Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Top 10 Things I Learned From My First Round of Edits

For a new author, the thought of publisher edits can be intimidating. Review, re-write, re-plot, re-align subtext, and forget if you have action scenes.
My first round of edits reached me while I was getting on a plane at the Las Vegas airport. Paul and I were from a great vacation. The shows were spectacular. I was excited to see what my editor, Denise Nielsen, had for me. I tried, without success, to read her edits on my android phone before I had to turn off my phone. I would have to wait another five hours.
Once back home, I read the message and instructions, made a large pot of coffee and dug in. To start, I read all the track changes and comments to get an idea of what lay ahead for me. After 13 days (one day ahead of deadline), I got the edits back to Denise. I found I worked hard, got frustrated, made changes, had several aha moments, and fell in love with Arik, Rebeka and their story, Knight of Runes, all over again.
Here are the top ten things I learned from my first round edits. Go get your coffee and enjoy.
10. Well meaning friends, who are ‘in the know,’ sometimes don’t know. The advice of a good friend and published author was to remove irrelevant words in order to stay in the action and make things sound crisp and immediate. It’s the way to hold your reader attention. Not, however, when you splice commas. Words such as and, but, are essential, not extraneous.
9.  Cut extraneous exposition and let the reader see it. What some people see as extraneous exposition (which I went through and deleted) my editor said was necessary to set up the next scene or action.
8.  Don’t give your editor (and reader) a headache by head hopping. Head hopping, I mean real leaps in the same scene, may work for Nora but not for Ruth. Ever.
7.  POV is an art. If your POV character can’t see it, hear it, and doesn’t know it then it doesn’t exist. Unless, the other POV character says it or (this was an eye opener) thinks it in his head. Cool heh.
6.  Edits are a learning experience and my editor is a fabulous, and patient, teacher. I learned to see patterns, hear echoes, and feel rhythms. It only took the first 100 pages to get there.
5.  Immediate voice is much more powerful and compelling than passive voice. Chopping ‘ing’ to makes the action sound immediate. It’s is essential, although, passive voice has its place, but only occasionally.
4.  Filler words do not move a scene along. These words can usually be eliminated without changing the meaning and will also make it more immediate.
3.  Questions in the readers mind can be provocative. Some of Denise’s comments were questions that were answered in the next paragraph or scene. I made my reader think. Not bad!
2.  My deepest apologies to Mrs. X. My high school grammar teacher must be spinning in her grave. I won’t embarrass her by mentioning her name.
The number one thing I learned from my first round of edits…
Call me crazy, but I enjoyed working through Denise’s track changes and comments. She made me think, make decisions, see opportunities, and ultimately she helped me make the story the best it can be and isn’t that what we both want.
Come on Denise, I’m ready for round two.


  1. Great post. I learned an additonal one in my first round of edits: I tend to reuse the same phrases instead of writing something fresh. Now when I do my own edits, I'm more aware of my weaknesses.

  2. @Vonnie Davis

    Yes, echo phrases, the ones we use over and over. When Denise pointed it out to me it was so obvious. I'm sure I'll be sensitive to them too.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Awesome post Ruth. Extremely informative. I would add as a bonus, shut off your cell and house phones. Those two devices are always the ruination of my writing time.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great post, Ruth! I've never seen the type of edits an editor sends so I found this really interesting. Best of luck with that second round!

  5. Great post Ruth:)...I imagine your second time around will be a different experience:)Just think, your revisions may dwindle down to almost nothing:) Congratulations on your success!


  6. @Karen

    You are so right! Cell phone, house phone, and email. And not be tempted to read my email.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    See you next week at Nationals.

  7. I think all first-time pubbed authors have this eye-opening experience and it truly is an educational avenue. I learned so much from those first round edits and consequently my second and third book edits were much easier.

    Great post, Ruth!

  8. @Marlo Berliner

    Thanks Marlo. It's been a great experience so far. After the edits comes the cover.

    Thanks for your comment.

  9. @Loretta

    I've learned a lot and it has been both challenging but so instructional. I haven't read my story since I submitted it in January. Looking at it with fresh eyes and more insight (with all I've learned over the last six months) made some of Denise's comments jump out at me.

    But it all moved the story forward and honed my skills. It was a double blessing, lots of work, but a blessing none the less.

    I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  10. My favorite is that you fell in love with your characters all over again! Lots of eye-openers. Thanks.

  11. @Amy Kennedy

    Yes, lots of eye-openers but falling in love with Arik and Rebeka all over again was the best!

    I hope some of my eye-openers helped.

  12. All good rules to follow.
    Thanks for the reminders. I always enjoy your posts.

  13. @Sandy L. Rowland

    I'm so glad you enjoy my posts. Sometimes they're the hardest thing to write. This one nearly wrote itself!

    Have a great week.

  14. One of the things i love about edits, especially the copy edits, is learning the specific style of the publisher, as in how they want things capped, or a preference for one prepositional phrase over another, etc. I made notes so that i wouldn't repeat the same errors in the next book. I also learned to cut back on my exposition that slowed down pacing, and to be careful not to repeat myself when i thought the reader needed reminding. Haha! I'm more careful about that now.

  15. Nice list! Thanks for sharing the experience.

  16. @Karen Duvall

    Yes! Exposition, is not necessarily your friend and it's amazing how some can be deleted without any impact. Publisher preferences are a 'good to know' item too.

    Thank you for leaving a comment.

  17. @Tam Linsey

    You're quite welcome. I hope you stop by again.

  18. Crown me the "queen of passive voice." My biggest flaw, that I know of so far in writing, one of many personally. Thanks for sharing the tips so we can all benefit from your experience. Congrats again.

  19. @J. Coleman

    I know. That passive voice thing just creeps in. Thanks for stopping by.

  20. @Renee Vincent

    My editor told me the same thing. I've looked at my work in progress, easily identified some of the issues, and immediately made changes. My problem in reading for edits is I get so caught up in the story that I lose sight of the editing. What a challenge that is!

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  21. Great comments, indeed. I always try to takes revisions as a learning experience and as long as they make sense to me, I usually will try to work with them. Sometimes I think it is instinct that keeps me from taking every bit of advice that comes along. Like you said, everyone has different ways of doing things and in the end I think you must be true to yourself, your characters and shine them in the brightest light. Great post...

  22. @Paisley Kirkpatrick

    I'm glad you liked the post. I found it amazing how a small turn of the phrase made it stronger or more sensual.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  23. I admire you Ruth! I'm still learning all these as I crawl through revisions that should have been finished three months ago!

  24. Very nice post. A friend once said he would not let an editor tell him to change anything in his (precious) book and I replied, "You do want to see it published, don't you?" Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees and that's when a good editor can save us from ourselves.

  25. @Calisa Rhose

    I know it's difficult but I know you can do it. Thanks for stopping by. You always make me smile.

  26. @Sandy B

    I can understand how your friend feels. We put so much of ourselves into our work. Sometimes it hard to let anyone else touch it. That doesn't mean we're always clear. I hope your friend changes his mind.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  27. I absolutely loved revision w/my wonderful editor (Vicky Reed, TWRP) and when I work my own. There's something splendid that happens when a wip morphs into art. BTW, I love your debut date: myolder son's birthday!

  28. @Janna Aislinn

    I too love my editor, Denise Neilsen at Carina Press.

    I'll think of your son on release day. BTW, Julie Rowe, also a Carina Press author, is also releasing on November 14!