Friday, October 05, 2007

My thoughts on editing, let me show you them---Pepper

I actually wrote this post for our Writing in Tandem blog last June, but it seems appropriate since September was the Month of Edits. Seriously, poor Vivien was drowning in them! I don't think most people think a lot about the editing process. I know I try not to think about it. It's always tedious, and sometimes a little disheartening. "Oh my god, I can't believe I did this. Gah! Who am I trying to kid here?!"

And that doesn't even take into account when you get your manuscript back from an editor. Some things you thought were brilliant will get the axe. Some things you don't even remember writing, and you're just mortified human eyes were allowed to see it. Some things make sense. Some things don't. And of course, since mistakes can, and do, happen, it's never enough to edit it once or twice. A smart author will go through it three, four, or even five times. Not counting the galleys.

It seems to me that writing with a partner should actually make the process easier. Two sets of eyes for two fresh perspectives. What I miss, she'll catch. And what she misses, I'll catch. Though, I gotta be honest with you, Vivien misses very, very little. Which is very, very good, because I can be a bit lazy when it comes to editing. And writing. And thinking. Honestly, she puts me to shame. But the process isn't actually easier now than it was before. It's just different.

Because I'm sure you're all fascinated, I'm going to outline the steps an average novel takes after we complete it, but before you, the viewer, buys it. Some of these steps can be switched around, depending on how busy we are and our broader circumstances. But this is usually how it goes.

The first round is about smoothing our voice and not looking like fools.
First Round:
  1. I read through the manuscript removing "dead words" and passive sentences. We're both in love with "that," so I often remove dozens and dozens of examples. We also like long, passive sentences, so I often rewrite dozens and dozens of sentences. I rarely read for content. Depending on the length of the MS, this could take me a day or a week. I also correct errors as I find them, though my attention isn't focused on searching for errors per. se. so I might miss a few.
  2. Vivien reads the manuscript for errors and content. If we fuck up on continuity, or we forget to finish a scene (it happens), or we write something that made sense to us two weeks earlier but not now, she fixes it. Also, she regularly asks me, "What do you mean here?" Content isn't SO important here, because we're polishing. And generally, we like our content quite a bit.
  3. We don't have a step three. Unless sending it to the appropriate editor/publisher is step three. And hey, that's an important step. Ask any editor who receives inappropriate or incorrectly marked material!
Then we wait and wait and wait for acknowledgment from the publisher. Amber Quill automatically sends us a contract for our submissions, so that's nice. Other publishers though make us wait a few weeks before we get the offer. Then the second round starts!

Second Round:
  1. It really depends on how busy we are for this step. If I'm in the middle of school and I have a shitload of papers to write, Vivien takes this step. If she's in the middle of editing something else, or otherwise engaged, I take this step. But one of us will go through the editor's suggestions and changes, accepting those we like, bitching about the ones we don't. Only one of us needs to do this, and depending on the editor and the length of the manuscript, it can be a pretty easy task.
  2. Vivien will generally take the time to read through an MS thoroughly here. Again, mistakes can and do happen. And we often miss little things--yeah, this is the fourth read-through and we're STILL finding things missed earlier. Thank God Vivien is a stickler for perfection!
  3. Are we having fun yet? Is reading this as tedious as actually editing? GOOD! Then we send the MS back to the editor for...
Round Three!:
  1. Depending on the publisher/editor, round three can either consist of a second round of edits/suggestions from her, OR the galleys. Either way, this is generally our last shot to clean things up. I'm beginning to suspect at this point that somebody hates us and is sabotaging us, because we always find a plethora of new mistakes. But there is one very good benefit to round three. Usually at this point, it's been weeks or even months since we last saw the MS. It's completely new to us in many ways. And completely thrilling.


veinglory said...

I must admit that I don't normally use a beta reader any more, probably causing great despair in some unfortunate editors.

veinglory said...

That link doesn't seem to be working: