Sunday, October 16, 2011

Last Chance to Make It Right

"I have been correcting the proofs of my poems. In the morning, after hard work, I took a comma out of one sentence…. In the afternoon I put it back again.”– Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
Last week I got the pages of my book, Words Spoken True, scheduled for release in February. That's what's in the photo along with a list of corrections or places the copyeditor thinks still need some fine tuning. At this stage of the editing process, fine tuning is all you want to see the need to do.

Getting a book from my head to a book a reader can imagine in his or her head while reading takes a while. First I get the idea. Then I research the historical era I plan to drop my characters down into. Oh, and I have to think about those characters - what they did, what they liked, what they looked like, what they wanted, what problems they had - that kind of thinking goes on and on from the initial "wow moment" of getting an idea until I find those magical words "the end." It takes me months to get a story down on paper - well, on the computer. Then comes the editing part. I like editing. To me that's the easy part of writing. The pressure's off. The story's told. I just have to make it better by cutting out the words that don't fit and changing the words that have to be there but might be awkward.

To me, editing is the process of making the words disappear and letting the story emerge. I want my reader to forget she is reading and to live the story with me. I don't want the reader to hit a pothole of awkward phrasing that will jerk him out of the story. That's why I work so hard at polishing my story every chance I get. And there are plenty of chances. First I do my own editing before I send it off to the editor. I want it to shine for that very first reader. But generally, no matter how I think it shines, the editor sees places that need a bit more polish and sometimes a major overhaul.

Once those changes are made to the editor's satisfaction, then it's passed on to a copyeditor who pays attention to every potential pothole that's going to make the reading rough. That editor catches lapses in continuity of time or character traits or hair color or names or whatever. That editor points out when I've used a favorite phrase or word way too many times. I do have my pet words that my eyes simply must slide right over when I'm doing my early edits. I am getting better at noticing that sort of thing and fixing most of it before it gets to the copyeditor, but not all of it. Those are the galleys and where I can fix and rework to my heart's content with the hope the editor is going to agree I'm improving the writing and fixing whatever problems she might have noted.

I've gone through all those stages with Words Spoken True. Now I've got the pages. Now I can't just decide to rewrite half the scenes or whatever. This is the time for fixing typos and other minor changes. Little corrections because by now the big things should already be fixed. But it is one last chance to help make those words magically vanish as the reader imagines my story with me. My goal always is to tell a story about people that you want to invite into your hearts. I'm hoping you will love Adriane and Blake. They have a very romantic story set during a volatile period of history in Louisville.

So I'd best get to work reading through Words Spoken True for the last time this side of seeing it inside the fabulous cover that has been designed for it.

How do you feel about editing? Do you think the books you read have been carefully edited? Do you care as long as the story is exciting?

As always thanks for reading. This quote from Churchill made me smile. You know about what I'm talking. :-)


“From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I shall not put.”
– Winston Churchill (1874-1965)


8 comments:

  1. I think good editing is important. I have read a lot of books with major flaws that have been missed by someone. Your books read very smoothly and things fall right into place.

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  2. That's music to this writer's ears, Carol. I hate it when I see something I let slip past me. One of my books had a paragraph inadvertently left out by the publishers that sort of left a major jog in the reading road. But I suppose you can't stop every pothole, but I do try.

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  3. Ann, I'm getting ready to travel down that road. I'm a little scared. But I do think editing is essential. I'm reading a book in which both writer and editor must have fallen asleep on their job. It jolts me right out of the story.

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  4. What I most enjoy about your books is the flow. It's like having a conversation. Your hard work is evident.

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  5. I apologize for not visiting my favorite blogs lately, and i promise to do some catching-up with everyone in the next few days. We are experiencing cooler weather starting today (Thursday) and as for myself I'm looking forward to falls return to the Lancaster Pennsylvania area. And are the color of the leaves changing your your way folks as they are mine. Hope everyone has a great weekend and enjoy the beautiful fall season that has now begun. Richard from Amish Stories.

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  6. Jean, it's a road I enjoy traveling. I like editing - more, of course, when the changes are my idea, but I usually can see where the editors are coming from if they suggest changes and try to comply. I think if the editor had a problem w/ this or that section or wording then the reader probably will too.

    Good luck with your editing and try not to fall to sleep on the job. :)

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  7. Betty, what a nice thing to say. I do want my story to flow and I do want it to turn into a movie or conversation in the reader's head. I've got your book in my TBR pile. I think I can't get any busier and then I do. :( Need more reading time for sure.

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  8. Richard, it's freezing here. BRRR!! Beautiful the first of the week and then winter smacked us in the face. I've been in the Smokies the last few days. Tuesday was a wonderful day - warm and the trees were fantastic. Today when we left we spotted snow up on the mountain tops. Hope you're enjoying your trees. I can imagine the beautiful scenes.

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Thanks for joining the conversation. I like hearing what you have to say. Thanks for dropping by.