What the Editing Process Really Looks Like by Sally Hepworth

headshot sally

Firstly, I want to thank Katie for having me on her blog. Readers, I am a huge Katie Ganshert fan. Her books are smart, thought-provoking and full of heart, not to mention full of swoonworthy heartthrobs—hello Evan! Also, she and I have a lot in common. Apart from being writers, Katie and I are both married with 6-year-old sons (well, my son is almost 6) and 2-year-old daughters. If only we lived a little closer (Hello from Australia!) I would have already reached out for a playdate. Alas, given the distance, we’ll have to stick to a cyber-friendship for now. And today, it is a true pleasure and a privilege to be a guest author! And today, I’m talking about one of my very favorite writerly topics. Editing!

What the editing process really looks like

Back when I was writing my first novel, I used to give the occasional thought to what it would be like to work with an editor (and by give the occasional thought, I mean I thought about it constantly.) I wanted to know everything. How did it all work? Were there several rounds of edits or just one? Did editors make notes on the actual manuscript, or just send a letter? Were their notes general or specific? Did they tell you how to fix something, or just say that something was broken? And what did the actual notes look like!?!

On social media, authors talked about the revision process in vague terms but it was rare for them to share specifics. And now that I’ve gone through the revision process myself (twice), I understand why. Editorial notes are sensitive, and to share them is a task comparable to stripping off your clothes and dancing a jig in the town square—not for the faint-of-heart. Also, editorial notes often contain spoilers. Still, back then I swore that if I ever became a published author I would come out from under the veil of secrecy and explain what actually happens.

So here I am.

Why don’t I start by answering the questions I posed above? (Keep in mind, every editor is different, and this is just what it’s like for me.)

How does it all work? Are there several rounds of edits or just one?

For me, there were two rounds of edits, the first being a joint macro-edit (large scale plot and character stuff) and line-edit (specific comments on word choice or typos).

During the macro-edit stage, typical comments from my editor were as follows (actual notes from my editorial letter for THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES):

  • I think you need to make the appeal of a midwife-assisted birth more clear.  Make us understand what a midwife brings to the table.
  • Neva’s breakdown at the end of this chapter seems overly melodramatic.  Can you take a look at this and rethink?
  • “(character x’s) name is too similar to (character y’s). Consider changing one.”

Also during this stage, my editor gave me notes on specific word choices and typos, as per below:

  • Pg 32, line 16 – the word ‘has’ is repeated here
  • Pg 65, line 2 – you used the word thrilling here. Not sure this is the right word choice.

Once I’d addressed all these changes and my editor was happy, the novel went to a copy editor, who focused on grammar, spelling and style.

Do editors make notes on the actual manuscript, or just send an editorial letter?

For the macro-edits (above), my editor did not write on the manuscript at all, she simply sent me a (lengthy) editorial letter via email. For the copy-edits, my manuscript was marked up using Word’s Track Changes by the copy-editor. The copy-editor then sent the marked up document back to me to approve, or counter, her changes.

Are notes general or specific?

As per above, my editor’s notes may be as specific as “I think this character’s name is too similar to another character” or as general as “there needs to be more narrative drive in the middle of the book.” Usually the editorial letter contains both general and specific feedback.

Does your editor tell you how to fix something, or just say that something is broken?

Often my editor will let me figure out my own solutions to problem areas, though sometimes she offers ideas or suggestions. She is always open and available to brainstorm if I need it, but she trusts that I’m the best one to come up with the right solution for my book and leaves me with the final say.

So … that’s how it works for me! If any other writers want to chime in about their similar or different experiences in the comments, I’d love to hear them (because I’m still slightly obsessed by the topic)! And readers, if you have any other questions about the editing process for Katie or me, I’ll lurk around the comments.

Thank you all for having me.

Sally Hepworth is the author of THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES, a novel about three generations of midwives, published by St. Martin’s Press, NY, in Feb 2015. The novel will be published worldwide in English, as well as in France, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Sally has lived around the world, spending extended periods in Singapore, the U.K., and Canada, where she worked in event management and Human Resources. She is the author of Love Like The French, published by Random House Germany in February 2014.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two children. Sally is currently working on her next novel. You can learn more on her website.



Katie here! Can I take a minute to say how much I ADORE Sally and her writing? And guess what? Her publisher has generously offered to giveaway TWO copies of Sally’s debut novel, The Secret of Midwives, to two of my blog readers. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below. It can be anything. A simple hello. A quip about midwifery. Your love for women’s fiction. How stunning you think this cover is (or is that just me?) Take your pick! I’ll choose two winners using random.org on Friday at noon, CST.

cover sally

53 thoughts on “What the Editing Process Really Looks Like by Sally Hepworth

  1. I love your blog and helpful pointers to writing..find it refreshing and informative.

  2. karenk

    I work w/ midwives 🙂

  3. Michelle Faile

    I love the cover! Sounds like a great read!

  4. I want to go where the cover was taken….Looks like a beautiful place!

  5. I love the PBS show “Call the Midwives” so this book looks very interesting! I look forward to reading it!

  6. Trixi O.

    Hi Sally! Great book cover, by the way. I think midwives have a very important job, they help bring new life into the world! Who wouldn’t love their job seeing all the new babies?? And helping the mother through the pregnancy & birthing too. Such an important job. I am sure some things have changed over the years.
    I love Women’s fiction books so this would make my to-be-read pile! Sounds like a fascinating read. Thank you for the chance to win a copy of your book & for a great interview!

  7. Shannon M

    This was interesting to read, thanks for sharing 🙂

    I enjoy watching the TV show Call The Midwife so I think I’d enjoy reading this book haha. Oh and I love the cover 🙂

  8. What a beautiful cover to your book about midwives! 🙂

    Maybe I’m the only one here but I love the editing process! I eagerly send my manuscript to an editor for a critique and after it’s ready, a content and line edit. It makes me happy to see how the editor works to make my story shine! 🙂 And I learn alot, even when the red marks (suggested edits) are overwhelming, it’s a process that’s well-worth the time and effort! I appreciate and value talented editors who can make my manuscript the best and contribute to making it a best seller in the future, hopefully! 🙂

  9. Maryann

    My friends daughter is going to school to be a midwife now. She has been a labor and delivery nurse, so I would find this book fascinating to read.

  10. Susan Wilson

    I do love the cover! It reminds me of Germany. Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  11. Jennifer Rathe

    Thanks for the info on editing! I had a midwife for my second child and it was a great experience!!

  12. Kris

    I’d love to read this book! And that was really interesting to learn more about the edit process!

  13. Carolyn

    I know I will enjoy ‘The Secret of Midwives’…loved the series ‘Call The Midwife’
    Intriguing cover:-)

  14. Sharon A

    I love how we can connect with one another many time-zones away and how much we actually have in common. What better venue could there be than through our books. Thank you!!

  15. Abby Breuklander

    Thanks for the behind the scenes look into the editing world!!

  16. bn100

    nice interview

  17. Jen Colson

    Thanks for a glimpse into the editing process. You explained several things I’ve always wondered about.

    The cover of The Secrets of Midwives is gorgeous. I can’t wait to read it!

  18. Lucy Reynolds

    I love the bicycle on the cover. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.

  19. Mary B

    I too love the cover! This is on my goodreads “to read” list and looks fabulous!

  20. first of all, Hullo!! second, yes it’s a lovely cover and tells a story in itself. third, my [honorary] daughter is studying to be a birthing nurse with an interest in midwifery. and finally – GREAT ARTICLE!!! I’ve saved it for reference!! rather timely, actually, as I’ve wanted to know more about the mechanics of editing anyway!! thanks for sharing!! and I look forward to reading The Secrets of Midwives!!!

    1. Thank you Robin, and what a noble career your (honorary) daughter has chosen. And I’m glad this was useful. I’m all for sharing information!

  21. I haven’t worked with an editor before, so I found this post very informative and even exciting. Thanks, Sally, for this post. I’m looking forward to learning more about you and your books. Maybe I’ll even win a copy.

    1. You’re welcome Linda! I hope it was useful. And good luck!


  22. I enjoyed this post!

  23. I do enjoy reading Women’s fiction and just about any Christian fiction. I am sure will enjoy reading a book about midwives.

  24. Sierra

    I love hearing about new authors!! The cover on this book is gorgeous!

  25. Cheryl Baranski

    Love the cover. Thank you for sharing the editing process.

  26. Anne Rightler

    The editing process sounds a bit grueling! When going on for my masters in nursing I gave midwifery some thought. But I had been working at the VA hospital for a number of years and knew I did not want to leave that work. There is not much need for midwifery at VA hospitals. 🙂 Thank you for sharing. I am crossing my fingers in hopes of winning one of your books.

  27. Caryl Kane

    Sally, thank you for sharing about the editing process. I’ve always been curious about what really happens. I also have a couple of friends who chose to have mid-wives for their births. I would love a print copy of THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES. 🙂


    1. Caryl–tell me about it! As a new writer I was desperate to know everything. Glad I could shed some light on the matter for you.
      Sally 🙂

  28. Joan Arning

    I do love the cover and midwives fascinate me!

  29. Vicki Geslak

    Can’t wait to read the new book!

  30. Brittany Keating

    I agree…this cover is really pretty. It makes me want to find out more about the book. I love learning about new authors!


    1. Good luck Brittany! Thanks for stopping by.

  31. Kimily

    Would love to read!

    1. Good luck Kimily (pretty name!).

  32. Diane M.

    Excited to read your new book. Thanks for the editing info, too.

    1. Most welcome. I love nothing more than talking (or writing!) about writing.

      Sally 🙂

  33. I really enjoyed your article on the editing process, it was very interesting and informative. Thank you for the chance to win your book.

    wfnren at aol dot com

    1. Thanks for stopping by Wendy 🙂

  34. Stacy Hill

    Beautiful cover, looks like a great read!

    1. Thank you Stacy! I love the cover too.
      Sally 🙂

  35. I loved the show call the midwife, so I am super excited about this book!

    1. Hi Rachel,

      How good is Call The Midwife!?! I read all the books before it became a TV series and they are even better. And if you like the series, you might particularly enjoy the perspective of my character Floss, who delivered babies in England during the 1950s (and has some tales to tell about it).

      Thanks for stopping by.
      Sally 🙂

  36. Tammi T.

    Thank you for the insight to the process of editing. Your transparency was refreshing. I do love the book cover! It has a charming, old-world appeal. If I judge this book by its cover, it appears it will be an excellent one.

    1. Hi Tammi! You are lovely. I do hope the book lives up to its cover. Fingers crossed. Good luck to you!
      Sally 🙂

  37. Deanna S

    Lovely cover I do enjoy women’s fiction. I’d enjoy reading this book.

    1. Hi Deanna! I LOVE the cover. And this was the second cover they put forward (I wasn’t a fan of the first!) So glad they chose this one!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  38. Janelle Leonard

    Thanks for this post! The editing process is my favorite part-yes, it’s stressful, but I keep in mind that it’s refining it and making it not just a good book, but gteat. 🙂
    Can’t wait until one read this book. Midwifery has always interested me.

    1. Janelle Leonard

      Yeah, my comment need editing 🙂 lol.
      Still working on my coffee…

      1. Hi Janelle. I hear you! Good old editing. I often edit emails three times before sending them (I really need to let that go). But I like to give every word I write a few drafts! And yes, the process of watching your book get better is a wonderful one, isn’t it?

  39. Patty

    I’m sure as an author it is hard to turn over your baby (book) to an editor! Thanks for sharing a bit about the process.

    1. Hi Patty! Yes it’s very hard and you’re right, it’s your baby. But it’s kind of like sending your kid to school–it breaks your heart, but you know it will do them the world of good!



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