Editing a manuscript

I signed my contract with The Wild Rose Press for my third novel, “Impending Love and Lies” in my Impending Love series last week and have been working on edits all weekend.  I thought I would share some of my editing process.

The first thing I do is look over the changes my editor has marked on the manuscript and correct anything she’s noted.  I also go through the changes my beta reader (my brother) has given me and clarify things he didn’t understand or thought should be altered.

Then begins the real work.  I begin on page one and read the entire manuscript, making corrections and checking for inconsistencies or changes I have been thinking about since I submitted my manuscript to my editor.

I also double check facts, names, and punctuation AGAIN.

I love the search tool and use it a lot.  I decided to change the name of a minor character because I use his younger brother as a major character in a later book.  It finds the name, and I replace it with the new name.  A word of warning – don’t replace ALL.  If the word you’re searching for is part of a larger word, it will replace those letters, too.  I do one at a time to be safe.

Then I set the manuscript aside for a few days and start at the beginning again.  When I stop finding errors or changes, I send it back to my editor.

I spent the time waiting for my manuscript to be approved for publication to work on the final three books in the series.  I knew I needed to have more than a paragraph describing the characters and main plot.

I wrote about 150 pages for the fourth book, “Impending Love and Capture” and have a pretty good idea where the story takes the characters.  I wrote about 75 pages for the final two stories, and those pages will serve as an outline for each one.

My first draft tends to be rough with an emphasis on dialogue, plot scenes, and threading the problem through the story to make sure it will carry the characters from beginning to end.

Then I add detail and history in my second round.  Once I reach 300 pages, I’m more selective about what goes into my story and start cutting words, paragraphs, and even pages to maintain the focus on the story problem and the main characters.  I usually save any major deletions in a scrap folder in case I’ve made a mistake and want to use them later.

Like writing, everyone does editing a little differently.  But don’t rush it.  My editor gives me about a month for the initial edits, but I usually don’t take that long.  But if I miss mistakes, then I have to correct them in the second or third round of edits.  I prefer to catch most of them the first time around, so I’ll edit until I’m satisfied it’s perfect.  Even then, there’s always one more thing to change.

A checklist for writers

Checklist for writers:

Are the hero and heroine different enough at the beginning to make their coming together a challenge?

Is the villain evil enough to emphasize the strength of the protagonist? Or take advantage of his/her weaknesses?

Is there a love triangle or a rival to make it a challenge for the hero to win the heroine or vice versa?_MG_3559

Are the supporting characters interesting/challenging to add to the interaction of the protagonist?

Is the problem difficult, personal and important enough for the protagonist to take on at the beginning of the story and see it through to the solution at the end?

Are there external and internal problems for the protagonist?

Are there enough challenges throughout the story to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the protagonist and teach a lesson that needs to be learned by him/her?

Do you build to the climax and the final problem before the resolution and does the solution come as a result of a change in the character?  What does he/she learn?

Does the plot proceed with ups and downs to challenge the protagonist?

Pacing should be varied.  Fast pace with short sentences to give the reader necessary information and slower pace with more detail for the important scenes like an encounter, romantic interlude or confrontation with an enemy. Think vegetables and dessert. The vegetables are necessary but can be eaten quickly. The dessert is for pleasure and should be savored.

Is there a subplot and is it resolved? Are all the loose ends of the story resolved before the final climax or does the story need an epilogue?

Are all the clues and foreshadowing used by the end of the story?  All questions answered, especially in a mystery genre?





Writing like Plum

I’ve read nearly every one of the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich and a few of her other books.  What have I learned from Stephanie?  Stephanie is an every girl.  She’s average looking with a job she needs to pay the bills.  The average woman can easily relate to her.  That’s the first thing about creating a character.  The reader has to identify with her.

Stephanie may be the girl next door but she’s surrounded by crazy, interesting people who complicate her life.  Her family drives her nuts because they want her to be normal and settle down.  She has more than one man in her life but doesn’t want to give up her independence. What modern woman can’t relate to interfering relatives and man troubles?

Each book is a series of bizarre blunders, much like an “I Love Lucy” show, that reveals Stephanie’s spunk, ingenuity, and perseverance – all qualities we hope to harbor and yank to the surface in a crisis.  Evanovich uses short, detailed description to keep the various settings, characters, and details of the story in the reader’s mind.  For authors who spend paragraphs detailing the smallest item, take a lesson and write short and sweet.  It’s fast paced writing without a lot of depth or introspective, but that’s on purpose.  Sometimes Stephanie thinks more about her life than other times, but she never makes a hard decision.  She’s forever 29, and the reader is along for a joy ride.