something vital. Just go down the colored notes one by one and figure what needs to be done.

Just in case you're interested, the two books I was doing for Books We Love Ltd came out this weekend. Pursuing Michael West MD and Toth's priest.