Monday, August 29, 2022

"Hold the front page!"

Q: Tell us about your revision process. Tools, processes, checks, beta readers, schedules, and anything else that helps you polish your work.


-from Susan


Tomorrow, I hit send and off goes the revised manuscript for MURDER VISITS A FRENCH VILLAGE to the editor who gave me notes on the first version that have made this one better. I admit to the jitters. So, how does this process work for me?


Tools: Here, I’m weak, but with encouragement from friends like fellow Minds author Jim Ziskin, I am about to seriously update my Word program and get some of the tools he’s described, like a voice that will reads the manuscript back to me. That necessary task leaves me scratchy-voiced and crabby when I have to do it myself. Plus, I’m sure I slide over errors because, as with reading one’s own 275-page document online or on paper, I know what should be there, right?


Processes: I have always followed the advice my first agent gave me to submit only the very best draft you are capable of writing. Never, never say, ”Oh well, I’ll correct that or improve it when it comes back after the editor reads it.” That means I kind of obsess about what I’m writing and look carefully for lapses like time passed, action locations, lost clues. During the revision process, I keep sticky notes – many sticky notes – on the computer, reminding me of small bits I realize at four a.m. that I may not have addressed and that the editor might miss.


Checks: See above. Invest in sticky notes.


Beta readers: I don’t do that at revision stage because now I have an editor who gives me the broad suggestions, points out slow patches or character deficiencies – the kinds of things I would ask a beta reader of the first draft to tell me.


Schedules: If you’re a published author reading this, you know the deal. I get my first, intensely polished manuscript in by the deadline in my contract. A month later, the editor’s notes come back to me with a month’s deadline to get them back to her if I want to stay on schedule for the pub date. On the second pass, she probably only looks at a couple of key points she raised, then passes it to the copy editor, who’s probably jamming to get other manuscripts finished. Meanwhile the cover debate starts… 


Polishing: That never ends until the editor slaps my hand away and says time’s up. There’s always a slightly better way to write something to make it more distinctive, clearer, more forceful, more humorous, more, more, more…. 

If you’re self-published, my respectful suggestion is you need just as many steps, just as many eyes, as writers within traditional publishing do. We all want the world to see us at our very best, or at least the very best we can be on publication day. In the meantime, we pray to the gods of all writers that we won't find a typo the instant we open the ARC!


Dietrich Kalteis said...

I'll have to try that, Susan. Pray to the gods that I won't find a typo the instant I open the first pages of my next new release.

Susan C Shea said...

Yeah, Dietrich, that's not a confidence builder for sure!

Josh Stallings said...

Yes, to it. Editing can be rough on the ego, but catching mistakes after it is in print is way worse. I too am going to try word to speech. Thanks!