Friday, July 17, 2009

The Axman Cometh...

Okay, maybe not literally, and for me, it's really the Axewoman, but you get my meaning. I'm talking about edits. The almighty cutting and slicing of pain-staking work that disappears faster than cookies at a tea party. But is this a bad thing? Who are editors? Are they your best friend, with diplomas in english, public relations and author hand-holding? Or are they the grim reaper masquerading at their day job?

Well, having just finished three rounds of edits, I can assure you they're your greatest asset and your hardest critic. Now this may sound like a back-handed compliment, but it's not. If they didn't scrutinize your work, it wouldn't sparkle and shine on the pages like a brilliant gem. But if they hadn't believed in you, they wouldn't be taking the time to make your work shine. Having said that, I have to admit, opening my first round of edits was almost as nerve racking as opening up my submission email. What did she want to change? Would every page have giant slashes across it (or comment boxes tiled down the side turning my computer screen a lovely shade of blue)? Had she changed her mind about wanting to publish it?

Butterflies fluttered to life in my stomach, and my hand trembled as I hit the open button and stared at the instructions. Very specific ones, a page deep, that made my knees feel weak. But once I opened the actual book, I was amazed. She hadn't taken my 90K novel and turned it into a novella. In fact, most of the comments were issues I should have known, but got lost in my head somewhere. Words I thought I'd written were now on the page, the ones I really had jotted down were wiped clean. Phrases that repeated too often were highlighted and she even went to the trouble to leave positive comments when she liked a scene. It wasn't at all what I expected, though to be honest, I didn't really know what to expect, but I'm sure it was more along the lines of J. Jonah Jameson from the Daily Bugle. And I'm far from being a super hero with thick web to protect my fragile ego. Heck, just thinking about him makes me cringe, lol.

It turns out, I like edits. It makes me appreciate the keen eye of my editor and how they're able to see the diamond in the rough, whether my work needs just minor tweaks or a major overhaul. And they make me a better writer, on many levels. What levels you ask? Well here are just a couple of points I've learned in my short time with my brilliant two editors?

First off, they're right. Yes, we all have our opinions, and there's no guarantee yours will match theirs, but remember. They're the ones who read novel after novel, the people with their finger on the pulse of the industry. They know what readers want, and what will turn them away. So don't be stubborn. I've seen more than a few of my favourite lines disappear from the screen, cut for point of view violation or author intrusion. (like my fancy words, lol) I even cut a sex scene because it just didn't fit well in the scope of the story. It was hot and full of raging hormones, but in the end, my editor was right. And the last thing I want to do as a new author is upset my readers. My perspective fans.

Second, they really are trying to make my work better. Perhaps I recognized this early because, well, I'm a bit older now, (yes 29 and holding is a bit older) and I realize I've got a lot to learn. So why not take advantage of years of experience. We have a saying in the helicopter world (did you know I can fly helicopters? But that's for another post.) Anyway, it goes...

Learn from the mistakes of others because you won't live long enough to make them all yourself...

Words to live by and ones that can be adapted to fit almost any situation. Take their advice, and if you have a question as to why they want to change something, ask them. They won't bite, at least not that hard. You may be surprised at what they say. If nothing else, it gives you both a chance to see the others' point of view.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, remember what just you learned. Don't simply make those corrections and walk away. Put the information into memory, so the next time you hand in a manuscript it will already reflect the corrections you stockpiled from the previous one. Now I realize this isn't always possible. Apparently my men love to "growl" and my ladies "palm" their hips a lot. AND, I just LOVE starting sentences with AND:) But I try. I just rely on my editors to keep me honest.

In the end, I'm thankful to the wonderful ladies I'm proud to call my editors. They support me, tutor me and above all, make me look good. So I'm raising a toast to the unsung heros of the publishing world. To all the people behind the scenes who make my work far more than it started out as. I salute you all, and be assured, I'll be putting in my appreciate notes on every dedication I get, because without you, I'd just be ordinary.

Hope you all have a great July. See you next month.

Kris Norris
Romancing adventure at a time.


Glynis said...

I'm dreading that moment in my life ;0
You have come across as very upbeat about the edits, so I am not quite so nervous now. Thanks!

Kris Norris said...

Hi Glynis

I absolutely LOVE my editors and feel very lucky to have been fortunate enough for them to be the ones who happened to pick up my books. But I'm certain there are lots of great ones out there. That doesn't mean there aren't a few times you think, REALLY?, but in the end, when you read the novel in it's final form, you see their suggestions did make it flow better and shine.
Thanks for stopping by.

Bronwyn Green said...

I'm glad you're having such great experiences with your editors! I love mine too and consider myself really lucky. :)

Kris Norris said...

Hey Bronwyn

You know I have the absolute BEST editor in the world, one I'm honoured to also call my friend. I'm so lucky my novel fell across her virtual desk. Thanks for dropping by.


Genella deGrey said...

Hi Kris - Again, great post!

I think the expectations of many brand-new authors is that there will be little to no editing after they are contracted.

But like I always say, "No blood, no book."


Kris Norris said...

Hi Genella,

Thanks for stopping by, girl. I left you a comment on your blog the other day. Great to hear you'll be part of the RP squad. And to be honest, I knew there would be edits, but I had no idea to what extent. I think new authors believe their story has to be all but perfect to be accepted, thus little edits required.
I realize now, that editors have a great way of seeing the final product even if the story you send them is a bit off. I'm happy my edits have been fairly minor so far, but who knows about the future. And I really do have two awesome editors who i wouldn't change for the world.

Paris said...

Great post! I've only been through the editorial process once but I learned so much! I'm glad you had such a positive experience and are willing to share this information.

Kris Norris said...

Hi Paris

Mine have all seem to come at once, lol. But I really do enjoy seeing the novel through someone else's eyes. They pick on small details I never realized I put in there. And I have to say, some of my mistakes leave me in stitches.
And I love how when I edit my own novels now, before sending them in, I have a new outlook on what to change before it even hits their computer. I think it makes you a better writer, as each editor has their own "pet peeves" and you learn so much from them.
Thanks for stopping by Paris and I hope your next edit job is an enjoyable one.

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