Lately, I’ve been getting lots of nudges about my sequel. Usually, the nudges involve throat clearing, pleasant smiles, and words like “So is the sequel almost done?” Those sweet questions encourage me on so many levels. One, it means you liked the first book. (Yay!) And two, it means you’re eager to read the second. (WooHoo!) The nudges help me finish the book when all I want to do is hit my head against a table or throw darts at the manuscript.
But as a reader, I’m sure you can’t imagine what’s taking so long! After all, I finished the first draft a long time ago. The only thing that’s left to do is editing. So here’s a peak behind the curtain at the three stages of editing.
Stage One: Substantive Editing (Also known as Rewriting)
After I finish the first draft and celebrate, I start editing everything that I know is wrong with the novel. Plot holes, increasing/decreasing the roles of certain characters, etc. A lot of writers, me included, leave notes for themselves in the first drafts. Stuff like: “This is horrible, fix it later.” “What happened to character X—he hasn’t shown up in six chapters?” “Set the groundwork for this plot twist in an earlier chapter.” “Does this even make sense?” So all that gets fixed first.
Once the major things are fixed, I work on voice. Making sure that each character’s speech and actions makes sense. Miranda’s words and actions can’t sound like Mark’s. In first drafts, I’m always tempted to use words that I like. But if they aren’t words that Mark would use, they have to change. Then, I check narrative voice (the voice that I choose to tell the story in) and work on consistency and tone.
After I’ve finished all of this, I send the novel to my beta readers. These sainted people are my writing friends who scour the text looking for all the big things that are wrong. This means several sets of experienced eyes are reading the text for plot holes, believability, etc. And guess what? One of my betas found a big issue. Something I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked. Thankfully, even though it was substantial (I was kicking myself that I missed it), it was contained. So I didn’t have to go through the entire text changing things. The problem was limited to a few chapters at the end, and a week of furious rewriting fixed the problem. End of stage one. Sort of.
Stage Two: Line Edits (also called copy edits)
I give my bright and shiny manuscript to my copy editor, who whips out her red pen. Gleefully. (Okay, she probably isn’t gleeful, but it seems that way to me as I hand her my baby.) She looks for smaller things—awkward phrasing, poor word choice, grammar, etc. And those are the only things she’s supposed to find. But they aren’t. She finds something more substantive.
My response? NO!! She must seriously be wrong. I finished the Sub Edits. I know that I if I have to do any more of those, I am going to die.
After I treat myself to a few consoling Haribo raspberries (the European kind that are tangy and not too sweet), I ponder the fact that the line editor might be right. She’s probably wrong, of course. But I should check up on the issue. So I email one of my betas and ask about the issue. Beta agrees with line editor! No! Say it ain’t so. Please!
Don’t get me wrong. I love this story. My betas love the story, even better than the first book. But I’m so tired of it. I want to move on to the shiny new story that’s seductively calling to me in my mind.
So this is where I am. The line edits are 2/3s done. And I’ve hit a snag. Honestly, it’s not that big. And it’s contained, so it should be an easy fix. It’s just that I hoped to be done with line edits by the end of the week. Sigh.
Now I’m sitting with my pages and my gummi raspberries, trying to decide where to begin.
After this, the final stage is proofreading. That’s its own special torture where I sit with the Chicago Manual of Style and obsessively look up things that probably don’t really matter. I’m trying really hard not to think about that. Time for more raspberries.