Monday, December 14, 2015


Track Changes: editorial suggestions in blue, author whining in red.
I've been off the radar for a few weeks, and here's what I've learned: editing a book is not for sissies!

After writing two revisions of my next novel, Beast: A Love Story, for my smart and very thorough editor, Kaylan Adair at Candlewick, we were ready to move into the phase called Line Edits. I figured the hard part was over and I could cruise into what I consider the fun part —tinkering with a word here or there, reframing the occasional sentence, finishing up the details.


Gone are the days when editing was done the genteel way, with a red pencil on hard copy, making a few tweaks here and there. Now we have a torture device known as the Track Changes program, by which a writer and her editor a continent apart can communicate virtually on the pages of the ms itself—one page, one paragraph, and yes, one line at a time.

The editor reads through the ms and makes suggestions in the Comments column at the right. There's a sample of what it looks like, up top. Editorial suggestions in blue; my feeble responses in red.

For the author, scrolling through the story and encountering the Comments is like entering a minefield. A lot of suggestions are perfectly reasonable and easily fixed—if we both agree there's a problem. But you never know when one is going to blow up in your face.

Maybe she has a different interpretation of a character's personality or motives than I do. Maybe she wants to subtly alter the course of the story in a way that never occurred to me—hmmm, let me think about it. Maybe she wants to soften a scene that I think has to be tough, or reconsider a certain  sequence of events.

Editing, the old-fashioned way!
Maybe her idea is better than mine—as is often the case—or maybe not. The point is, every suggestion has to be thought over and dealt with. When I agree with one of her suggested changes, it has to be implemented, which often includes either minor tweaking or large tracts of rewriting. If I don't agree, or have any other issue, I can leave my own Comments in the margin, attempting to defend my decision.

Either way, there's a lot more writing involved, whether I'm altering the story itself or attempting to compose Comments that will make any kind of rational sense. At times, the very act of writing a Comment makes me think about my decision in a new way, leading to a new batch of changes. Maybe reading one of her Comments triggers a revelation that neither one of us thought of before.

Back to the keyboard!

It's a lot more work than I ever expected, which is why I've sort of dropped off the face of the earth these last few weeks. I would never do it if I didn't have so much confidence in Kaylan and her opinions, based on how much she loves this story.

What's great about the process is it's giving me the luxury to really pay attention to the story again, page by page, line by line. It's not an author vs. editor battle; it's a collaboration. Together, we're midwifing the best Beast he can be!

No comments:

Post a Comment