Truth: I would love to be writing a self-pitying entry right now about a lot of writing related things. I am so super thrilled for the now many, many writers I’ve gotten to known on Twitter who have recently gotten an agent/book deal/mentor/you name it, but at the same time, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it makes me second guess my own chances for any kind of success. (Please flip through past entries for the various reasons I feel this way)
So instead, I’m going to write about what the editing process has been like for Book One of my series. Let’s go!
A little background on “Book One.” As I’ve said before, this was not the original starting point to my story. My series used to start in 1993, when Whisky meets Randi, and then it went forward from there. The problem was that, when TJ reappears a couple of books later, as a bitchy, drug-addled almost 30 year old with some. . .questionable interests, readers haaaaaaated him. And if the readers don’t find TJ likeable, don’t understand the many factors that have led to his being this way, the rest of the series will fall flat. Completely.
Just for the hell of it, I’d written out a “backstory” for TJ over several highly caffeinated nights during my freshman year of college in 1999. At some point, I realized that rather than trying to shoehorn in a ton of backstory into TJ’s later appearance, why not just start the series *with* his story?
So that’s what I did. I dug up those pages from 1999-2000 and. . .yeah. Let’s just say they needed QUITE a bit of work. The skeleton of the story was there, but it needed a lot of fleshing out, and the scenes that were complete needed a good amount of polishing, at the very least. Consider this Editing Round #1.
Once that finished, I read the whole thing aloud to my husband, who’s always the first person to hear the new stuff. He gave me some pointers, some specific and some general changes to make. Okay, so far, so good. Changes made.But I knew that I needed some fresh pairs of eyes that were not related to me, and took part in #CPmatch on Twitter. Got a couple of readers that way. Kind of.
To be fair, I hadn’t been as descriptive about my novel and its style as I probably should have been, but I was new to this kind of thing! One of my readers just didn’t like it. She thought it was well-written, but was not a fan of my more character-driven than plot-driven story. It stung, especially when she admitted that she hadn’t finished the whole thing because she didn’t think she’d be able to give me adequate feedback. Nevertheless, she did have some good pointers about the first few chapters, some things to think about. The second reader enjoyed the story very much and was very enthusiastic. Her suggestions were mostly small changes, easy to fix.
Editing Round #2 meant going through these comments and making the small and medium changes, and reconsidering the beginning that my first reader had serious reservations about. She had a point, so I decided to play around with it. I read the different versions to my husband and had a different reader, also met through Twitter, read them as well. There was a general consensus about how I should approach it, so I made those changes and was then ready for another round of beta readers.
This batch of readers had more substantial things to say. Two of them were overall positive, the third was. . .not so much. BUT regardless of my initial thoughts, I made a list of everyone’s recommendations, big and small. I let everything sit and stew for a few days before picking the list up again, at which point I went through and decided which changes I would consider and which things I was not willing to change. Luckily, nearly all of my readers agreed on some fundamental issues that needed clarification, so when more than one reader pointed out a thing, I decided to give whatever was in question a second look no matter what.
Then began Editing Round #3. I mapped out the small, medium, and large changes with different colored tabs, as there’s nothing more satisfying than being able to peel away the tabs over time, until it looks like something manageable!Once these edits are over, I’ll give the whole thing one FINAL read through, just to make sure I crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s and didn’t leave anything out. If it’s as up to snuff as possible, then it’s querying time. So, that’s kinda it. I truly believe it’s as polished as I can possible make it (or will be, once I’m actually done – giving myself April 30th as my final deadline), so then it’s just a matter of being thorough in researching potential agents, as well as having a snappy synopsis and query letter. The rest is, sadly, out of my hands at that point.
What’s your editing process like? How many rounds of revision do you usually do, or does it vary from one work to the next?
‘Til next time!