where the writers are
Edits vs Revisions


Deadly BonesI’ve been eye­ball deep in edits and revi­sions for DEADLY BONES. My edi­tor returned my man­u­script on Thurs­day, drip­ping red Track Changes nota­tions and com­ments. Because I’m work­ing against a tight dead­line, plus I’m get­ting ready to go to the NINC con­fer­ence on Wednes­day, this will be short.

I’ve worked with this edi­tor on four books, and we both under­stand that it’s my name on the book, and I’m I I’m not oblig­ated to change things. I also know that she wants the final prod­uct to be the best it can be, and she makes her com­ments with that in mind.

Here’s a screen shot that shows what her markups on my open­ing para­graphs look like. (I don’t know if click­ing on the image will enlarge it — hope so)

The bal­loons on the side are either changes or com­ments. The changes are spe­cific things she’s sug­gest­ing. Those are edits. The com­ments might be ques­tions or sug­ges­tions for more than words or punc­tu­a­tion. If they’re ques­tions, I need to fig­ure out why she’s ask­ing them. Is it because what I wrote wasn’t clear? Here’s where you have to be able to step back and accept that what she’s see­ing is likely what a reader will see. And hav­ing a reader won­der what’s going on because you didn’t word it, or explain it well enough is going to pull them out of the book. On page 1, it’s likely that they’ll just set the book aside and move on to another one.

My first pass will be deal­ing with the changes. These are usu­ally the ‘easy’ part—dealing with tech­ni­cal fixes. Typos, punc­tu­a­tion, word choices—these can usu­ally be dealt with in a day, going through the man­u­script and accept­ing, reject­ing, or mod­i­fy­ing the details.

Next, I’ll look at all her com­ments. She sug­gests adding “Col­orado” to the open­ing sen­tence. Makes sense to me, so I’ll add it.

Some of her com­ments are more “gen­eral”, such as later on, when she’s said, “This needs more show­ing.” There’s no “replace” func­tion, or “accept/reject” option for some­thing like that.

And lastly, she sends her notes. These are the ones where you might see “There’s not an emo­tional con­nec­tion to your char­ac­ters.” (ouch!) Or, “You’ve dropped the fol­low­ing threads.” Or, “Your time­line is off.”

You’ve already writ­ten the man­u­script, you think the story holds together, and now you have to add those “intan­gi­bles.” It’s kind of like try­ing to add the choco­late chips AFTER you’ve baked the cook­ies. Adding some­thing to chap­ter 1 can have an impact on things all the way through ‘the end.’ Is it bet­ter to throw out the imper­fect batch of cook­ies and bake new ones, or melt the chips and use them to frost the orig­i­nal batch?