I’ve just this week finished revising the manuscript for my latest novel, DEN OF WOLVES, third book in the BLACKTHORN & GRIM series. I’ve already spent many months writing the book and doing my own in-depth revisions. The ms then went to my two publishers, one in the US and one in Australia, for a structural edit, and I was sent a detailed report compiled by my wonderful Australian editor from the two sets of notes. Along with this report came an annotated version of my manuscript. The process is similar with most publishing houses.
This time around the report ran to only six pages, which must make it the shortest I’ve had in 20 novels. That doesn’t mean the queries were all easy to address – editorial notes can make the most confident writer tear her hair out, invent new curses, overdose on caffeine, and generally wallow in self-doubt. But it does get easier the more you have to do it, and if you’re lucky enough to work with the same editor over several books, you learn how to communicate with both honesty and tact, and how to work together in the interests of making this the best book it can be.
Note, I’m not talking about a copy edit / line edit, where spelling, grammar, syntax and logic are checked – that is in most cases a separate operation that happens later, though my Australian editor now combines the two. The red pen and stack of manuscript pages are gone – it’s a digital process these days. The structural edit is the major edit, where weaknesses and inconsistencies in plot, setting, character or pacing are addressed. For DEN OF WOLVES, for instance, the editor picked up an apparent glitch in the passage of time. The novel has four point of view characters who take chapters in turn, and who are often separated for longish periods. I thought I had been so careful about what day it was, what time it was, and who was where, but I seem to have missed a day. Next time I’ll ditch the sticky notes and use a spreadsheet!
There are three ways you can go with an editorial suggestion: change, compromise, or refuse to budge. Note, your editor’s structural report is not the same thing as feedback from a Beta reader. You should listen to your Betas, especially if several are in agreement on a certain point. But it’s entirely your choice whether to follow their suggestions or not. With a professional editor, especially an editor who’s being paid by your publisher to do the job, refusing to do anything they suggest may just possibly lead to your book not being published, as there’s most likely a clause in your contract that says something about your delivering the manuscript in an acceptable form by a certain date. That clause gives the publisher the right to refuse publication if they consider the final revised ms not up to scratch, or if it’s not submitted on time. Usually it doesn’t get that far, as the various parties can work together to get a satisfactory manuscript ready on time. So let’s talk about how we do that, faced with a challenging editorial report. [Read more…]