Friday, July 2, 2010

My Journey Through the Editing Process - Part 1

INK member Susan Calder signed her first book publishing contract in May for her mystery novel A Deadly Fall. She immediately plunged into editing.

Here is Part One of My Journey Through the Editing Process:

As soon as we signed the contract for my novel A Deadly Fall, TouchWood publisher, Ruth Linka, introduced me by e-mail to my editor, Frances Thorsen. Ruth reminded Frances and me the edited manuscript was due September 1st and left us alone to whip my novel into shape.

Frances and I began by exchanging personal details. She is the owner/operator of Chronicles in Crime, a Victoria bookstore specializing in murder mysteries. She founded the store with her personal stock of 8,000 books. An editor who is a bookseller and avid mystery reader: Cool. We discovered we shared some common ground. Frances graduated from the University of Waterloo. So did my son. She lived in downtown Toronto near Bloor Street. So does my other son. She longs to fly a glider plane. I ... I admire her spirit of adventure.

Frances assigned me my first editing tasks: write a detailed character sketch of my main character and prepare two spreadsheets: (1) a timeline of events that impact the plot and (2) a character chart listing each character's purpose to the book, relationship to the protagonist and the chapters in which the character appears. Part of the purpose of the chart is to determine if characters are lacking or if certain people aren't needed because they are duplicating other characters' roles.

Uh oh, I thought, she's going to ask me to cut characters. I like them all and every one is essential to the book.

I haven't worked with spreadsheets for years, but came up with the charts without much difficulty, thanks to outlines I'd prepared while revising the manuscript. Right away, the character chart requested by Frances pointed me to one person I might cut from the novel. I started to mull over ways someone else might take over the cut one's contribution to the plot.

Next, Frances sent me her general comments on the manuscript, so I'd know where she was coming from during the edits. A few of her comments struck me as requiring major changes. How would we ever get through this by September 1st? This was going to take tremendous work. It looked like A Gruelling Summer would precede A Deadly Fall.

I skimmed through the novel in light of Frances' comments and considered the ripple effects of any changes to the story. I decided I could apply most of Frances' comments and e-mailed her questions and concerns about the rest. She replied that her comments were just suggestions. Her answers to my specifics assured me we were on the same page.

Deep breath. Exhale. Feeling better.

Frances sent me the edits for the first two chapters. We will be working with Track Changes. It took me awhile to find these on my WORD menu - they are under "Review". I was unfamiliar with the mechanics of Track Changes and am still getting the hang of them, but find it fun clicking "accept" or "new comment" to her proposed changes. She also highlights scenes for me to cut and paste into a separate file of material that might used later in the story. We agreed I would write two new scenes for Chapter 2. These turned out to be shorter and easier to do than I'd expected. The character sketch I'd written helped with one of the scenes.

Aside from some niggling bits, we've finished the Chapter 1 & 2 edits. Frances says the first part of the book is always the hardest. So it isn't only me who thinks that? She's now working on her edits for Chapters 3-10. I wait for this next batch, feeling good to have gotten this far. This editing process will be okay, even enjoyable, I think - at the moment.