(Edited to add: This is a guest post written by Shannon Stacey)
You’ve seen the view from the Executive Editor of Samhain’s side of the desk here, but I thought today I’d give you a glimpse of the view from the other side. What’s it like, as an author, to go through the editing process? I’ve done it eight times, so I’ll give you a quick overview and then I’ll offer up a few specifics that might help if you’re thinking of submitting to Samhain.
(Obligatory caveat: Angie has been my editor throughout all my contracts with Samhain. Other editors may do things differently, plus the working relationship between an editor and each of her authors varies. Therefore your mileage will, as well.)
FOREVER AGAIN was published in January of 2006 (it was one of Samhain’s four launch titles), which means we probably started the editing process in the fall of 2005, therefore Angie has been my editor for almost four years. I’m not really sure how she feels about that…
Anyway. I’m a fairly clean writer, so our process is generally two rounds of edits and a round of final line edits.
Round One: Oh my achin’ ass. These hurt. The comments in the documents (edits are done electronically through track changes) are scary enough, but it’s the general impression in the body of the email that really makes you cry. This is where you hear your hero’s a flaming asshole or your secondary guy (and future hero) is a little creepy. Maybe you didn’t develop the romantic arc clearly enough on the page so the HEA isn’t believable. Or the dreaded I just don’t love it. In the document there are cheerful little speech bubbles pointing out plot holes and awkward sentences and timeline issues and pet words and…just about everything a writer can possibly do wrong in a book.
Round Two: With the heavy lifting out of the way, this usually seems a little easier, but the magnifying glass is out for the fine tuning and a thousand little errors need to be fixed. Okay, not a thousand. (Well, again, your mileage may vary.) If there was a large issue that required substantial rewriting, those sections will be edited and there’s the question of whether it effected other parts of the story.
In both rounds, commas are fought for and typos are fixed. Issues are hashed out. For two books in a row, Angie and I went ’round and ’round about the capitalization of Navy. I lost in both cases. I’ve learned through almost Pavlovian conditioning to trust Angie’s judgement. When I disregard her suggestion, the reviews criticize that element. When I implement a change she suggested, the reviews love that element. Seriously.
Once the book’s edited within an inch of its life, it goes to…Final Line Edits: This is a crucial step in the book’s process and, though I stet a lot of issues dealing with voice and such, I’m always blown away by the number of things the final line editors catch. Usually syntax/grammar/spelling/typos and such, but they’ll also speak up if they think a comment needs to be made. The FLE for NO SURRENDER questioned the clarity of an event from 72 HOURS that’s mentioned, as well as commenting on the timeline of the ending.
Just for fun, here are my five favorite editorial comments from Angie:
5. Is this a word?
4. Something about this sentence just isn’t right.
3. Hello run-on sentence!
2. I don’t think this is a word.
1. This sentence is just kind of…ugly.
If you’re thinking about submitting to Angie, there are a few things you can do to help ensure your manuscript doesn’t make her do something rash. Like running off to Las Vegas, where she’ll stand around on the street sucking down suspiciously disguised beverages, for example.
10 Things You Might Want to Doublecheck in Your Manuscript Before Subbing to Angela James:
1. Make sure none of your adverb adjective combos or whatever they’re called are hyphenated. (“Softly-mounded” for example.) I keep putting them in, she keeps taking them out.
2. Be certain, especially in love scenes, that none of your characters’ body parts are autonomous. Hands and eyes that go a’roaming remind her of Thing from The Addam’s Family. Funny, but not so much with the sexy.
3. Check, doublecheck and triplecheck your timelines. She bags me every single time I convince myself nobody will catch a timeline glitch. They’re one of her “things”.
4. If you’re one of those writers who fires off a draft, figuring you’ll polish it up if she accepts it because that’s what editors are for, you might want to submit to a different editor. At a different publisher.
5. Watch for a lot of thens and and thens. I’m especially guilty of this synopsis-like construction during love scenes and fight scenes—scenes that I’m heavily choreographing in my head and trying to translate onto the page. (Yes, the following comment exchange is for two paragraphs in a love scene and there were more on the page. Ouch.)
6. Pronoun confusion. Make sure every one of your pronouns clearly belongs to the character/item/whatever it’s supposed to. Angie’s very hung up on pronoun clarity. Also— Reflexive pronouns. Umm…I’m still not sure what that even means. Certain usages of himself or herself, for example, will earn an editorial handslap. Since I don’t quite get this rule, I just write and then change it when she points it out. Better for you, though, if you do it right.
7. The dreaded ECHO. I’m not sure how an author can really check for this other than reading very, very thoroughly, but using the same word too often too close together is a common author quirk and a common editorial comment. If you can get rid of this, you’re that much cleaner. She has some kind of magic Repetition Radar.
8. Make sure modifying phrases are modifying the correct subject. This is HUGE with Angie. Another of her “things”.
9. Don’t give a lot of characters names beginning with the same letter. She’ll notice. And right now you might want to avoid naming all of your characters “C” names because…well, just because. (A little inside tidbit from NO SURRENDER: The young woman the DG has to rescue will always be named Claire in my heart. In the book it’s…something else. Isabel? Isabella? Something that doesn’t start with a C.)
10. The standard warning to avoid starting multiple paragraphs with the same word, whether it be a name, the or and. And watch the junk words—just, so, that. She hit FOREVER AGAIN so hard on my “that” usage, I still shudder to remember the edits. I think it took several books for her to break me of that habit. Do a find on “that” and challenge every single one.
As a matter of fact, she was rather traumatized the first time she had to ADD “that” to one of my books. I, of course, gloated.
Okay, if you made it all the way through that overly-long post, comment to enter to win a DIGITAL book from my backlist! Ask a question if you’ve got one or make a comment or just say hi and
at 9:00 am est Friday Sunday I’ll randomly draw a winner!