Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First the forest, then the trees

This blog post started off as a brief hey-this-is-what's-new-with me post, and turned into a whole essay on the the different kinds of edits. This is why I have trouble finding time to blog--you cannot shut me up.

I turned in my rewrite of Shade on Monday. On Friday, my editor will give me her line edits, and the final version will go to the copyeditor on September 9.

What are line edits, you ask? (Let's pretend you asked, so that I don't look pretentious.) There are usually two stages to an editor's actual editorial work on a book. The first one is called...hmm, I don't know what it's called. Let's call it the Global Edit, because that sounds very impressive and sort of humanitarian. The Global EditTM tackles the Big Issues, such as:

-- Character X feels underdeveloped and pointless to the story; maybe s/he can be combined with another character to serve the same purpose? I mean, does the protagonist really need TWO drama-riddled, arachnophobic, Vespa-riding best friends? Hmm?
-- Subplot Y fails to be resolved. We never do find out who made those crop circles in the shape of Dick Cheney's head.
-- The pacing of Chapters 5-9 was so slow, I sold them to a pharmaceutical company as a powerful anesthesia agent (patent pending).

So the writer gets the Global Edit and spends at least a few weeks (God willing) doing a rewrite. For all of my books from Voice of Crow through Bad to the Bone, this stage involved giant overhauls to the plot and characters and took about two months each.

For Shade, this major rewrite wasn't necessary, and here's why: A month before it was due, I gave the oh-so-rough draft to a pair of beta readers who should be awarded medals of valor. It gave me the chance to see the big-picture problems with it, which I fixed to the best of my ability before turning it in to my editor at Simon Pulse (Annette Pollert) on June 1.

Anyway, then the writer submits the rewritten version to her editor (which I did this Monday). Sometimes the editor sends back this version with "line edits." At this stage, the editor flags specific details in the writing--clunky dialogue, weak descriptions, or other Things-That-Make-Her-Go-Eww. Usually he or she won't correct things like grammar or spelling--that's the copyeditor's job.

So if the Global Edit is the forest, the Line Edit is the trees. Books are made of trees, which come from forests, so...there.

Keep in mind that not every editor works this way. Some will combine the global edit (you're used to the term now, so we're switching to lower case) with the line edit. My editor at Pocket, Jen Heddle, does this. The lovely part is that I can then ignore half of her line edits because they apply to scenes that I've axed. Efficient (for me, at least)! She also does a second line edit on the new version, but it's combined with the copyeditor's review. So that manuscript will have notes for me in two different handwritings and colors. Pretty!

As for copyediting, we'll leave that for another post. I hope this has been an enlightening glimpse inside my little corner of the publishing process. As you can see, building the perfect book has many steps, several of which involve colored pencils.

Now playing: The Distillers - Coral Fang
via FoxyTunes

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Thank you for the insight into your world. Editing is enough to make me grow fangs and HISS at the screen. I look forward to more of this.

Posted by: Blogger Carrie Clevenger at 8/27/2009 11:13 AM

Thanks! Of course, every editor (and writer) works differently, but this has been my experience.

I LOVE editing. To me a first draft is pretty much torture. I really love taking something that's already there and making it better.

Little known fact about me: I wanted to be an editor long before I wanted to be a writer. But I didn't want to move to NYC.

Posted by: Blogger Jeri at 8/28/2009 3:23 PM

When you have to do the "global Edits" does it bother you to overhaul major parts ?
The story was your original vision and now it has to be redone. (not to mention extra work)

I see that you said you love editing so I guess that it's ok - just wonder if in the early days if it bugged you or you saw it as helpful - or maybe both :-)

Good blog post - love the humor...makes we want to go read your book again!
"I'm a vampire, not a slug" Favorite line ever!


Posted by: Blogger Karen at 8/28/2009 6:23 PM

Loved your comments on editing--they give some great insight into the process that most aspiring authors don't get a real glimpse at until their baptism by fire.

Posted by: Anonymous Anonymous at 9/08/2009 2:29 PM

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