Shannon Stacey


What are edits like?

Having just finished edits on Yours By Design Yours To Keep, I was asked a question I’ve been asked before, usually by aspiring authors or new authors stalking their inboxes, waiting for their first round of edits. What are edits like? I’ve seen others answer the same question and the answers are often similar in vague, possibly frustrating ways. It varies by author. It varies by editor. Both true but, more importantly, it varies by book.

Angela James and I have five years and twelve titles of varying lengths and subgenres together. By grabbing a random sampling of three from those twelve titles, I can give you a brief peek into what my edits are like and the only variable is the book. Same author. Same editor.

Title A:

There were numerous editorial comments. Numerous. There weren’t really any heavy revisions involved, though. Awkward sentences. Timeline issues. Fleshing out some things leading into the resolution that were rushed in my desire to get to The End. Taking care of a few inconsistencies in motivation. Page after page of making the book stronger.

It was days of work, but nothing particularly “hard” or stressful. Just my editor and I happily working together to make my book the best it could be.

Title B:

My first round edits on this title consisted of “This sucks so bad I’m not even going to bother reading any farther”. And I’m paraphrasing a little, but not much.

It was devastating. I had no coping skills for this. And I couldn’t shrug it off and shove it under the bed. This book was a done deal and I had to make it right. I rewrote the opening chapters and sent them off to her.

“Still sucks.”

More panic. Rewrote the opening chapters and sent it off again.

“Meh.”

Ohmigod levels of panic. Took a few breaths. Let go of the way I’d perceived the book. Rewrote the opening chapters. Again. Sent them in. Again.

“Now you’ve got it.”

That should have triggered a huge sigh of relief, except I had a whole book that no longer went with the opening chapters. So it was time to gut it and essentially start over. And the clock was ticking.

It was grueling. It wrecked me mentally. It wrecked me emotionally. It really wrecked me physically. My family suffered. My extended family essentially got locked out of my life. The dog and the cats learned to walk on tip-toes. I’d never had this happen to me and I had no coping skills for the process taking this hard, ugly turn on me. I wanted to quit a hundred times every day.

But I didn’t quit. Because along with every email telling me the book wasn’t what we wanted it to be, my editor was there with suggestions on how to fix it. Offers to call me so we could talk through it. And every email closed out with the same sentiment: I know you can do this. Her belief in me was the only thing that got me through day after day after day of my belief in myself being swept out from under me.

And we did it. Together my editor and I got through the hard and the grueling and the panic and the occasional temper flare and came out on the other side with a book we can both be proud of.

Title C:

The timeline for this title, from my receiving edits to addressing the comments to sending it back to my editor to her accepting the edits and forwarding it for copy edits was less than three hours. It was that clean and, with the exception of some typos and grammar things and an awkwardly constructed sentence, I nailed it the first time.

It’s rare…but it happens.

What are edits like?

The moral of the story? I can’t tell you what your edits will be like. Nobody can tell you what your edits will be like. It doesn’t matter if your friend is with the same publisher—or even has the same editor—and tells you edits will be a breeze. It doesn’t matter if your edits have been minor in the past. Look at mine. The majority of my edits fall in the Title A category, but all of a sudden…BAM! Title B comes along.

Your edits will be whatever they need to be for your book.

Edits are about you and your editor making that book the best it can be. Those edits might be light or they might suck the creative soul from your body and leave you slumped—nothing but an empty shell—over your keyboard. And you do them, because that’s your job. It’s your job to make sure the reader who’s giving you her hard-earned money gets the best read you can give her and your editor is your partner.

Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard. But, in the end, you hope you have a book you can both be proud of.

12 comments to “What are edits like?”

  1. Larissa
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    1
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 8:23 am · Link

    Love this! Very fitting too, since I JUST got my revision notes for my next book. These ones are light! Only 20 pages of single-spaced, 11 pt. font notes. Woot! (Not kidding on the happiness, since I’ve had much heavier revisions. These ones will require a lot of work, but I don’t have to toss the whole book like I did with one! *g*)

    Definitely goes book by book and house/editor by house/editor. Nothing is ever the same.



  2. David Bridger
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    2
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 10:41 am · Link

    What a wonderfully honest and inspiring post. Thank you!



  3. Jean
    Comment
    3
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:08 am · Link

    Well said. How could anyone think it would be any different? My book is not my friend’s book. My book is not my last book — or my next book. Of course edits will vary by book.



  4. Jean
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    4
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:09 am · Link

    Hey! It didn’t take three days for the post to go through. Have you made the change?



  5. Charlene Teglia
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    5
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:14 am · Link

    Ha! So true. Book A: “This can go straight to production!” Book E: “The romance doesn’t work and production needs it in three weeks.” Cue a solid 3 weeks of sleeplessness, stress and panic while re-writing like a mutha. (Book E went on to get nominated for all manner of awards, so it was worth it…but I wouldn’t relive that 3 weeks for anything and neither would my family. Shudder.)



  6. Beth Werrell
    Comment
    6
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:41 am · Link

    How reassuring to know that the pros have good “reviews” and bad ones, too! It’s the same in the advertising biz as well–some clients react to a project with minor edits and praise, while others take your copy and reduce it to shreds!



  7. Shirley Wells
    Comment
    7
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:44 am · Link

    Very apt as I’ve just turned in my last lot of edits. They were fine – easy-peasy – but no matter how many books I get published, I still need a stiff drink before I dare open the email that mentions edits.

    Well done on getting Title B done and dusted without have a complete meltdown. :)



  8. Tigris Eden
    Comment
    8
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 11:49 am · Link

    WOW! Just like WOW. That just put a whole new perspective on things for me. Thanks!



  9. Julie Gettys
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    9
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 12:16 pm · Link

    Just concluded your book one with my agent. I had multiple POV -jumping heads, etc. After getting that fixed, we then took on general editing. After that we took on passive voice. I went through four edits and now I await my publisher’s edit. Whew! Long grueling days, but worth the effort. Just goes to show us, we don’t do this alone. It literally takes a village. Thanks for the great article. Well done and very supportive. Julie



  10. Kristin Tubb
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    10
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 8:07 pm · Link

    I have revised three novels with an editor, and wouldn’t you know I have one book in each of the above categories? Great post – thanks! :)



  11. Shannon
    Comment
    11
      · March 22nd, 2011 at 8:41 pm · Link

    I’m glad you all enjoyed it. I think, when people ask authors about edits, the answers are probably frustrating so I wanted to illustrate why we can’t really give a satisfactory answer.

    Thankfully, most of my edits are like those for Title A. I may never have another C and I’m really, really hoping I don’t see another B. Ever.

    Jean, the site’s with a new host now, so no more taking a nap while waiting for your comment to load. :)



  12. Angela James
    Comment
    12
      · March 27th, 2011 at 7:03 pm · Link

    I think your editor sounds like a total bitch :P



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