Last week I finished up revisions on NEVER ENOUGH – which is the final book in my Brown Siblings series. For those who don’t know, a revision often happens when the author turns her book in to her editor and her editor looks it over and will either send an official letter, or make a call or give some bullet points via email (for the record I’ve had all of these and a few times when my editor had said, nothing big to fix, great job, I have some small things you can address in copy edits)
So essentially, a rough idea of the process is this: Author sells book and it can be on a full or on a synopsis or partial. Sometimes that has to do with how many books you have out to show a track record and sometimes it’s about a project or an editor. I’ve sold on everything from a fully completed manuscript to a paragraph. Most of the time I sell with some pages and a synopsis (at least book one in a multiple book sale).
Author writes book.
Hopefully author edits and gets critique or at the very least writes and does a few drafts to send highly polished book to editor
Editor reads and either sends straight to copy edits
Editor contacts author and advises re edits/revisions. (Revisions are substantive in nature as in your editor is not going to correct your commas, she’s going to tell you your hero is being too big a dick and you need to soften him, or that your ending falls apart and to foreshadow more earlier on, or she’s going to say such and such a scene felt superfluous. She might tell you you really need to use some contractions or that your characters all use a certain phrase that makes them sound too much alike – for instance)
Author does revisions and sends back
Copy Edits (this is when you’re going to deal with commas and run ons and time line issues, etc)
Final Pass pages (essentially one last look for spelling errors, wrong names, etc)
Off to printer or to be formatted for release.
Some authors hate revisions. Some feel that a revision note is a failure on their part to not make the story perfect. Certainly it pleases me to be told by an editor that the book was awesome and clean and had shot straight to copy edits.
At the same time, I actually find the revision process really helpful. Sure I write several drafts and most always have a crit partner look at it too and revise before I even send it in. BUT, I’m the first to say up front that I am too close to see everything and my editors read the manuscript with a totally different eye. She can address things that, HELLO, it’s her job to see – so I take that expertise and accept that in some areas she knows better than me what I should shore up or cut.
Just a quick note. I’ll say up front that I’m not such a fan of copy edits. Not because my words are so special no one can touch them, but because I don’t know my copy editor and my copy editor does not know me. As a writer. It’s hard to not get agitated over stuff my editor would see and understand as my voice. It’s not as comfortable a process for me. But this is about revisions so let’s move on! (and this is not to attack copy editors, it’s a necessary thing)
But a revision comes from someone who knows your writing. There’s an intimacy and trust that if you have a great editor (and I have several awesome editors) you’re going to realize they want you to succeed. They want you to make the book the very best you can or they never would have bought it to start with. Trusting your editor and having her trust you is so important I can’t emphasize it enough. An editor is going to push you, critique what you’ve put down on the page and yes, she will tell you to cut that scene YOU LOVE SO MUCH.
For me the first step is that I understand before I take the call or open the email that it IS personal, just not how many would assume. I know Angie, Leis and Anne want me to write the best book I can. And sometimes that’s painful and I have to get in there and cut stuff and re-write a chapter or change a character’s motiviations or what have you.
What I like as I do this longer and longer, is how I know, as I’m talking with my editor, just how to add a sentence here or a sentence there and totally change something later in the book. I love running ideas past her to get her perspective on it. I don’t always make the changes my editor suggests. It’s not law that I do. And sometimes I may speak with her back and forth a few times until I’ve been convinced or I’ve convinced her, LOL. But it’s, at that point, a joint project. Not to write the book, but to get the book on the shelves the best it can possibly be.
To give a few examples of what I mean – my editor at Berkley will call me with her revision notes. I like this because sometimes with a note I may miss her meaning so we can flesh it out and avoid any misunderstandings. We had a discussion about Never Enough and she brought up something, a foundational issue that she felt I wrote in too late and she wanted me to go back earlier and flesh that out. Once, Angela James told me the book didn’t feel like a Lauren Dane book until chapter three and I ended up cutting the two first chapters. Because she was right. And because I trust her to enable me to do my best, even when she will work me until I want to weep, LOL.
Each revision is different. Sometimes I can finish in an hour. Other times, it can take a week or two. It’s really going to depend not just on the revision notes but sometimes I can add things here and there and it’s done and others, I need to pull stuff apart and rebuild (thankfully this latter is rare). I’ve never done anything in a revision that I’ve regretted and just like Friday when I sent Never Enough back to my editor, I knew it was a far better book for her eye and all my efforts.
Revision to me is like getting ready for a fabulous evening on the town. It’s getting your hair just right and pairing the shoes and the bag just right. I’m taking my book and adjusting it here and there to clean it up and make it better. To enable readers to easier connect with my characters and to understand their motivations. A good editor is the best thing ever and having someone who is really good at what they do willing to spend extra time taking detailed notes on a book she knows you really love and have ached to sell forever? That is why I love revisions so much and really why Angela James is one of my favorite people on the entire planet.
I asked some twitter friends to quite me up on their feelings about revisions and got an AWESOME response:
Kathleen Dienne: I <3 revisions from my Carina editor. She has a knack for knowing what I meant to say. Not all editors have that knack. Anne Calhoun: Revisions always teach me something about craft, my process, or the publishing process, and I like to learn.
Vivian Arend: Completely a trust issue to me. The editors who see the big picture I’d lost track of? They have my <3 HelenKay Dimon: Panic then get to work. The goal is to make the book smarter and better. Be open on your editor’s view on how to do that.
Karina Cooper: Revs catch the details/themes/subtexts I’m too close to see. I don’t always agree right away, but it’s ALWAYS made a better read
Juliana Stone: Learn to pick your battles and know that your gut is usually right
Katie Dunneback: revisions: it’s not personal, it’s business.
Yasmine Galenorn: Pick and choose your battles. If the change won’t compromise your work, just do it. Cooperation goes a long way.
Vivi Anna: if you don’t agree, STET that motherf*cker
Voirey Linger: I have a love/hate relationship w/notes showing how I screwed up. Hate that I was wrong, but love seeing how to make it right.
Tracy Wolff: Don’t get upset if your ed wants changes you don’t like. Let them stew awhile and then pick your battle.
Shiloh Walker: don’t panic when you see them arrive in your inbox! (which I always do.) – Lauren here- me too!
J.N Duncan: Because I know I miss things, I like editorial revisions. They point out stuff that will generally make my story better.
Kate Davies: If something in the revision doesn’t work for you, wait 24 hours before reacting. See if you can reach goal in diff way. (SO TRUE! I do this too)
Amanda Racette: “Don’t take their criticism personally. They’re trying to help you make the book better!”
Dianne Fox: It’s amazing how much better a story can be made by the simple phrase “cut 10%”.
Inez Kelly: I love the *LIGHTBULB* moment when I see HOW to make a great story AWESOME. Hate the “Kill Your Darling” bit.
Jaci Burton: Go into revisions realizing your editor is your partner, not your adversary. Common goal is to make the book better.
KJ Reed: I kick, I scream, I cry over favorite lines lost (metaphorically). But then I breathe and realize I have an editor for a reason.
Trinity Faegen: just finished Round 2 Revisions. My advice: Pick your fights and don’t be married to your ‘genius phrasing’. Trust the editor.
Julie Leto: Pick your battles.
Elisabeth Naughton: Revising is the best part of writing.
Caridad Ferrer: Take a step back after reading revisions letter. Perhaps a drink. And a good night’s sleep. Then read again.