I’m not sure what I expected from an editor. Maybe an anonymous red-liner, sitting in a Manhattan high rise behind a desk stacked a foot deep with manuscripts, shaking his head over the grammatical mess before him. I discovered a funny, gracious person committed to taking a piece of writing farther than the author knew it could go. Most surprising was opening the attached document in the email and scrolling through page after page of carefully considered comments and suggestions in which every word and sentence was considered. And, not just every sentence in terms of its composition – I mean every sentence in terms of the plot as well! How bizarre to think I was receiving a paycheck from the same company who just provided me the most careful reading I’d ever experienced.
Obviously the edits are completely reliant upon the material, but I can share a bit about the process, and a few general things I learned about craft. My book will receive three edits from the acquisitions editor, Peter Joseph, who I’ve mentioned in several posts. The fourth edit will go to the copy editor for proofreading. Makes more sense why it takes a year to print. Once the editing process is through, an advanced reader copy will be printed. Copies will be sent to authors/experts who have agreed to read and offer a blurb for the jacket cover. The advanced copy is also proofread again for final corrections. Finally, the hardback goes to print, and hopefully makes it to bookstores a year after the contract was signed.
In my case, the edited copy came as a Word document and the markups were completed in the Review mode. Additions show up underlined in red. Deletions were in red with a line through them. Comment boxes show up on the right side of the document. Once I receive the document I can either click “Accept” or “Reject.” It’s a really quick and easy way for the writer to accept the corrections the editor made – and vice versa. Much quicker than receiving a manuscript redlined by a ballpoint.
The merge feature was new to me, but it is pretty amazing if you have several versions of a document to work with. When I was contacted about the Hillerman prize I explained to the editor that I had revised the manuscript since submitting it. He had me submit both the revised and the original as Word documents. He then used the “Compare” feature. It allowed him to see both versions side by side on his computer screen. He was then able to accept either version. I believe when I submitted my corrections from his edit that he used the same feature to accept or reject my corrections. It’s a very interactive way for two people to communicate quickly over a document. Incidentally, the Review Mode is the process we use in our online writer’s group. Next time I receive comments from the group I’ll try the compare feature and see how it works. Might be interesting.
Now that the holidays are over I hope to post twice a week – and at the very least once a week. Later this week I’ll talk more about the dangers of writing too much “summary” and leaving out the details for your readers. I’ll provide specific examples from my recent edit.