The Editing Process

Editing a manuscript is a critical stage in the writing process. In an earlier post, I discussed the Five Stages of Writing. Currently, I’m in the editing or revisions phase with one book and the production phase of another. This often happens, because finishing the first draft of a book doesn’t mean you’re done. It’s only the start of more work.

The Editing Process

After my draft is complete, I begin an intense round of line editing. This means reading the printed pages word-by-word through the manuscript to tighten sentence structure, catch repetitions, fill in emotional reactions, add dialogue tags and more. Here is an example of what one page looks like from Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in The Bad Hair Day Mysteries.

I scribble changes on the printed page, then go back to the computer and make the fixes. Like this:

Easter Edits

Then I read through it again. Note one paragraph here has the same word, “staff”, three times. In the second round, I changed the middle one to “employee” entrance. This means another session at the computer and another printout.

Easter Page

I read it again and keep doing this process until each page is as perfect as I can make it. For revision tips, see my previous post here.

The next step is to send it to my freelance editor. She’ll return the file with remarks using Track Changes in Word. Here comes another round of corrections and one more read-through to make sure all is smooth and I didn’t miss anything. For traditionally published authors, they’ll get edits from their developmental editor and their copy editor.

Next round? For indie authors, that’s beta readers. These are ordinary readers like you who read the book the way they would any story. But they’re looking for flaws, misspellings, info dumps, inconsistencies, or anything that would give them pause. Their input is invaluable, and they always find new things for me to modify.

Is the book done yet? Nope. From here it goes to my formatter. Once she converts the file, I have to read through it again to look for conversion errors. This is akin to the advance reading copy that traditionally published authors receive. It’s the last chance for a final proofread.

This is why the editing process can take so long. I set myself a goal of 10 pages a day. For a 300 page manuscript, that’s 30 days with no time off. Sometimes after several rounds and numerous changes during one day, I still can’t finish those ten pages. I get too close to the material and have to put it aside until the next morning.

So please be patient, dear readers, if it takes longer for me to produce a book. I want it to be as perfect as possible by the time it reaches your hands. Or at least, the hands of my early reviewers. That’s a whole other topic.

Unfortunately, no matter how many passes we make through a book, including our editors and beta readers, some errors will slip by. It’s only diligent readers who can point them out to us. If you see them, please communicate in a kindly manner directly to the author via private email. Depending on our publishing status, we may or may not be able to fix these mistakes. Your eye for detail will be appreciated as long as you understand that most of us really do try our best.

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Do you get annoyed by occasional typos in the books you read, or do you accept them as inevitable and keep reading? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Editing Conundrums

Editing your novel always brings surprises. Here’s the latest one that I found upon doing a final read-through for Perish by Pedicure, one of my backlist titles that I’ve revised for an updated Author’s Edition.

editing your story

HANGAR OR HANGER? This one tripped me up, so I looked for a definition. Guess what? My word choice was wrong. A hangar is a shed or shelter especially for housing aircraft. A hanger is a shoulder-shaped frame with a hook at the top for hanging a garment when not in use.

Here’s the original excerpt from Perish by Pedicure (previously edited by Kensington). Oops, I’ve also started three sentences in this paragraph with “ing” phrases. I’ll change the second one for better grammar.

Old Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hangar in case she would need it later. One more thing. Picking up the telephone receiver, she dialed her salon and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

New Version:
Imagining how she’d exact restitution, Marla showered, blew out her hair, did her makeup, then pulled on a pair of black slacks and a ruby knit top. Not knowing what to expect at the convention center, she snatched a black Ann Taylor jacket from its hanger in case she would need it later. One more thing. She picked up the phone receiver, dialed her salon, and left a message that she’d be there that afternoon with the Luxor crew. Thank goodness Georgia had stayed overnight at the hotel, she thought, finishing with a spritz of perfume. Dealing with two houseguests already had her frazzled.

Watch for over usage of the word, “Just” like in this passage where I use it three times.

“And why was that?” Marla asked, noting Ron rushing around the corner. Spotting her, the master stylist halted, looking shocked, but then he just as quickly recovered himself. He must have gotten a look at Sampson’s disheveled appearance. Marla missed Miguel’s response, because just then the hostess called their group. “Wait, Georgia isn’t here yet.”

“She’ll find us inside,” Liesl said, looking very hip in an off-the-shoulder ribbed lavender top. “Let’s go, luv.”

Twenty minutes later, Marla got worried when Georgia hadn’t shown up. Her friend knew they were meeting everyone at eight o’clock. Had she gone to their room to change? Taking her cell phone from her purse, she punched in Georgia’s personal number. No answer.

After excusing herself, she found a hotel phone and dialed their room. The ringing tone persisted until Marla gave up. Now what? Could Georgia have met some guy at the marina and decided to chuck her plans? Possibly, but she would’ve told me, knowing that I’d worry. She’d wait a while longer just in case her fears were groundless.

Replacements:
Marla missed Miguel’s response, because the hostess chose that moment to call their group.

She’d wait a while longer in case her fears were groundless.

These are the latest! Something always pops up when you are editing your work. But it’s important to catch these problems to make your work as polished as possible. Don’t stint on proofreading for one final time. Chances are you’ll always catch something. Happy Writing!

What are mistakes writers make that bother you the most?

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Avoiding Word Repetitions

When editing your fiction manuscript, one thing you must watch out for are word repetitions. This might be a favorite word you overuse, or it might be a specific word or phrase that you use twice in one paragraph. You want to clean these up so they don’t pull your reader out of the story.
Word Repetitions
Here are a couple of examples:
Perish by Pedicure
The sergeant smirked, as though he knew all her secrets. “And then?”
Then she called to tell me about the job opening. I offered to put her up at my house, so we could visit while she was here.”
So she arrived on…?”
“Friday. I drove directly to the convention hotel so we could check in. That’s when I met Christine Parks for the first time. She brought down the rest of the staff for a preliminary meeting so we could go over the schedule.”
“How was her demeanor on this occasion?”
“Very much in charge.” Chris wore flashy clothes to attract attention, Marla wanted to add, but she bit her lower lip instead.
“Did her behavior seem off-kilter in any manner?”
“Not really, and she appeared to be perfectly healthy,” Marla said, anticipating his next question.
<><><>
In this passage, note how many times I use the word SO. It is a favorite word of mine in conversation, too. Currently, I’m revising my backlist titles. This book had already been through several rounds of edits at my former publishing house and through my own multiple read-throughs at the time. How come I picked up on this now? Maybe because I’m more aware of this word’s overuse. Whatever the reason, it popped out at me this time.
<><><>
Easter Hair Hunt (Work in Progress)
“This Fabergé egg belongs in that spot.” Lacey pointed a shaky finger at the case. “Someone must have stolen it and substituted a plastic pink Easter egg in its place.”
Marla saw what she meant. Her stomach sank as she realized the significance.
Somebody had taken the valuable Fabergé egg and substituted a fake one in its place.
<><><>
A software program that will help you pick up on word repetitions is Smart-Edit. Otherwise, you can do a search and find if you’re aware of your foibles in this regard. If not, a close edit of your manuscript may turn them up.
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Revisiting Earlier Books

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.
coverCL
The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.
Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.
Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.
What are your favorite elements in the books you read?
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Inconsistent Characters

Revisions for our novels should include a complete read-through for repetitions and inconsistencies. What do we mean by the latter? You’ll want to take a look at your characters to see if they are behaving in a manner consistent with their personality. As a writer, this should be an essential part of your self-editing process. Below are some examples.

Inconsistent Characters

What’s wrong with this passage?

Dalton went for his gun, but Marla slapped his hand away. “Don’t risk it. You don’t know what we’re up against yet. And they won’t know you’re armed.”

Marla would never slap Dalton’s hand away. He’s a police officer. He knows his business. He’s allowed her to come along on a night mission, which she shouldn’t jeopardize this way.

Often it’s my critique group that catches these kinds of mistakes. In this case, I read those sentences and frowned. Wait a minute. Marla would never do this. I went back and changed it.

Ditto for Marla acting dumb. My editor has caught me on this one more than a few times. “Marla is too smart not to figure this out when everyone else knows what’s going on.” She isn’t acting in character when she’s too dense. Same goes for Dalton. Should he let Marla accompany him to interview suspects without protesting or finding an important reason for her to come along?

This also goes for mannerisms of speech. Your rough-around-the-edges hero isn’t going to suddenly say, “Oh, good heavens.” His dialogue should be consistent with his personality.

Here are more examples from my current work-in-progress. Marla and Dalton are talking about the victim.

“That would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away,” Dalton said.

“Do you truly believe another person did this to her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?

My editor said, It’s obvious another person did this to her. Could the woman whack herself on the back of her head?

“This injury is indicative of a blow to the back of the head,” Dalton replied. “The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death, though.”

Would he say this to Marla when the gash is evident? Not according to my editor, who wrote, “This is another dumb remark. Of course matted blood to the back of the head is “indicative” of a blow to the back of the head!!!”

I’m lucky my editor isn’t afraid to call the shots as she sees them. She’s always right. Here is my rewrite. See what you think:

“So that would have given someone plenty of time to whack her on the head and get away.”

“Are you certain the blow is what killed her?” Marla’s glance darted to the rows of strawberry plants, the water-lined canal, and the tall sugar cane. Was the culprit watching them from some hidden viewpoint? Should they be worried he might return?

“That’s not for me to say, but it would be my best guess. The medical examiner will determine the exact cause of death.”

We hope to catch these errors during the revision process. What we write during the heat of the story-making process doesn’t always pass muster when examined under the editorial microscope.

 

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