The dreaded edits – Part 1

Highlighters - a must-have for stationery lovers

Highlighters – a must-have for stationery lovers

Some of you will understand why I use the word “dreaded” in connection with edits, some of you will be shaking your heads and telling me to stop moaning – I’m published, I should be jumping for joy, and all that – whereas others will be wondering what I’m talking about.

My publisher Choc Lit work with several different editorial stages: substantive edits, line edits, copy edits, and proofing. At the moment I’m doing substantive edits on my next novel “The Elephant Girl”, which in this particular case consists of a 14 page single-spaced report detailing elements such as plot points, characters, pace, etc. In addition there is a chapter by chapter breakdown of issues which need to be addressed, all perfectly valid points raised by my editor.

So why my long face? Well, where do I start? Where does anyone start? It’s overwhelming.

After alternating between wanting to toss the manuscript in the fire and never look at it again, and tackling the edits right here, right now, in my pyjamas, despite the old saying that more haste makes for less speed, I come to the conclusion that I have to be organised about it. And for me the best way to achieve that is to use highlighters (did I tell you I love highlighters?).

I mark my editor’s questions in yellow, her suggestions of what needs to be deleted in orange, her suggested insertions in green, and my own ideas of how to solve the various problems in red pen in the margin. Afterwards, what at first seemed like a monumental task, has now been reduced to “bite-sized chunks”, and perhaps isn’t going to be quite as difficult as I’d thought. At least I hope so…

How do you approach your edits?

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19 Responses to The dreaded edits – Part 1

  1. I feel for you, Hanri. The only thing to say is that if the final result is as good as ‘Up Close’, then it’s worth the technicolor pain!

    Liz X

  2. Carol Hedges says:

    I try not to do them. Then I get my head down and slog through them because t the end of the day, I want people to enjoy my writing and so it has to be the best I can do. But I hate it.

  3. Thanks, Liz and Carol, I know it makes sense, and a better book in the end, but (sigh) technicolor pain indeed!

  4. unpub says:

    Wow – That is some editing.
    It’s maybe a pain goin through it – But I would love to get professional feedback like that on the book I’m editing at the moment.

  5. I do the easy bits first and work my way up to the difficult.

  6. Liv Thomas says:

    Thanks for that, H. 😦 Am now totally traumatised about upcoming edits. I feel the need to lie in a darkened room with a lavender hanky.

    Seriously, am bookmarking this for tips, for when the dreaded day arrives – any time now.

  7. One bite at a time eats the elephant (girl!). I agree that the secret is breaking it down into a check list of smaller tasks and ticking them off as you go. Good luck!

  8. Zana says:

    Lol Liv!

    I too am waiting for my first edits from Choc Lit. I’m braced but actually, also find the process fascinating – provided the edits aren’t too substantive!. I find each editor has a different way of thinking so there’s an interesting synthesis going on between their vision and yours. However, I do always need at least a day to recover after reading what is wanted!

    Love your idea of coloured pens.

  9. mandyblogger says:

    Blimey! That sounds like a marathon! I have recently finished mine and it was a headache in places, especially when more than one editor became involved. I tended to just alter stuff point by point on the ms as it came up. I don’t think there is an easy way and I like your highlighter ideas. Huge sympathy, Henri! xx

  10. Thanks for your lovely comments. I know I’m not alone, but talking about it, even in cyberspace, does help. I’m taking a deep breath and clutching my coloured pens for dear life! It’s the only way I can get my head around it.

  11. Hang in there, Henri – it will be worth it in the end. And there will be an end 🙂 I’m with Jean – I do the easy bits first 🙂 X

  12. beverleyeikli says:

    First of all, I have huge sympathy for you.

    However, I love edits. I get really excited seeing my story through the third person, or the perspective of a professional editor when I’ve also had quite some distance from my work. I’ve worked in a critique group of four for 8 years and often I’ve jumped for joy when, having sensed something’s not quite ‘there’, one of my critique partners or my editor tells me exactly ‘where’ it’s not working so I can then fix it.

    But we’re all different and I do feel for you, Henrriette. I’m doing my own edits on another story and at the moment, as I edit my first draft, I feel the whole story is complete rubbish. I know, though, after another few edits, I’ll probably feel quite happy about how it’s turned out.

    Good luck!

    • Thanks, Beverley. I do take your point of how useful it is to see my own story through someone else’s eyes, and agree it’s a good way of looking at it. After all, when it’s published it will be seen through the eyes of the readers, and it’s important to get it right. I know other writers who like edits (although most people I know think it’s a dirty word 🙂 ), and I hope one day, when I’m more experienced about the writing/editing process, that I’ll feel the same.

      Actually, hearing you say this, makes me feel a lot better!

      • beverleyeikli says:

        That’s good, Henriette. You did edits so ‘spot on’ with Up Close – which had me on the edge of my seat until the very end – so of course you’ll do a great job with this one:)

  13. Dave Sivers says:

    Your coloured pens idea sounds much better than my ramshackle approach, Henri. I just grit my teeth, go through the m/s from front to back and pick up points as I go along. Like you, my first response to feedback is to scrap the whole thing. But then, if we gave up that readily, we’d probably take up something safer, like alligator wrestling.

  14. lizfenwick says:

    I use coloured pens too! Green for easy and so on…Good luck
    lx

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