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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Process: Developmental Edits

So since last week I talked a little bit about what I *want* to write, I thought maybe I'd stick with the theme and talk a little bit today about a step that comes after the *want* and before the Published-For-Your-Reading-Pleasure: Developmental Editing!

I never did give you guys a good look at Theseus Candy Land!
Much like Developmental Edits, this is only the beginning.
Here's a thing you should know about Developmental Edits -- they're my most favorite part of the editing process. I love getting the letter and digging in to find out what I can do to make my book better. Developmental Edits (or Structural Edits), are the bigger, macro level elements. How do I make my character's motivations stronger, or where do I need to cull some of the sag to keep the book moving because my pacing has faltered? It's about the broad strokes more than the line level issues. That said, there are usually some line level pieces that get tagged along the way, if they jump out, and I address those, too.

But the first thing I do is read everything. The letter, and any and all comments in the manuscript, and then the letter again. As I go through the manuscript comments the first time, I do all the easy fixes -- the line level things that popped up here or there, or anything that can be addressed with just a quick line or a clarification. I try not to get sucked into reading the book itself. (This is always a challenge at this stage -- less of one later, when I'm sick of staring at the screen and agonizing over commas.)

Once I've gotten all the easy fixes out of the way, I reread the developmental edit letter -- which kind of highlights the big things that were awesome or need fixing where more than just a comment bubble is needed to get the point across. I make myself a little list of the big issues, either in a new document, or by highlighting in the letter itself, so I can see EXACTLY what needs doing. (I've been fortunate with HELEN and her sequel in that the manuscript has been pretty solid, but with my other books, there have definitely been times when I had to throw out huge tracts of the manuscript or rewrite from the ground up.)

At this point, I do the surgical strikes. The "this chapter didn't work for x reason, please fix" kind of problems. I skip into the chapter (or maybe the chapter just before to make sure I'm grounded) and dig into that issue. The isolated issues are the easiest -- but sometimes even the issues that SEEM isolated have ripple effects throughout the rest of the manuscript, so I try to keep that in mind, and add it to my list as necessary.

Once ALL the spot treatments are out of the way, I go back to the beginning of the manuscript with the BIGGEST of those identified and issues firmly in mind -- the overarching stuff that requires me to attentively look at every chapter for either the whole book, or a considerable swath -- and I start rereading and nipping and tucking and adding and tweaking as necessary. As I fix a thing in my list, I cross it out or delete it. That way I don't lose track of what I'm doing or forget any piece of the edit puzzle.

There have definitely been times when after reading a developmental edit my kneejerk first response has been "No! I can't DO that! What! How am I supposed to make that happen?!" (Even for HELEN -- before she found a home a Lake Union, when I was only a fledgling author!) But in the next breath, my brain is already whirring and spinning with ideas for how I CAN make it work or otherwise address the issue, and by the next day or the day after, I have a plan of attack. It might not be what the editor had in mind or suggested, but I always end up finding away to approach the problematic element, even if it seems impossible at first.

And that's that! I hope you enjoyed this kind of behind the scenes peek into the editing process!

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