Friday, September 10, 2010

My Journey Through the Editing Process - Part Two

In May, INK member, Susan Calder, signed her first book publishing contract for her mystery novel A Deadly Fall. She spent the summer editing the manuscript. Here is Part Two of My Journey Through the Editing Process.

On Tuesday, August 24th, I finished the major edits for my novel A Deadly Fall and e-mailed the revised manuscript to my editor, Frances Thorsen. She will read the novel in one swoop for overall effect and send me any further comments. Then, it's off to the copy editor. After the copy edit is done, I'll have a couple of weeks to proof-read the final version before the book goes to press.

Frances and I began our editing journey in June. I may be one if the few Calgarians who didn't mind our summer of less-than-wonderful weather. I rarely longed for the outdoors as I tapped away at my desk, editing my manuscript chapter by chapter.

Frances divided the novel into chunks of ten chapters. Using the Track Changes feature of WORD, she e-mailed me her suggested changes and comments one or two chapters at a time. I replied with my agreements or counter-suggestions or further comments. She'd volley back her replies. We'd keep going with this until we more or less reached a consensus for that chapter(s), at the same time moving forward with edits to the rest of the story. When chapters 1-10 were done, we worked on 11-20. My original novel had 33 chapters. It now has 32. We cut most of Chapter 20 and combined the remnants with a new small scene and the former chapter 21 to create one long chapter that seems to work.

Overall, I'd say Frances and I were in agreement about the story's major points. She understood all of my characters the way I did; we saw the story arc the same way. We sometimes differed on smaller points, such as word choices and punctuation. I deferred in cases where I wasn't sure what was right or felt her change wouldn't make a significant difference. These were relatively easy matters in terms of work load. More time consuming was writing new scenes and figuring out how to handle the effects of a deleted character and subplot.

Frances also raised questions I hadn't considered. These led us both to research such things as cell phone call tracing, Calgary transit schedules and criminal code terms.

When we were done, my task was to re-assemble the edited chapters into a new whole. This was harder than I'd expected due to my poor organization system. I also felt a need to read the novel through once again to check for errors due to the changes we'd made: references left in that should no longer be there, details inadvertently removed with the deleted character or subplot and extra spaces, double periods and crossed out letters left behind from the Track Changes.

Between the additions and deletions, the edited manuscript is about 6,000 words less than my original. I believe it's more focused and interesting to readers.

Now I get a brief rest before plunging into the next book. On September 9th, TouchWood publisher, Ruth Linka, has arranged a conference call with Frances and me to discuss future novels in the mystery series. I'm almost glad I had to wait three years to find a publisher, as this gave me time to write and revise a sequel. I feel a step ahead, rather than panicked about facing the blank page. As a result of this editing experience, I'd like to do another revision before sending the sequel to Ruth and Frances. Meanwhile, I'm mulling ideas for novel number three.

I had to push myself to make the September 1st target for the edits in the midst of my summer activities: hiking, visitors and short trips. The push has paid off. The day after I sent Frances the edited manuscript, Ruth Linka contacted me. A mystery novel scheduled for spring 2011 had to be postponed. Frances told her the editing has gone well. How would I feel about moving my fall 2011 publication date forward six months to spring 2011, possibly March?

I feel excited and scared. March isn't so far away. This book is really going to happen.

For Part One of this series, see Susan's previous post.