I just recently finished editing my novella “Bound in Ecstasy” for re-release.
Don’t groan. I LOVE editing. It’s been awhile since I looked at this manuscript and hung out with the characters. This is my chance to get reaquainted with some old friends. An opportunity to destroy any cliches that may have snuck into my prose, remove any unnecessary adjectives and adverbs and be sure every page, every paragraph shines.
Okay, I’m not that good, but you get the idea. I want to make this story the best I can at this moment in my career and the editing is a big part of getting to that point.
Now, in the spirit of full disclosure I should tell you that I’ve never gotten any really hard edits. There was one book where I forgot to mention a character’s motivation which meant a quick scene and a couple of sentences with the backstory and the problem was solved. (Thank you to that editor who caught that glaring error.) Other than that my edits are mostly poor word choices and overused descriptions. That being said, it’s probably one of the biggest reasons I don’t mind going through manuscript edits.
Now the nitty gritty of how I do it.
1) I skim through all my editor’s comments to see if there are any glaring problems (um, like a missing motivation)
2) Then I choose a random scene and read through it carefully to find …
No matter how many times you read your story from beginning to end there’s always the chance you’ll overlook simple errors. Between you, your editor and the final proofer, one can only hope they are all corrected. But we’ve all read a book with spelling errors. It happens.
showing not telling
This one is easy to overlook, but look at these sentences.
Nina is cold.
That’s a telling sentence. It doesn’t do anything to engage the reader. Sometimes this is okay. Nothing drives me crazier than when I have to read for the fourth time that a character lifted his shoulders … when he shrugged can work just as well. Okay, it’s a balance and one of those tightropes authors have to navigate which is why I look so closely for it.
vs this sentence …
Nina burrowed deeper in the thin sleeping bag, but nothing seemed to slow the rattle of her teeth and the shivering that quaked her tired muscles.
That paints quite a picture for the reader. It drops them right into Nina’s terrible ordeal, which is exactly where you want them.
overused words (it never fails that I fall in love with one word. I once used lascivious 15 times in a story … um, yeah a little overuse there Nina?)
make sure my paragraphs are backloaded
This is a great one and often hard to spot. Backloading means to put the most important piece of information or the sentence with the most impact at the END of your paragraph.
Here’s an example. Look at these two paragraphs:
Tonight he ached to dominate only one submissive in the overflowing club and it wasn’t the one delivering the drinks. The blonde beauty dropped to her knees beside Ethan. Naked, save for the black leather circling her neck, wrist and ankles and the silver and gem studded chains hanging stylishly from her nipple and clitoral clips, the woman was a breathtaking vision in her docility.
A nice paragraph, but it ends with a description of the waitress. but this version from Bound in Ecstasy …
A submissive on staff delivered beverages to their table and knelt obediently on the floor beside Ethan. Naked, save for the black leather circling her neck, wrist and ankles and the silver and gem studded chains hanging stylishly from her nipple and clitoral clips, the woman was a breathtaking vision in her docility. Normally the sight would have piqued the Dom clamoring inside Jonathon, but tonight there was only one submissive he ached to dominate.
…. ends with an emotional impact for the reader. The intention is to propel the reader into the next paragraph and the next page.
end the chapter on a hook
The best books are the ones where you “think” you’re going to read to the end of the chapter, but when you get there you HAVE to turn the page. A great hook is the easiest way to get your reader to turn the page.
Here’s the end of one of the chapters (unedited from “Maid for Master” … of course)
Satisfied she’d shirred up her courage, Claire grabbed her room key from her dresser, stuck a bright yellow tropical flower from the vase on the nightstand behind her ear and threw open the door, barreling headlong into a nearly naked submissive holding an envelope and a leather collar.
I can only hope the reader has to turn the page and see what she does with that.
3) Punctuation – I’ve learned a lot from my editors over the years, but commas and semi-colons just don’t know where they belong in my manuscripts. *g* And don’t even get me started on ellipses (…) and em dashes (–) because I’m the QUEEN of overuse in that arena!
Reread the ENTIRE story
This is the very last step before I release any book. I read the story one scene at a time … COMPLETELY OUT OF ORDER! That’s right, I choose random scenes from random chapters and focus only on that scene. It’s amazing how many missing or misspelled words I find because I’m reading the words that are actually on the page and not what I “think” I see. I often see overused words (especially in my intimate scenes) this way.
And that about covers it. Everyone has their own methods of going through edits. I’m always looking for pointers. I’m not sure if readers are interested in the process, but I do think sometimes it explains how typos or inconsistencies can happen.
So what do you think of editing?
After I’ve spent months writing a story and even more time pouring over it and editing so each sentence, each paragraph paints a vivid emotional picture for the reader, I send my story off to a beta reader.
I usually have one person reading for typos and misspellings (shhhh … don’t tell anyone, but this writer is the world’s WORST speller) and grammatical errors and a second reader checking for pacing and general story problems.
After all that is done I send it off to my editor.
I have to admit. When I first started writing, once the story was finished I was done with it. I didn’t want to look at it again. I felt I’d already done the best I could developing a scene and moving the story along. I know, silly, but it’s how I used to feel.
Now it’s different. Sooooo different. I LOVE editing. I thoroughly enjoy taking another look at that scene and discovering a better word, a unique turn of phrase that will resonate with the readers.
I’m currently working on edits for “Bonded Souls”. This short novel has already been published and been out in the world. I’m very proud of it. But now it’s with a new publisher. It’s back in my hands and I’m getting an opportunity to make it even stronger by adding more layers to my characters, Jayda and Cole who also are in the story “Bonded by Need”. I’ve discovered more about them and I can add that to this story.
It’s fun. I love it.
I know sometimes writers find this part of the publication process difficult, but not me. I’ve had “easy” edits with nothing more difficult than changing a word here or there. And I’ve had major edits where I totally forgot to tell the reader about a character flaw in my hero. Still … I enjoyed the process.
But really, I get a total kick out of saying … I’m working on edits. Because it means another story is on its way to publication!