Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Editing Part One

My manuscript with my notes

Yesterday I promised to write about the editing process.  I wanted to do this because frankly, there's not a lot out there about what happens after you get an agent.  Now, please keep in mind that everyone's experience is different.  What happens to you could be completely different than what I'm going through. 

As you know, I'm working with an editor to make some pretty substantial changes to my manuscript.  I'm hoping to share what I've learned through this process because I know so many of you are writers trying your best to get your work out there. 

I can't cover everything in one post (that would be way too long!) so I'm breaking this up into a series of posts.  Today, I'm going to give you an overview of the way my editor broke things down for me, then tomorrow, I'll get into specifics. 

So, what did I get back from my editor?  After she read my manuscript, she sent me an eight page single spaced letter where she detailed the issues with my book based on the characters.  Each character had over a page of suggestions on how to deepen and strengthen their role in the book.  This was great because when I was doing my initial revisions, I never thought to tease out the characters and approach the revisions this way. 

Although I had never thought about it before, it makes perfect sense to work this way now.  Why? Because if your reader doesn't care about your characters, they won't care about your story.  Make sense?  Yeah, I thought so too. 

Woven into the suggestions on dealing with character, were suggestions on how to tighten the plot and increase the tension in the novel.  I had a lot of backstory, a lot of character development, but not a lot of plot.  Who knew plot was so important?  Kidding.  Sort of. 

Anyway, the letter focused on ways to strengthen the emotional core of the book = characters.
Create more tension = plot.
And weave in the backstory = the "why" behind everything. 

So these are the three elements I'm going to focus on in this series of posts.  Wednesday and Thursday, I'm going to talk about character.  How to create a likable protagonist and how to strengthen the relationships between characters.  Friday, I'll talk about plot, and Monday, I'll handle backstory.   On Tuesday, I'll give you my tips for keeping everything straight while you're revising. 

I hope this is helpful to you.  If you think of any questions along the way, just put them in the comments and I'll try to answer them for you. 

Oh, and one more thing.  Along with the detailed edit letter, my editor also sent back several pages of my manuscript where she had written notes, and we had an hour long phone conversation where we brainstormed different ways to deal with issues in the book. 

I have to end by saying that although this has been a long and involved revision, it's been a great process.  I've learned more in the past three months than I have in several years.  Now that I'm no longer just writing for myself, I push myself harder.  And I think the book is better for it.


  1. Thanks so much for sharing! I can't wait to read the rest of the blogs!!

  2. oh wow! talk about pulling the curtain back to see how the machinery works - this is outstanding. One of the things that makes me so happy is that your editor not only points out what's not working, but offers concrete suggestions on how to tackle it. Too often, I find, crit partners have a sense of what's not working but not always why and not always how to fix it. I'm so excited for this 'series'!

  3. Diane, I'm glad you're liking it!

    Alex, I've been so lucky with my editor. She really gets what I'm trying to do and she has all of these great ideas. It's not like she says, "Do this," and then just leaves me hanging. She knows why something's not working and she helps me figure out what to do about it.

  4. I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again. Thanks for writing about this. Since I'm in the midst of editing it helps me a lot. I wish it was a podcast, so I could listen while I get some exercise.

    Anyway, I guess I'm wondering most about plot. Specifically, what kinds of suggestions your editor made to tighten and enhance it.

    I'd also love to hear a compare/contrast of editing with the help of the editor versus the editing/revising you did prior to sending it out to agents.

  5. I'm glad the series is helpful. Writing can be such an isolating experience, and I think it's so important to help each other when we can.

    I'll definitely cover plot (and the difference between editing on my own vs. with an editor). Thanks for the suggestion!

    (And maybe when I get more technologically advanced, I'll turn the series into a podcast!)