Shannon Stacey

My editing process

(If you’re my editor, you might want to look away.)

I’m currently doing edits for my June Carina Press release, Exclusively Yours. (I hope to have a blurb soon so I can make a page for it.) So, while I’ve talked about it before, what better time to talk about the editing process than while you’re in the editing process?

The one thing I figured out early on is that, no matter how insecure you consciously feel, every writer has a strong creative ego inside. (And I’m probably going to refer to that creative ego has as if she were a separate person in this blog entry. This isn’t because I’m wacky and believe I’m channeling some divalicious Muse, but because it’s easier.)

Published authors have to be two people—the creative person and the business person—but edits are a weird bridge between the two. If creativity was Heaven and business Hell, edits would be Purgatory. You’re still crafting the book, which lives over in the creative land, but now your editor’s trying to shape it into a viable commercial product and there’s some business in that.

In the beginning, I really struggled with the creative ego versus the professional writer. Now, I let my creative ego have her day. When I get the document back, I open it and read through all the editorial comments and let her have her hissy fit of indignation and self-righteousness. I call this my “out loud” round of edits because the responses are all said out loud, rather than typed into the document. (Because forgetting to delete them would totally suck.) What might those “out loud” comments be?

Here’s a hypothetical example:

Editorial comment: This could be an action tag.

Creative ego: Could be a one-armed spider monkey, too, but it ain’t.

That sort of thing. She can get pretty bitchy when it comes to her words, but eventually she runs out of steam. I usually try to wait until the next day to open the document again and then, because the creative ego had her tantrum, I can look at the manuscript a little more objectively. Remind myself my editor wants the book to be the best it can be and isn’t just randomly screwing with me. The creative ego still rears her head now and then, though, so I think in the second round I usually have about a…60% percent “willingness to change” rate.

Then I do it a third time, sometimes just a few hours later, focusing on the edits I rejected. By this time the editing process has reminded the business side that we’re not far from asking readers to pay hard-earned money for this book and the creative ego’s been satisfied enough so she’ll hush.

By the time the third round’s done, every editorial comment has been seriously considered and weighed to within an inch of its life, and anything left unchanged is something I’ll willing to fight for. Sometimes, if my editor comes back with her reasoning, I’ll cave in the next round. (And the times I haven’t caved, I’ve gotten smacked for those things in reviews, so I cave more often than not, now. :lol: )

So that’s my editing process. And it repeats again with final line edits. Some things I change, some things I stet, and then later I’ll go through it again and change a lot of the things I originally marked stet.

The creative ego that seems to utterly fail me during writing always roars to life during edits and I’ve learned to let her rant and rave until she runs out of steam. So much easier than trying to muzzle her.

2 comments to “My editing process”

  1. Liz Wolfe
      · March 18th, 2010 at 3:07 pm · Link

    Shannon you had me laughing and nodding my head. I love the idea of a read through giving the Creative Ego a verbal outlet. During my last edit I had a comment: “Where is Sheridan now?” My immediate thought: “Well, if you’ll just go back a couple pages you’ll see that I mentioned where she is.” Of course then I settled down and realized that if the editor was unclear on where she was, the readers would be too.

  2. Maria Zannini
      · March 18th, 2010 at 8:18 pm · Link

    I wish I had seen this a month ago. :lol:

    One of my friends had to talk me off the divan with chocolates when my editor sent me the changes she wanted to see.

    It turned out she was absolutely right, but for a few minutes I had to channel my inner diva.

    Glad there was chocolate nearby.

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