Thursday, January 5, 2012


Thanks to my publisher’s schedule, the laptop and I are starting the new year off with a bout of major editing. My latest novel, the 86K-word elephant on the hard drive, requires some early-chapter cuts and tightening, a bit of character tweaking to clarify one of the relationships, more dirty words to up the heat rating and possibly an extra sex scene. I’ve got three weeks to accomplish this. Fortunately the temperature this week is supposed to nose dive into the 20s, so as long as I’m holed up in my snug, warm house, I might as well brew up a couple cups of tea and plug up some plot holes and such.

As usual, I had my typical response when I first scrolled through the file. My initial reaction to an edited manuscript is anger and/or despair—either Omigod, I totally screwed up, why did they even buy this? or You pretentious bitch, you can’t possibly know my story as well as I do. How dare you even suggest I got it wrong? This state can last from about ten minutes to maybe an hour or so. Once the initial shock wears off I calm down, lock my ego in the closet, and set about incorporating most if not all of the editor’s suggestions into the rewrite. Because it’s not about me or her. It’s about making sure all the words on the page are as right as they can be, so the reader reaps the benefits.

A good editor is an asset beyond price. Their fresh eyes will spot your logic flaws, your run-on sentences, and the fact you had your main character’s eyes go from blue to brown within the same paragraph. They’ll suggest ways you can tighten up the narrative or clarify characterization. They’ll let you keep your original words if you provide a good enough argument. They’ll help you make an okay book better, and a good book terrific. Who wants to argue with that?

In this case, my editor zeroed in on flaws and questions I’d had about the manuscript myself. I probably should have let the book sit for an extra month and given it another once-over before I sent it out. I wasn’t even sure they’d accept it. They did, and now I’ve got my work cut out for me. Fortunately, I don’t have to fix this draft alone.

I’ve been lucky in that my current publisher has a top-flight editorial staff. That hasn’t always been the case. Back in the ‘80s a magazine copyeditor working on one of my stories changed the word “grunted” to “grinned.” I’m still not sure why. It wouldn’t have been so bad, except the character doing the grunting was a pterodactyl. Ever seen an animal with a rigid beak grin? Not even in science fiction. Another copyeditor changed my spelling of “leery” (used and spelled correctly by me in context) to “leary,” as in Dr. Timothy. This mag didn’t send galley proofs at the time, so the mistakes ran as “corrected” by the editors. Things like this make the writer look bad, and develop a poor attitude toward editors in general.

For a true editing horror story, dig up the 1989 Tor Books edition of But What of Earth? by Piers Anthony. (You can find used copies on Amazon for as little as a penny.) It’s two books in one: the original story, as Anthony intended it to be read, and Anthony’s notes on the mutilation it went through during the editorial process. No fewer than four copyeditors hacked up his work, with the gleeful abandon of Jason Vorhees pursuing nubile teenagers. They took a mediocre book and made it even worse. No wonder that line went out of business.

Luckily for us writers, that sub-category of editors appears to be rare. The majority of them want you to write the best damn book you can, and they’ll work with you to get it there. A good book makes the readers happy, which makes writers and editors happy. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?


Savanna Kougar said...

A good editor who helps you improve your book IS PRICELESS!!! And I am grateful for every one of those editors I've worked with.

On the other hand, like you said, there are the cases where editors don't get your book, and want to change it into some Zombie production that only resembles the story, maybe.

Serena Shay said...

The kind of editor who can both inspire and help make the story great is one you want to grab onto and not let go! :D

Positive vibes to ya as you work on your revisions! I can't wait to add it to my library.

Pat C. said...

I was asked to add more dirty words to increase the heat level and will probably be adding another three-way sex scene. Ah, the things we go through for our art ...

I noticed there were very few edits in the "Dean and Cas" scene. Everybody must like Cas. :)

Serena Shay said...

Mmmm, more sex from those three...such a happy, happy thing! I find myself picturing all the positions you can put them in Pat! Those three are damn explosive when they are together, Yay!

Well darn skippy they like the Cas man...what's not to like? ;)

Savanna Kougar said...

Yeah, art and dirty words... somehow that thought tickles my funny bone.

Not against dirty words per se. But over the top usage is not me. However, I should do a tongue-in-cheek and everywhere else, sarcastic story under another pen name... probably hit near the top of the charts.

Pat C. said...

By all means, give it a go. I'm writing all sorts of things I never thought I'd be doing - threesomes (with and without a woman involved), M/M, vampires, romance in general. As recently as 5 years ago I would have said any or all of this "isn't my thing." Shows what I know.

But only do it if you honestly feel it. Sarcasm shows through. So does sincerity. Sincerity is what sells the copies, not the dirty words.

Pat C. said...

As a side note, the extra sex and frank language is required by that line. A threesome comes under Menage Amour, which has a "scorching" level and at least two red-hot sex scenes. I doublechecked on Siren's submissions page. They only want me to provide what's advertised. I have no problem with it, so no harm done.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hmmm... Siren must have changed the submission guidelines. Or I just never noticed.

But, of course, my menage books have lots of sex scenes and the usage of so-called dirty words... not sure I see them that way... I don't think of them as dirty words... but then, I don't use the C word except as a cuss word. Just my choice. However, according to the statistics I lose sales.

I'm always true to myself. Can't write any other way. Found that out decades ago. That's why if I did liberally use the C word, I would do it as sincere, tongue-in-cheek satire under another pen name.

Pat C. said...

How are your sales from other distributors? A book could do middling on the Siren site but take off like gangbusters on Amazon. My third quarter sales on S/BS weren't that hot. I was therefore stunned to get my royalty statement and see how well sales were doing in other venues. Not enough to retire on, but it filled my fridge and gas tank. Several times.

I may be off-base here, but I get the impression M/M does better on Siren while M/F does better elsewhere. Amazon buyers may be more conservative, which could work in your favor. It'll be interesting to see how your indie pub does in comparison to your Siren-pubbed books.

I've now written M/F, M/M, and M/M/F. I'll let you know which genre came out the winner after the dust finally clears.

Savanna Kougar said...

Pat, I haven't checked the actual numbers at the different venues. Emotionally, I'm not up to knowing all that stuff in detail. Yeah, so NOT a business person. That said, I know my books sell on Amazon by tracking which one is selling best day-by-day, and how they change in the line up.

Right now, my Indie book is at the top of heap at Amazon most likely because of the 99cents price, and it's new.

I also know it's selling at Bookstrand because of all the those who purchased this book also purchased this book. It will be interesting to see the actual amount of royalties, however.

Yeah, I hate to jinx it [so knock on wood], but like you said my royalties have been similar to yours in purchasing power.

Also, Jamie, another Siren author talked about her books selling well in other venues, not as well at Siren, on the author loop.

Really, right now, it comes down to how fast I can get a 'quality' I-love-it book written and out there for purchase.