Path to Publication: Editing & Revising

While in the process of writing my novel, I’d heard it said that writing the book was only half the battle. Of course, I hoped I’d learn this was not true but sadly—as any writer can attest—it’s not only true but possibly a gross understatement.

Typing THE END on a manuscript is an incredible moment. I’ve done it twice in my life. Both books were over 90,000 words and as such represented many hours, days, weeks and months of my life. But the editing and revising process is a completely different beast.

It also requires many hours, days, weeks and months but (in my humble opinion) isn’t nearly as fun as actually writing the first draft. Because this is the part of the path to publication where you need to rip apart your own work. Yes, it’s all done in the name of making the book better but knowing that doesn’t make the process any easier.

The manuscript that landed me my agent and my first publishing deal was labeled Version 11 on my computer. That meant I had gone through 11 serious overhauls of CAN’T TAKE IT BACK already. It meant this version looked nothing like the first draft. It was better, tighter, cleaner and I hoped it meant I wouldn’t have to make many more revisions.

As a debut author, I had no idea what to expect from my edit letter. I had heard tales of super short letters that actually meant MAJOR revisions and seven-page letters that reflected only minor changes. So when my letter came in at just 2 1/2 pages I thought I’d landed (happily) in the middle.

My editor asked for three fairly significant revisions. All of them were things I already knew I should have done but hadn’t known quite how to accomplish. So I’d ignored the suggestions of my critique partners and beta readers and hoped I might just get away with not having to face them. (Spoiler: I didn’t get away with anything.)  There were several minor requests including a significant reduction in the use of profanity (I do love a certain four-letter word – sorry, not sorry.)

Along with the developmental edits, I got a word document of my manuscript with a whopping 6,260 edits for me to review and approve or change. (Note: a disturbing number of these revisions were related to commas. I guess my journalism professor was right – commas are my nemesis.)

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I had six weeks to make my changes. For the first time in my life, I had a deadline related to my fiction writing and I was just a little bit stressed. But I got to work and found, much to my surprise, that I not only enjoyed the revision process but I liked having a deadline.

Knowing there were people waiting for me to finish my job so they could do their job kept me focused. I was able to tackle the major revisions with a confidence I had never been able to muster before. Every change made my book better. Every suggestion my editor made improved the story so much. We were a team. Working together to make this book the best it could possibly be.

I met my deadline. In fact, I sent the edits back 10 days early.

The second round of edits was much easier. Mainly just cleaning up the new writing (hello commas) and tying up a few loose ends.

And just like that, my role in the revision process was done. I had not only survived but realized I was equal to the task. It was a confidence builder for sure. Once my manuscript was sent off for copyedits, I allowed my thoughts to shift to other things like the cover design. But that’s a post for another day.

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