Two Tips to Make Life Easier

I’ve discovered that editing a contracted book is trickier than editing one that’s not yet contracted.

Notice, I didn’t say harder. Just trickier.

Allow me to explain.

Here’s how the writing process typically works:
– The writer engages in some level of brainstorming
– The writer writes the rough draft
– The writer engages in some level of revising

Usually, these happen successively, which results in a very intimate knowledge of the story. The further we move along in the process, the more deeply we know our characters and our plot. Until we reach this point where the manuscript is complete and ready to shop.

So what do we do?

We send it off. We say goodbye. And we start all over again.

Which is why editing a contracted book gets tricky.

I finished Beneath a Velvet Sky in the summer of 2009. It was my third novel. The one that caught the attention of my agent, Rachelle Gardner. Since then, I have finished two more novels and written the rough draft of a third.

Not only has a lot of time passed since I knew Beneath a Velvet Sky intimately, but three other story lines, three other casts of characters, have come and gone in my life.

Have you ever had a friend, who at one point, you knew incredibly well? But then you lost touch and time passed and you made new friends? And then you run into this old buddy at the grocery store or the gas station, only to discover you don’t really know each other anymore?

That’s what editing a contracted novel feels like. Especially for a debut novelist.

That’s one of the reasons I believe the editing process for a contracted novel is so intense.

My editor asked me some deep questions about my hero and heroine. Questions to which I no longer knew the answers. So not only did I need to dedicate a chunk of time toward implementing the requested changes, I had to spend a considerable amount of time reacquainting myself with the story. I had to regain the intimacy that was lost.

So what? What’s my point in all of this?

I have two, actually.

See that picture up top? Save your work. 
Character sheets. Back story information. Outlines. Deleted scenes. Information about the setting. Research on the characters’ jobs. Save all of it. Put it all into a file and do not delete.

If you don’t create these items beforehand, write them after. 
As in, after you finish the novel but before you say goodbye. I know it sounds weird, but consider writing a simple summary of the setting and each main character. Make sure to include important back story information, personality, quirks, fears, and the way the character arcs through the novel.

Seriously. You won’t regret it.

Let’s Talk: What lessons have you learned as you venture forward in this writing journey? Any simple tips you can share that might make all of our lives easier?removetweetmeme

20 thoughts on “Two Tips to Make Life Easier

  1. Keli Gwyn

    Great tips, Katie. I have stacks of information for each of my stories and oodles of bookmarked sights saved by story name.

    I think you did a great job explaining what contracted and published authors go through as we juggle stories, plots, and characters. I've taken to calling this process of having the casts of characters from several stories in my head at one time as Multiple Personalities Disorder. =)

  2. Katie Ganshert

    I love that tip, Maggie!! Thanks for sharing. You can bet I will take that advice!

  3. Maggie

    Great idea. Sometimes when we think we have a FINAL version, it's tempting to discard everything else. I will remember not to!

    My tip?
    1. Keep a log of EVERYTHING you do on your end for marketing your book.
    For instance:
    9/22/10 contacted local newspaper to set up an author interview. Etc.
    9/31/10 did a signing at Aunties Bookstore (sold 12 copies).

    This helped me very much so when I was in contact with my publisher's marketing team I could tell them exactly what I had been doing. (Also I am hoping on my next book I can just kind of follow the same steps from the first.)

  4. Patti

    I save everything.
    Sometimes I think it's too much until the other day where I went back to a query I wrote a few months ago.

  5. Tana Adams

    Yes, I've learned to keep a story bible with all of my books. It helps keep things straight especially since I tend to write series. I'm going to be diving back into a romantic comedy I wrote years ago and writing the third book, the story bible will really help refresh my memory!

  6. Sarah Forgrave

    Awesome tips, Katie! I never thought about how tricky it would be to revisit old stories. I mean, I kind of thought about it, but not really. πŸ™‚ I appreciate you sharing what you're learning in your journey!

  7. M.E.

    Thanks for your advice from a debuting perspective. Since I am a Plotter, I have a bulging notebook of background information thicker than the completed novel. I won't ditch it…I promise. πŸ™‚

  8. Tamika:

    Excellent points.

    My problem is finishing one project without pondering the new story in my head.

    I find myself jotting down notes about characters and places my pen hasn't been yet:)

  9. Jennifer Shirk

    YES, very VERY good advice!

    It is true. So much time gets spent away from your manuscript once you've written it, then submitted, then contracted. it does get tricky to edit. I always have to re-read the entire book before I edit to get to know it again. πŸ™‚

  10. Catherine West

    I got to the point where I had so many old versions of my manuscript that I didn't know which was which! So I did throw some out. The ones I kept, I labeled well. When I'm working on a manuscript now I always label it CURRENT or something like that.
    I don't seem to have your problem – my characters stick in my head forever. I haven't had any trouble going back to a manuscript I haven't worked on in a while and getting right into their heads again. But your advice is good – keep all the notes etc… I just wish I was organized enough to figure out how to store everything in a way that makes sense!

  11. Erica Vetsch

    Yep, love these tips! I would include saving all your research and filling out a bibliography of sources. It will save you a lot of headaches later trying to track down that fugitive source.

  12. Jennifer K. Hale

    Awesome tips!
    Sometimes I have a hard time remembering all the minor character names from stories I haven't worked on in awhile…have to go back and look them up! lol!

  13. Wendy Paine Miller

    This is brilliant (and it's getting tweeted out the wazooooo). Yes, I'm back. πŸ˜€

    Seriously though. I'm not dealing with the publishing editing stage yet, but I know what you mean about gaining distance from your characters. And I can see how that would impact the editing process.

    Excellent pointers.

    Love you, friend! I just do!
    ~ Wendy

  14. Jessica R. Patch

    I save all my stuff, but it's a jumbled mess, I'm afraid to say. Jill Kemerer wrote a great post on using Microsoft OneNote. I've been working on transferring everything onto that and I tell ya, she's a genius and I'm thankful she shared that post.

    It's amazing what I can do in each notebook, pictures, links, research all at my fingertips. I'll organize my hard copy stuff as well, but having it all right there is the best!

    Great tips, Katie!

  15. Kelly Lyman

    Very good advice, Katie. I just started revising a story that I haven't looked at in almost a year and it's been a bit hard to get back the right mind frame.


    I've taken several unintentional breaks as I've worked on my novel. And you're right; it's SO difficult to get back into it later. Thanks for the good advice. It had crossed my mind that someday I could clean out all that stuff. Looks like that day isn't here yet. I'm keeping it!

  17. Rosslyn Elliott

    Great tip! For my current contract, I'm editing the novel I finished in 2008–practically an eon ago. I love your tip about making notes even after you finish the draft in order to give yourself a reference point.

  18. Sandra Heska King

    Great advice, Katie! Especially for a memory sieve like mine.

  19. Laura Pauling

    What a great idea! I do think it would be hard to remember all the internal motivations for characters after 3 more books have been written! Best of luck!

  20. Heather Sunseri

    That's REALLY good advice, Katie! I've often wondered how it would be to finally grab the attention of an agent/publisher only to realize that I would have to re-edit a book I edited like beating a dead horse already.


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