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.