Looking at a 355 page manuscript full of markups and marginal notes is daunting. However, since I wrote the book one word, one scene, one chapter at a time, I tackle my edits the same way, but I prioritize the types of edits and deal with one category at a time.
First, I scroll through the manuscript taking care of all the obvious fixes. My editor will make changes in formatting—she might break a paragraph into two, or combine two into one. Sometimes she’ll add italics, or change a word. These are usually straightforward, and I accept almost all of them.
As I go down the comments, I’m not re-reading the manuscript, but simply hopping from one change to the next. I’ll look at the suggestion in context, but generally these are grammatical, so I don’t need to read more than a paragraph or two. When I come to a comment I’m not sure I agree with it, I simply skip it. I need to deal with the “brainless” ones first. And, this also gets me back into the book, since I’m 19 chapters into another one now.
Then, I’ll consider some of the comments that are suggestions to reword a sentence, or find a better word. Those, too, are usually handled quickly and easily. In this manuscript, she pointed out that she thought I used the word “one” a lot and told me I ought to see if I needed all of them. I did a Find (remembering to check the ‘whole words only’ box) and discovered I’d used the word “one” 377 times.
So, I went through the entire manuscript again, evaluating each instance. I noticed that I said “one of the…” in a lot of places where a simple “a” would suffice. No need to say, “he rested one of his hands on her shoulder” when “he rested a hand…” is clear enough. Readers know how many hands my characters have. It also tightens the writing by getting rid of unnecessary prepositional phrases.
Then, I deal with questions. She’s asked whether two hours have actually passed in a scene, or whether it’s night or day. Have I mentioned what color that character’s eyes are before page 273? Maybe I have, but if she’s forgotten, then a reader will probably have, too.
She’ll point out that I need better transitions in places. Or that I need to show a little bit more about the setting, or characterization in a scene. Those require rewrites, and I save them for last, again prioritizing so I can do the ‘easy’ ones first.
Lastly, I take on the places where she thinks I’ve dropped threads. This is the content type of editing, and I think it’s the most important. Line editing might be tedious work, but it’s the content editing that makes the story hold together. Too many people say, “My wife edited my book, and she’s got a keen eye. I know there are no typos.” But that’s proofreading, and unless that wife also can evaluate content, plot, and characterization, it’s not really editing.
And, after I finish the edits and rewrites, I'll print a hard copy one more time. It's amazing how much more you can see when you're reading on paper, not a computer.
|Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.|