Editing the edits
Writing 'the end' on the first draft of my manuscript was an unexpectedly emotional moment. I hadn't stopped to think how it would be feel, but then after three weeks of burying myself in the lives of my characters it was all over. Well, for a little while at least.
It was far from goodbye to Arthur, Teddy and their family and friends. This was just the beginning. Everyone's approach to editing is slightly different. Some people might put their draft away for a while before revisiting it with fresh eyes. Some (yes, me), cannot wait. I went straight back to the beginning and started tinkering with things. Once I was happy with where I'd got it to, I began the process of submitting it to agents, hoping and praying one would see the potential with it.
Thankfully it didn't take long and by the end of July 2021 I had signed with an agent. The next job? You guessed it. Editing. Getting feedback can be scary. What if there's something they don't like that I do? What if they ask me to make changes I don't agree with? I'm grateful that I went into the process with some experience of being edited and taking suggestions onboard. I knew it wasn't perfect; I'm always ready to learn from someone who knows what they're doing. It can be tough hearing things you don't like, but it's important to remember that any suggestions - both good and bad - are only being made to help you and your manuscript reach full potential. Of course, if you do disagree, you are perfectly entitled to fight your corner and try to reach a compromise. It might sound a bit silly, but I was so ridiculously excited to get my manuscript back and read through the notes and suggestions. Little notes on bits she particularly loved would having me grinning from ear to ear. Suggestions on how to improve elements were thoughtful and thorough. I could step back, consider what was being said and see how it was going to benefit the book overall. And it did! The manuscript was out on exclusive submission within weeks and by the end of November I signed a two-book deal with HQ.
This was all unknown territory for me. I'd tried reading as much advice online as possible; endless blogs and posts from other writers detailing the process and their own experiences. I'm not going to lie, some of them left me feeling incredibly nervous about the next few months. I knew one thing for certain - I needed to enjoy the break I had from the manuscript now. I remember one post I read describing the process as 'lonely'. I imagine it can be, especially when you're at the stage of not being able to talk about what you're doing, but I consider myself very lucky to love nothing more than escaping real life at any given opportunity, especially into one I've got to create with characters I love spending time with. It can be all-consuming undoubtedly, so you do have to find the balance of knowing when to say you've done enough - whether that's at the end of the day or the latest round of edits.
The first stage after signing was waiting for my editor to send back her notes. It was the return of all the same emotions; excitement for another person's perspective, worry about taking the feedback and actually delivering what was wanted. It suddenly felt very real being signed to a publisher and battling that feeling of fearing you might not be good enough. Could they cancel my deal and dump the book?! Thankfully, it was all a very straight-forward, enjoyable experience. When the first set of notes landed in my inbox I had an instant panic and shut my laptop before even opening my editor's email. I went for a walk with my dog before taking myself off to my room where I could read them alone. I read them several times, processing everything carefully, making notes in my head. There was nothing in there that concerned me. I could do this! The following morning I got to work. A week later I was done and ready to send them back. Hang on. Was this too fast? Was it going to look rushed, like I hadn't actually given it my full attention? Oh yes, I found a way to worry about every single aspect. I definitely over-explained myself as a quick worker like it was a bad thing.
So, edit two was done and dusted. It was back to, you guessed it, waiting. There's a lot of waiting. That's not a complaint, it's perfectly understandable and these things take time. You have to get used to immersing yourself in the little world you create before putting it aside again for extended periods of time. Then, you wake up one morning and go again. Edit three was tightening up everything; little things that might have been over-looked, making sure your characters behave consistently throughout. It felt like taking it from 50% to 75% finished. Reading it after a couple of months again made me feel quite emotional. I'd actually written this and got it this far. Dare I say it, I was immensely proud of the 90,000 words sitting in front of me.
After the 'copy edit' came the 'line edit'. What? You didn't think we were done, did you? Once again, I had the chance to get back to real life and give myself some space from the book. Put simply, a line edit "ensures that the sentences in a book or article are as effective as they can be" (Masterclass). I won't lie, I was more nervous about this stage than I was about any of the others. It was one thing to have someone poke around with your story, but the thought of having the actual sentences picked apart made me feel like I was back in English class waiting to see a red pen appear. As per the previous experiences, there was little to be worried about. Every note was considered and made perfect sense. I think the main thing I would say to anyone now is to remember that these are all for your benefit. It's not criticism. It's a professional who wants your words to shine as best they can. It's incredible to even get as far as to have someone doing that, so enjoy it. I took so much from every editing experience. I know I learned more about myself as a writer throughout the process and how I want to approach my next manuscript.
This is my first book. Every single experience is new to me, and I'm savouring each and every moment.
I haven't read the manuscript since March now. I know it's going to come my way again soon, and honestly, I can't wait! Whatever stage in this process you might be at right now, enjoy it all, savour the experiences and learn as much as you can.