Welcome to Edit Hell 1


Earlier this week, I’d started a series of posts about the various terms authors may use that someone outside the industry may not be familiar with. So far you’ve created your manuscript, written a query letter and a synopsis, submitted it/them to an agent or editor, as well as submitting the partial, and have progressed to the stage where they’ve also read the full. You may have even received an R&R letter (Revise and Resubmit – where an editor says “I really like this book but I’m having a problem with XX character or Such-and-such a situation. Can you change…” )

Some editors have the power to offer a contract to you using their own discretion. Some editors must send your submission on to an acquisitions committee who will discuss all the other editors’ recommendations as well. Your editor may love your book but another editor will have a book they love just as much and they’ll have to battle it out for the one free spot on the publishing schedule. It can come down to who is more passionate, or who has a better standing with the committee. It may also come down to which story has the better synopsis or query letter or blurb. (Or maybe they just flip a coin.  It’s a mystery 😉 )

So now you’ve made it past the acquisition committee and you’ve received “The Call” or “The Email”. After you’re done your happy dancing, you’ve agonized over some clauses in your contract and now, possibly after some negotiation, you’ve got a signed contract from your publisher sitting on your desk so you feel confident in crowing the good news from the rooftops.

It may have taken only a few weeks or it may have taken a year or more to get to this point (from subbing to your editor/publisher, not writing it, that may have taken you many years.)

What can you expect next?  You may receive a whole flurry of other paperwork – W7, W8 and W9 forms that have to be filled out. If you’re not American, and you’re being published by an American publisher, you may have to supply an ITIN number which means you have to gird your loins and face the US IRS. OMG that’s a post that’s just too confusing because everyone gets a different answer/experience.You may be invited to join the publisher’s insider loops, or encouraged to get active on their forums.

At some point you may be asked to fill out a cover art sheet (it depends upon the publisher) and I’ll talk about that in Monday’s post.

The main thing an author must concentrate on, and stress over, since they’re usually on a deadline, is the edits.

Now, the number of edits an author receives depends upon a number of factors such as how clean your original manuscript is, and the publishing house’s standards. How long you get to do to them varies depending on a lot of factors.

Some editors work strictly on hardcopy, so they’ll courier  your manuscript with lots of notes on it. Or you may just get a letter (usually multiple pages) outlining the changes your editor requires on a point by point basis. Once you’re done, you have to pay to have it couriered back to them. And you have to factor that delivery time into your deadlines.

Some publishing houses, especially the epublishers such as Samhain and Carina, do electronic editing where we can send Word documents using Track Changes. (I’ve included graphics below so you can see what it looks like – additions are often shown in one color and deletions are either struck out or changed to red. (In the sample below, my version of Word strikes through a deletion ,strike through, like this. And then there are lots of little comments scattered throughout that appear as balloons on the side.

I’ve only ever had electronic edits, so I’m going to be talking about that process.

Developmental edits are usually changes you need to make to strengthen the story or tighten a section where it’s sagging or develop a character to a deeper depth. Your story may or may not need them. And sometimes they’re done at the same time as the copy edits below. An example of a developmental edit is a note I found on the very last page of Personal Protection:

“For some reason, I’m left feeling that his [Sam’s] feelings for Jill and her death aren’t completely resolved, like Jill will always be the specter that looms over their relationship…[not] convincing the reader of their HEA. I’m not sure what would do it. A love scene? Something more in the way of him convincing her rather than her coercing him? Any thoughts?”

Obviously, the original version of Personal Protection ended quite differently. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I ended up cutting out the last 2K of the original ending, and writing a whole new ending that was more than 5,000 words. I was worried for a while that it might be too dark, but I love it, and I’m so glad my editor liked it as well. With Texas Tangle, I ended up adding over 8,000 words.

Because of the single comment below, I deleted about five paragraphs (it had been a recitation of the week, a throwback to when Texas Tangle had originally been planned as a novella.) I then wrote a entire 1500+ word scene (where Dillon’s watching Nikki train her colt while he talks with his father) incorporating what had happened in those paragraphs as well as addressing all the elements my editor mentioned in her comment (plus it also added more conflict as Dillon’s father plants a seed of doubt in Dillon’s head about Dillon’s relationship with Nikki.):

Once any bumps in the story are smoothed out, then your editor turns her attention to the actual writing or the Copy Edits. It’s really interesting because a single line notation by your editor can either lead to a small easy change, or a really long intensive edit.

An easier edit
Click here to see a larger view
Click here to see a larger version

The second graphic shows you that a short note can end up in quite a lengthy change as in several pages, or having to go back to foreshadow something earlier on or follow up on it later. You’d be surprised how a small change in chapter one or two can cascade throughout the entire story.

I can tell the difference between my editor’s comments and my own because Word inserts the initials of the comment creator as well as the # comment it is. So LB26 would be the 26th comment/notation made by Leah Braemel (me) and RMS84 means that’s my editor’s 84th notation. (yes, that number got a LOT higher.)

And I mustn’t forget the little notes Rhonda and Angela have made either within an email or within the document. Comments like “You like the word ‘really’ in this manuscript. Can you go through and see how many you can get rid of?”and “There are an awful lot of em dashes. Go through and get rid of at least half.”  Getting rid of all the incidents of really was a fairly quick and easy fix. The em dashes? Well, it turned out I am a serial em-dash addict. (What’s an em dash? It’s a triple-long dash that is used to show interruptions in thought or speech.)  Authors — sometimes your critique partners may pick up on this. I also use a program called Autocrit.com. I plug in my manuscript in 8K segments. It analyzes the number of times I’ve reused a word or phrase and suggests how many to get rid of. (It does other things as well like look for cliches but there are other sites available, or as I said, a good critique partner who can look for them.)

FLEs or Final Line Edits: Once you’ve returned the changes and your editor has approved them, the manuscript gets handed to a line-editor who checks the grammar and punctuation. They are also very talented at spotting inconsistencies such as the hero had blue eyes on page 36 and green eyes on page 97 or that you like repeating certain phrases. VERY talented. And very thorough.

Considering I usually go through a manuscript dozens of times, and at least three critique partners have also gone over my document before I even submit it, AND my editor and I have gone through the document multiple times again as we’re editing, I often feel like pounding my head against a desk at some of the things the copy editor still manages to find that we’ve missed.  I’m not cursing the editor but that I’ve missed them myself. I’m very grateful that they are finding those errors because I’d hate to think that the book might have been released with an error that a reader would notice. And they WILL notice. Count on it.

See how they point out that I’ve fallen into the repetition trap? They don’t highlight every instance, they leave it to me to decide which ones should stay and which should go.

(You can click on any of these graphics to view a larger version.)

and of course, I love these type of comments:

Galleys: the final phase of edits. This is once the book has been put into the format it’ll be printed in. The author may receive them either in print form, or in a PDF format. It’ll have those neat little swirls or special graphic figures separating scenes. Maybe you’ll have a special drop cap at the start of each chapter (that’s where the first letter is about an inch high and the other text scrolls around it) Maybe there’s a slightly different font for the first few characters of the first line. You know, those things that make a book special, unique. Lynsay Sand’s Argeneau series often have a drop cap with a gothic type font. Sarah McCarty’s Hell’s 8 books from Spice have a graphic of two guns crossing barrels above the chapter number. The pages will also have the title on one page and the author’s name at the top of the alternate page. You know, all the formatting that makes a book look like a book, not a Word document.

This is where an author, especially a first time author, stops and thinks “OMG, this is actually coming true. I’m going to be in print!”  They then have to go through them line by line from start to finish checking that everything is correct from the copyright notice, the dedication through to where it says “the end”. This is the author’s FINAL opportunity to correct any errors — at this stage you should only be finding small things, such as a missed space or too many spaces. Hopefully. I’m not sure what happens if you discover a major plot flaw.

I think I’ve covered everything about edits, and of course each house, and each editor does things a little differently, so your mileage may vary.   I’ll pick up the rest of the terminology next Monday.  Have a great weekend!


One thought on “Welcome to Edit Hell

  • Lynda Martin

    A great article, Leah and one I really appreciate being both a writer and (yes!) an editor. Trust me, it is hell on both sides. Lynda

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