Every writer’s first time with an editor attached to a publishing house is different, because every writer and every editor is different. However, I learned five really nifty things that I’d like to pass on.
#1. Crutch Words Every writer has them, some more than others. Mine varied. In the first iteration, my editor teased me about everyone mumbling, muttering, or murmuring – and always under their breath. A few painful hours and 101 m-words later, I realized that by ripping those words out I had to dig deeper, which made my writing stronger. (The second iteration involved nodding, nodded, nod; everyone became a bobble head. Another learning opportunity!)
#2 Clarity This is something we all hear and know, but never think it happens to us. We believe our manuscripts are easy to follow. Well, maybe in the first draft they were – but that was 8 or 9 drafts ago, and the thought process now doesn’t track. There were times when my beloved editor would ask a question about something, and I would pull my hair out – it was very clearly stated in chapter 12! This was chapter 13 – my readers would figure it out!
Um, no, they wouldn’t figure it out, because between chapter 12 and chapter 13, I’d eliminated a chapter that explained a lot of stuff. So much rewriting had to go on in some spots just to clarify the story and keep the ball rolling along.
#3 Sentence Structure I’m a pretty smart cookie. But after getting my first edits back, I wanted to hide in a huge book on grammar and not come out until I’d finished reading it. Except I hate grammar. So after I took a deep breath, I really studied what my editor was telling me. I learned that choppy sentences work really well in tense situations, but not so good in the slower moments.
Plus, at the beginning of the book all my guys sounded like chicks. They talked too much, apologized too fast, etcetera. Yeah, good to know! What an eye-opener. All these things that I’ve learned will go into an edit before any other project gets sent off to an agent or an editor, I assure you!
#4 Edits Take Time Getting the edits done took more time than I had imagined they would. The first pass I did took me two weeks – and I don’t have a day job, folks. Actually, it took me a whole week just to wrap my head around the changes needed (I had some unfortunate POV shifts and had to move them to another characters’ POV – and never the same character, lol!). Every day I’d look at the comments, and every day I stepped away from the computer, not sure how to begin. Six days after first receiving the edits I finally understood and started in on the revisions. Eight days later, they were done. Not only did I change the POV issues, but I added scenes, added a character, and did some continuity work.
#5 The Crit Partner You Can’t Say No To During my week of introspection on the first edits, I went through a lot of the same emotions that I’ve gone through in the past with critique partners. Except this time, I couldn’t just ignore the comments on sentence structure, plot holes, continuity, clarity, etcetera – this time I had to face my demons and get the work done. (Never ignore your critique partners’ words of wisdom. Never. Always give them serious consideration.)
I’m not saying you can never say no to an editor, because that’s not true. Yes, you can fight for the big stuff, but hopefully you’ll be able to keep your mind open enough to listen. Editors want to make your book the very best they can be and most of the time, they have WAY more experience than you do. Think of it this way; your editor is making sure you go to the Prom with your fanny decently covered, not hanging out in the wind and inviting evisceration of your character (book).
Thank you, Liz Pelletier, for making sure my fanny was covered!