When I dreamed of writing a novel I assumed the hard part was the writing. I imagined that once it was written my story would go on to an agent, who might offer a few suggestions, and then on to an editor. I had a vague notion that there might be two rounds of edits before publication – one with the editor and then a copy edit for grammar and spelling.
I was hopelessly naive.
When Under a Blood Moon comes out in a few months it will have been edited several times. More than I can remember actually. And while writing a book is often hard, it’s not nearly as draining as editing. I suspect I make things harder for myself by setting a firm deadline, adhering to a schedule, and paying strict attention to all the details. Then again maybe those things actually help? In any case, since I’ve been talking about editing for an almost impossibly long time now, I thought it might be best to explain what the various stages are.
Manuscripts, like good cookie dough, need to rest before they’re prepared. When I finished Under a Blood Moon, I set it aside for three months. When I returned to it, I gave it a thorough read, correcting any poor grammar or spelling. Then I sent it off to a beta reader. Beta readers don’t typically concern themselves with the mechanics of writing beyond point of view and plot. They give the book a ‘first pass’ to tell if the story hangs together. When the Beta Reader’s comments and suggestions were in place, I let the story rest again.
After another personal edit, I sent Under a Blood Moon off to its first professional edit in 2008. My editor was a wonderful woman with years of experience on a newspaper. She returned the paper copies to me with a thousand notes. I incorporated them, and began searching out an agent.
When I landed a real live New York agent, she also reviewed the full manuscript. After I put her edits in place another agent in her firm gave the book a read. With both sets of edits in place we sent the manuscript out to editors.
For a long time, no one called back. I did what authors do, and started work on another manuscript. Then someone called! After four rounds of edits, it was time to start the real editing process!
Content edits came first. They arrived from my editor as both general comments “add more back story” and specific comments in the text “I don’t understand the point of this conversation.” I had two rounds of content edits, which felt fairly easy and quick. I have no idea if it was either, but being done with content edits felt like an accomplishment.
If I had known Copy edits were coming I would’ve dragged my heels and stayed in Content edit forever. My copy editor had a background in healthcare and was the most detail orientated person on the planet. She picked up small inconsistencies I never realized were there. She charted the days of the full moon and wanted an explanation of how the different phases acted on my werewolves. She explained in deep detail how a person might die from werewolf attack (blood loss, not heart attack, unless it was a heart attack brought on by blood loss). She made my story stronger, but she made me work for it.
After two rounds of copy edits, the manuscript moved into Galley edits, where I am now. The proof I received for my Galley edits is what will be sent to the printers. It shows exactly how the printed book will look, complete with copyright information, dedication, and page numbers.
Galley edits have thrown me for a loop. By now the book should be perfect, but as an author you’ll always find something to change. In theory you’re only looking for mistakes, times when a character is called by the wrong name or when a word is left out. In reality, it’s impossible not to crawl along examining every word, judging it, trying to decide if it’s perfect. The Galley edits are my last chance to read the manuscript before it becomes a book. So while I know I’m neglecting friendships and sleep, I think they’re my favorite part.