Line Edits Are Done

I was definitely a little bit nervous about line edits. I worried about what I might be asked to change, and if I was capable of making requested changes satisfactorily. Or what if the whole thing was so bad that the editor tells my publisher he should pull the plug?

Yes. My mind went there.

There are three types of editing as I understand it. Developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. Developmental editing is a process by which an editor helps a writer along by providing feedback and possible solutions regarding big picture concepts like plot holes, character development, and structure issues. Grammar isn't really a thing at this stage, and the point is to get the story and characters in good shape. Line edits, as the name suggests, is when an editor goes line by line with an eye for dialogue, tense, tone, inconsistencies, style, flow, and word choice. Copy editing is a detailed look at spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This would be the last type of editing before publication. I was super lucky to have a very competent and knowledgeable editor who really took care of line and copy together. I edited the hell out of my manuscript on my own for years. I read and re-read it, ripped it apart, put it back together, and rearranged it, some more. By the time I went looking for a publisher it was pretty clean, but it still needed extensive editing.
It took me a little while to get the line edit process down. For the first half I was still confused about what I was doing and wasn't sure if I was doing it right, but eventually I fell into a nice back and forth rhythm with my editor. She did an initial high-level content read and pointed out some tense and scene issues for me to fix that ultimately required some reworking on my part. I ended up switching the order of the last three chapters and writing a bit more to smooth it out, however when we finally got to those chapters at the end of the process I realized that my changes still didn't work, and ended up having to write brand new scenes to fix it. That felt a little overwhelming at first, because I'd finished writing this long ago. I had to put my writing hat back on and switch gears to produce additional scenes.

The line edit is very literally a line by line chapter by chapter back and forth making sure every word of every line in every chapter is clear, concise, flows nicely, and consistent throughout and grammatically correct. She did her editing with track changes on, then I went through after her, to accept her changes, make additional changes, address comments, and make comments of my own. Then I'd send it back for another pass. On the earlier chapters there were several repeat back and forth passes, but that happened less as we went on. It was fun, and I really enjoyed it, but it was also painstaking, and a bit of a grind by the time I got to the end.

My editor Jessica was AMAZING. She knew her stuff. She really challenged me, and left no stone unturned as she combed through my manuscript. I took most of her suggestions, but she was also okay with things I didn't want to change. She didn't take over my manuscript, she added to it in a positive way, and I learned a lot. I felt kind of dumb at first because grammar is complicated! I'm no expert on the minutiae of grammar, and I found myself googling things I vaguely remembered from school or never learned. The first block of chapters was a bit rough. She had to leave a lot of notes, and I learned what my bad writing ticks are. She was very patient with me, and eventually I got better at recognizing the error of my ways and being able to fix them in advance. I started pre-reviewing chapters before she did, so that I could fix the things she commented on in previous chapters. The cleaner each chapter was before it got to her, the less time she had to spend making notes on the same things over and over again freeing her to review more chapters at a time, and pick up on other issues. Additionally, I could spend as much time as I wanted mulling over the words and making them as good as I could. Inevitably I always wanted to change something after her edit and requested an additional read through from her, which was fine, as long as it wasn't too much considering she'd already taken the time to clean everything up. I'm so grateful that she put up with me!

The line edits took longer than it was supposed to, at no fault to my editor. There was a slight hiccup early on because I wasn't clear on the process, and I actually was doing it wrong. Once that got fixed and I started pre-reviewing chapters it went quicker, but the problem is that I like to marinate. On EVERYTHING. It's part of why it took me so long to write and then edit my manuscript. I like to read it and make changes, sleep on it, read it again, and make changes. Repeat. It's ridiculous really, especially at this stage in the game when the focus is cleaning and prettying up what has already been marinated upon for an excessively long period of time. I can read a line one day, and it's fine, but the next day I feel as though I need to switch something up, and it's super annoying. As we went on in the process, I had to tell myself it's fine, leave it alone because you can't pick apart an entire chapter that has already been professionally edited for no good reason.

In all it took about three months. She'd review my chapters during the week and I'd review and address comments over the weekend, pre-review later chapters, and get it back to her. Then after she sent back the last block of chapters I sat on it for about a month because I wasn't ready to "pull the trigger" so to speak and send it off to my publisher. Needless to say, my release date was pushed back not once, but twice! But that's fine by me because editing is so crucial and I would have hated to feel pressured to hurry through it. I'd probably drag line edits out for much longer if I could, but it doesn't really make sense to do so. At some point, you just have to say, this manuscript has been thoroughly reviewed. It's fine. Sure, I can look at it tomorrow and think, that I could have used a different word or said something a different way, but I also really really need to consider that it's fine the way it is.

Not just fine, but good. Really good!

I can't emphasize enough how important editing is. I don't think I realized just how valuable it is until going through it myself, and seeing what a difference it can make. I thought my book was in good shape, but it was definitely not publication ready. I needed someone to see what I couldn't see, and know what I may never fully understand. I'm a writer, not an editor. Rigorous rounds of line edits made my novel better and helped me improve my writing. After we finished up the line edits I turned off my editing brain because it was was time to leave well enough alone. I read the entire thing not looking for things to change (because something could always be changed), but only for things to correct. I caught a few minor errors, and then I was finally done. Like for real. Done! And it felt really good.

The official release date is November 5th, however it will be available for pre-order before that. I'll keep you posted and will be back with another book update post with more details about the actual book soon.

2 comments

Christy @ Sparkles & Spinach said...

Wow! I can see how the process could be overwhelming!!! I’m getting overwhelmed just reading about it! But it sounds like it went very well. I can’t wait to read your book!!! So exciting : )

LifenotesEncouragement said...

I am very excited for you. I agree, having an editor is a worthwhile part of the process. Nothing when it comes to writing moves fast.