Roundtable Discussion: Tough work ahead?

As writers everywhere work on their first drafts for NaNoWriMo, The Spectacle looks ahead — to revisions. In this roundtable, we asked Spectacle bloggers to talk about their most challenging editorial revisions.

Mike StellarKari Anne Holt, author of MIKE STELLAR: NERVES OF STEEL:

For my first book, I don’t think any specific change was difficult — it was more the idea of revision that was difficult for me. The biggest challenge in the editing process, for me, was learning to trust my editor. There were certain scenes and ideas that I felt pretty invested in, and in one editorial letter — one sentence — those ideas were questioned. My editor wrote a GREAT letter, though, and throughout the entire revision process had excellent ideas and feedback. He did a wonderful job of suggesting changes, listening to me try to work out why those changes would be better, and then encouraging me as I finally saw the sense in what he was suggesting.

For me, it was an important step to realize that my editor has been in the business a long time and really knows the audience we’re trying to reach with the book. It wasn’t hard for me to accept his revision ideas, but I also wanted to make sure I knew where he was coming from and that I wasn’t just being an overly excited, “I’ll do anything you want!” new author. I didn’t want to create tension where there didn’t need to be tension, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to be a pushover.

The revision process taught me a lot about writing and trust and the publishing industry. It was invaluable, really (even if frustrating sometimes), and I think the book we ended up with is incredible. Now, if only I could make self-editing a more rewarding process… :)

P.J. Hoover, author of THE EMERALD TABLET and its sequels:emerald-tablet

Edits for THE EMERALD TABLET were mind boggling for me. When I first got feedback, the manuscript was twice as long and really needed cutting. My editor told me that the first 150 pages had to be narrowed to 30. I got it to 36. That was Round One. Then we went through edits again. She showed me where to move stuff around to keep the story flowing, and as I followed her suggestions, I also saw much more I could cut on my own.

I love working with editors. They are some of the most gifted people in the business, and I look forward to continuing to get such amazing feedback in the future! And, of course, learning to improve on my own self-editing in the process :)

deadgirlloveLinda Joy Singleton, author of THE DEAD GIRL series, THE SEER series, and more:

When I was writing a middle-grade cheerleading series, I got excited about a subplot with a kooky elderly aunt who is on a scavenger hunt for missing jewelry. The editor said to cut the entire subplot, including the aunt. It meant rewriting two-thirds of the book. Definitely hard…and sad to lose such a fun subplot. It probably took me a week, since these were short books. Recently a less drastic edit request took me two weeks since I did a lot of minor editing while I rewrote the more major ones.

I’m all for getting advice from editors, especially if it’s just suggestions and not mandatory (in case I don’t agree). I try to be flexible and accomodating. I usually pick a few things that I won’t change, though, to fight for, and change everything else. For instance, in the 2010 release of #6 THE SEER, I put in a subplot with a character who is getting her own book as a lead-in to this next book. The subplot involved murder and was exciting, but didn’t connect to the rest of the book. My editor suggested either cutting the subplot or finding a way to connect it to the main story. I found a way to connect and the book is much stronger now. Oddly enough, all it took was changing a few paragraphs. It was the coming up with the “connection” that took days of hard thinking.

joniicon— Joni Sensel, who has cut 20% from one book; added a character and scenes to illuminate the mechanics of events in another; and is snarled in bigger revisions on a pre-editor draft.


Filed under Joni Sensel

5 responses to “Roundtable Discussion: Tough work ahead?

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    I can totally relate to a manuscript being too long. I really have a problem with this. I’m impressed P.J. with how much you cut from the beginning of your book. I’m rereading The Emerald Tablet and it’s made me realize how important just narrating to the next important scene can be. You do it so well. I’m going to try it as I try to quickly cut at least 3000 words from my too wordy manuscript.

    • Thanks, Natalie! I chuckle to myself when I think of all the backstory that used to be in THE EMERALD TABLET. The whole thing was twice as long. It was such a great, great learning experience for me. Loved it!
      Thank you!

  2. Hi Ladies,

    Just discovered this great blog and how timely as I’m in the middle of my first editorial revision letter. PJ – seriously – you are now my revision hero! Cut 150 pages to 36? Dang, girl – you are GOOD! (Though I’m always happy to revise and welcome critical feedback – I’m not totally sure I could have done that!)

    I’m working on revising a finished MS while I wait for my editor’s response to my first round of revisions and I just cut every chapter out that is told from a secondary character’s POV (about 20k words) and I’m slowly weaving in a fraction of that – and guess what? I think the story is much stronger now which I guess is the moral here – right? :-)

    • LOL, Kiki! It was a huge bunch of cutting and changing, but I learned so much revisins THE EMERALD TABLET. Could not believe how much better it was when I was finished.

      Wow on the cutting the second POV. So the part you are weaving in is from the main POV then? And was it your thought or editors?

      Very cool!

  3. Thanks! This was so helpful. I hope to get to revising with an editor some day, but for now I’m doing my own and it’s just reassuring to know that successful authors struggle through it too! Also nice to know how you handled suggestions that you might not have agreed with at first. I’m trying to wrap my mind around that, but really I have no idea how I’ll react unless I get to that situation. May I be so lucky.

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