Monday, December 5, 2011

Game Pod: Dissection - Manuscript Edits Revealed

Editing a manuscript is hard work, even more so than writing the first draft. When you’re writing that first draft, you’re in the creative zone. Ideas are popping up left and right. Things are happening and you’re watching the events of the book unfold before your eyes. It’s fun.

But as much fun as the first draft can be, editing can be a nightmare. You’re literally taking apart this beautiful, perfect (in your eyes) creation and cobbling it back together like some kind of freakish Frankenstein’s monster. Will it be hideous or will some rich, handsome movie star want to take it out as his latest arm candy? These questions will plague your mind, your dreams, and eventually consume every ounce of your thought processes until you are left drained like last week’s special at the zombie all-you-can-eat buffet.

To illustrate the hell that can be editing (and to show how those quirky little typos can slip in the final product), I’m offering up a sample of BLOOD LAW. I’ve given a passage to Alexis and Michelle, and they have edited it as if it were a new project. (And, yes, we are this thorough and brutally honest every week when we meet.) They’re providing their overall comments and any additional notes can be found on the actual pages.

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From March 2009, when BLOOD LAW was still titled “Crimson Swan” and the editing process had just started. This version {above} isn’t the first first draft but it’s pretty darn close.

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Most of my overall comments are generally short. I say what I liked, what was working for me, and what wasn't working if there's any overarching issues I don't address in my edits. Otherwise, the margin notes pretty much explain any concerns. As you can see, I write whatever I'm thinking at the time of the edit, so I mostly reserve overall comments for the more positive feedback. Unless Jeannie has specifically asked for feedback on something {plot, emotions, action, whatever}. My overall comments for this would be: "Great start! Really intriguing relationship. Varik has some minor POV issues at the start but otherwise he felt believable. Alex seems like she is trying to be stronger than she is. I like that. Reminds me of me. The banter is great between them, too! Can't wait to read more!"

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Overall comments:
I really like the character development and conflict shown in these pages. This section does a lot for cultivating some great tension between Varik and Alex. However, there are some places where I felt too distanced from Varik's internal thought. This section is in his POV -- therefore needs to be grounded there every step of the way. I showed places where internal thought, reactions, or a bit more description of what Varik is seeing and thinking that could really pull this into sharper focus. I also felt there were a few places that paragraph breaks could speed up the pacing of the dialog and internal thought. People tend to digest more quickly what they're reading with visual cues. I think this could help in these pages. Lastly, there were some environmental, spacial details that seemed extraneous. I struck these out. Sometimes too many specific details can get your reader trying to figure out where everyone is standing versus what's actually happening in the scene. Overall, great passage and makes me want to know why Varik and Alex are so feisty toward each other.

While Alexis and Michelle were not actually included in this stage of this book, they have been in other works. You won't necessarily see their advice/edits taken into consideration, therefore, in the coming section. But know that this is where they would have been involved, and have been involved in other works.

I’m providing edited versions of the same scene from various points along the publication road. The first being from March 2009, shown above.

After my editor provided feedback, comments, and suggestions, I made some changes and resubmitted it to her. She came back with more comments and suggestions. I sent my changes in August.  A few weeks later, my editor asked for a few minor tweaks and my final revision was submitted in October.

At this point, I’d finished the major revision and now it was time for the copyeditor to step in and make everything cohesive and coherent. Copyeditors are lifesavers. They catch the small typos, the plot holes that may have been overlooked due to the extensive revisions, and make everything pretty. Of course, the pages may not look so pretty during this process, but believe me, it’s for the good of all.

Once the copyeditor is done, the first pass of typeset page proofs are sent for author review. Small changes can be made, such as correcting typos, omitted or added words, etc. This is when the manuscript starts to look like an actual book. It’s also the last chance the author has to make changes.

The final stage, or second pass, is the last chance the publisher (not the author) has to make very minor changes before everything goes to print. If it’s not fixed at this point, well…that’s when readers get to play Spot the Typo.

And that, dear readers, is how the Ninja Peas operate as a writing group and how a manuscript becomes a book. It’s a long, arduous journey and before the book reaches the shelf, authors are often wondering why they chose to start the journey. But then once the book is in the hands of readers and we hear from people across the globe that they enjoyed the words we committed to the page, that makes all the pain go away.

Peas out.