Edits usually go something like this for me:
- The edit letter arrives, and I panic that the book is broken and can't be saved. This time around the edit letter was 10 pages long (my longest yet) and pointed to some pretty major problems.
- A couple of days pass, the book never leaving my mind, and the edit letter begins to sink in. I'm able to think critically about it and begin to see the sense of the advice I've been given.
- Then I'll sit down with the manuscript, the chapter outline, the edit letter, and numerous pages of notes in front of me and begin to plot out in practical terms what needs doing. This takes a couple of days.
- This will then be boiled down to a 'master document' that includes everything, large and small, that needs to be added, changed, worked on, etc.
- I'll then do a new version of the chapter outline with all changes required added in bold, so I can work out exactly where they fit in the story.
- Throughout this process I'll have consumed my weight in biscuits.
- Now I'm ready to actually start making changes! I'll go through the manuscript from chapter one to the end and make the changes as I go. My brain seems to benefit from working in a linear fashion, and by this time, although I will refer to my notes frequently, I have a good grasp of what needs doing and can work on instinct.
- That said, I'll also make notes as I go for stuff I'm going to come back to, things I need to check etc. The biggest problem is that changing one thing in the book requires changes elsewhere, often 'behind' where I'm working. This is where operating in a linear fashion falls down a bit. So once I've been through from A-B, I'll go back and work on all those odd bits and keep hammering them into shape. Having a checklist here helps a lot, and shows you're making progress, which is good for morale.
- Once I'm satisfied that everything on my list is done, I'll print the manuscript and read it aloud from start to finish, making hand-written notes that might be as simple as adding or removing a comma, or much bigger stuff like moving a paragraph elsewhere, adding new bits, working on character stuff... all sorts! Even at this stage there is always at least one thing on every page.
- Then I make those changes on the actual document! At this point I have to trust that I've caught everything for now, so I flash through only to the parts that need work rather than reading the whole thing again.
- Lastly, I'll go through and make sure chapter numbers are correct, there are no big formatting woes, etc. And then it can go back to the editor!
Doing all this in a month is fast for me (keep in mind I'm working on it alongside my full-time day job). Once I got my head around what was needed I had a very clear idea of what needed doing on the page), which allowed me to work quickly. I was also lucky to have the long Easter weekend where I could work 10+ hours a day on it. I also took a couple of days off work to dedicate to the edits.
Editing can be a strange process. One day you're certain the book is good, and you're making it better. The next day you're convinced the book sucks and nothing you can do will improve it. I also struggle with looking at the achievements of other authors. While I was editing this book, other authors won awards, announced big new deals, released big new books. It's hard not to be affected by thoughts that I'm working so hard on this book and it will never be as successful as those, few people will ever read it, I'm wasting my time. That's why I did my best just to get my head down, crack on, and make it the best I can.
I do believe very strongly in this book. I believe it's the best book I've written yet. It's timely, more human, less cynical, and features characters I truly love. It's also, like all my books, not something everybody is going to like. And I'm okay with that.
Hopefully I'll be able to tell you more about it soon!