An Inside Look at First Round Edits

I’ll admit it: I still get a kick out of this whole publishing thing. I get an edit letter; I squeal. I get a cover; I squeal. I see it on a bookshelf; I squeal. I walk past random people on the street; I squeal and thrust signed bookmarks at them. I think you get the picture.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to the whole book thing, and today I’m going to give you a sneak peek. Please be forewarned—there will be squealing. I just got an edit letter for my third book, DEMON DERBY. The edit letter can take many forms; some people get long, detailed letters; others get scribbles in the margins. My first edit letter was about three pages long and resulted in a complete rewrite of everything after chapter 8 and a long and drawn out debate over whether “awesomesauce” is one word or two. (It’s one, damn it! ONE!) My second was shorter and resulted in more fight scenes and a long and drawn out debate over whether Dickensheets is really a last name. (It is. I took it from my local phone book.)

Anyway, this round of edits consists of a pair of emails. And I’m just about to open them and give you a spoiler-free, semi-redacted peek at what it’s like.

Email 1 is a hecka-long scan of the first half of the book, so I’m going to bet that email 2 is the second half. SCORE! My logic is mind-boggling, right? And on the first page, lovely editor asks me to take out the boob joke. It’s become a tradition, even if she doesn’t realize it. I put a boob joke on every first page, and she suggests I give the manuscript a breast reduction, and then I laugh uproariously because my sense of humor hasn’t matured since I was 15.

Lots of logical questions about the first scene, including, “What’s a tooth ninja?!? Why is everyone in costume? I’m so confused!!!” I’m going to need to replace it. Also, did you know that Porta Potty is a trademarked name? Same with Dumpster. WHO KNEW?

And MOOORE logical questions. Apparently, the rest of the world doesn’t live with ninjas, and therefore they don’t know all the things I take for granted (because I live with a ninja). So either I have to fix this or provide a free ninja with every copy. I make a note to check and see how many surplus ninjas I have available.

Now we’re about a third of the way into the manny and getting into character questions. My love interest might be coming off too old, and then 20 pages later, he flies off the handle and comes off as immature. That gets me thinking about the differences between 20-something guys and high school guys. This is something I’m going to have to work to wrap my head around. What do you think the differences are?

So I just moved on to email 2, and I’m thinking, “Okay, I can fix those plot holes and work on the character development a little. At least my pacing is good.” What’s the first note that I see in email 2? WORK ON THE PACING HERE. *headdesk*

Does anyone know what “Comma? Smoothies?” means? Do the smoothies need a comma? Is my comma use so bad that she needs a smoothie? I am very confused by this. I wonder if they put it in here just to mess with my head. If so, that is AWESOME.

I’ll be reworking the last scene to make it a little tighter and more interesting. And for some reason, the phrase “shades of grey” now sounds vaguely pervy. We’ll be taking that out.

And that’s the end! I think that’s the awesome part of a good edit letter—it makes it really clear what works in the draft and what doesn’t. So what happens next is that I will edit (well, I’ll procrastinate, and then edit a little, and then procrastinate some more), and send it to my critiquers, and edit a little more, and send back to my editor. Who then edits again, focusing on details like word choice and logic and commas (and maybe smoothies). And then I edit again, and then she might or might not edit again. And then the copyeditor—YOU GUESSED IT—edits some more. It’s like an orgy of edits. Ever wonder why it takes so long to get a book out? MONTHS AND MONTHS OF EDITS. And then it’s done, and I get myself a smoothie to celebrate and hope we didn’t miss any edits, which I think inevitably happens.

So that’s what my next month or so will look like. Easy peasy, right? What are you up to?

Carrie Sig An Inside Look at First Round Edits

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 An Inside Look at First Round Edits

Carrie Harris

Carrie Harris is a geek-of-all-trades and proud of it. She’s always been a bit of a brain, so she wrote a zombie book—Bad Taste in Boys. And she has hair, so she wrote a werewolf book next—Bad Hair Day. Sadly, she’s not a demon-fighting derby girl, but that didn’t stop her from tackling her next book, Demon Derby. Carrie lives with her ninja-doctor husband and three monster-obsessed children. She is the president of the Class of 2k11, a marketing group for young adult and middle grade writers, and a repeat judge for the Cybils awards.
 An Inside Look at First Round Edits

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15 Responses to An Inside Look at First Round Edits

  1. Adriana Ryan says:

    Ooh, I love and abhor edits all at the same time. :) It’s exciting when people get what you’re trying to say, or you make them laugh, but then when a joke doesn’t translate I find myself questioning the very meaning of my existence. FWIW, you sound hilarious and if I was your editor I’d be so excited to have an easygoing author like you! :)

    • Carrie Haris says:

      I know exactly what you mean! I feel like pumping my fist every time I get a little smiley face in the margins because I know I made someone chuckle. SCORE!

      And thank you so much for the kind words! You are awesomesauce, which is one word. NOT TWO.

  2. candace says:

    Its so cool to hear about all of this since its not anything I have gone through yet but every step interests me since I’m a reader AND a writer. Anyway, have fun with those edits!

    • Carrie Haris says:

      I’m glad! I always wondered too–partly because I wanted to know how my favorite books came about and partly because I wanted to know how to do it without sucking. :D

  3. My suggestion for people new to the editing process is to take it one suggestion/correction at a time. Trying to take it all in at once can be daunting and lead to the author drooling in a corner. However, when said author just focuses at the issue at hand, they tend to make quick progress and get beyond the fear that the book won’t feel like their baby any longer.

    • Carrie Haris says:

      All good points! I usually read the letter and then let it sit for a day or two (assuming that the schedule allows for it, of course!). By that time, I’m really excited to tackle this bit or that bit, and that excitement usually carries over to the rest. I think that marinating time helps it not feel quite so overwhelming because I realize I’ve got lots of ideas.

  4. What a fantastic post. That sounds so mentally exhausting, but so worth it when your book is finally out there.

  5. C.J Duggan says:

    I have just clawed my way out of my own edits and it was such a nice surprise to see this post! Thanks for the laugh Carrie and making me realise I am not the only one. Back to the rewrites! :)

  6. This was very informative and hilarious at the same time. You made my day!

  7. Liviania says:

    I love this, since I’m currently a freelance copy editor and work on the other side of the process. (I’m not sure what Comma? Smoothies? means. But I would love it if I got a smoothie every time an author used a comma wrong. Also, I would be super fat.)

    I’m just amazed when I see people who don’t value the editorial process. I mean, you need someone who knows that Porta Potty is a registered trademark. (And who can tell you about your pacing and all that.)

  8. [...] An Inside Look at First Round Edits …  (Carrie Harris) Twas an epic week for cover reveals, don’t you think??? [...]

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