After having waxed on about my awesome posting stats just before Thanksgiving, I then dropped my posting to zero while I celebrated Turkey Day, the start of the winter holiday season, and finished revisions for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE. So I thought it would be fun to break my posting fast by discussing revisions and then share some snippets that I wrote for book #3.
The Revision Process
I’ve heard that the revision process varies from house to house, and may even vary from editor to editor, but my experience has pretty much followed these steps:
1. Author Editing: After mentally typing THE END (how many of you actually type “THE END” at the end of your manuscripts? I don’t…), this is the stage where I go back through my manuscript and edit it myself. Although I do some editing as I write, I always have a big list of things that I know need to be fixed, added, deleted, etc. once I’ve reached the end. Also, reading the manuscript through from start to finish after it’s complete helps flesh out other areas I may not have caught before that still need work. This type of editing goes on until it’s finished. It usually takes a few passes — until I’m comfortable enough to turn it in. Until the manuscript is the best I can make it on my own.
[2. Beta Readers and Critique Partners/Groups: An invaluable part of the process for many writers. I don’t currently do this as part of my process, but I’ve often thought about trying to find some beta readers. The difference between beta readers and critique partners is that beta readers are readers (ideally someone who reads within your genre) and critique partners are writers. But the point is the feedback should be different. I would think that beta readers could help with reactions, expectations, spots of confusion, overall satisfaction, general impressions, etc. whereas critique partners will (hopefully) give you some objective comments on structure, plot, characterization, and the like.]
3. Revisions: If you are traditionally published, your editor will read and review your manuscript and suggest changes. My editor sends me an email with global concerns and en electronic marked up version of my manuscript with margin comments. Once I got used to it, I found I actually liked this part of the process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: whether you self or traditionally pub, find a good editor. Even if you have beta readers and critique partners, a professional editor is a must. Ideally, your editor will have lots of experience editing books in your genre. At this stage of editing, any type of revision might be requested: huge structural changes, merging two characters into one, writing an alternate ending, creating a new setting for one of the scenes, reworking a set piece, etc. (I’m not saying I’ve had all of those suggestions… just that if you’re a new writer, be open to whatever changes your editor suggests. In the end, it’s your decision, but consider each one carefully before making it or rejecting it.)
4. Line edits: This is the editing stage where, instead of “big picture” problems like character motivation not working right or scenes out of order, your editor will suggest stylistic changes that will improve the flow and readability of the manuscript. (At least that’s how I think of this stage. It’s a little bit more than just grammatical corrections but a lot less than anything that requires drafting something from scratch.) If you have a strong voice, some of the suggestions might not sound right. As above, it’s your call. But I consider these carefully too. Having a recognizable voice is great, but the last thing I want is a reader tripping over my words or scratching their head. (Some of that may be unavoidable, but, hey, if I can avoid it through better word choice, I will).
5. Copy edits: Copyediting is the stage where they check everything: your grammar, your spelling, your capitalization, the quotes you used, the Latin phrases, and whatever other odd bits and pieces of stuff you may have used that need to be checked to make sure you’re using them properly. This is also the stage where your editor checks for continuity errors like a botched schedule of events or an eye color change due to writer mistake and not magic. As you can imagine, my copy editor has her work cut out for her and she’s been terrific. Along with a marked up manuscript, I also receive a Style Sheet during this stage, which details my spelling, style, and punctuation preferences (so that they remain consistent throughout the series). It also has a handy list of “author specific words” (my term, not hers). These are the words that we writers use when we make stuff up. I used my Style Sheets as a starting point for my Glossary.
6. Proofreading: This stage is pretty exciting. You get to see the typeset manuscript. So it will look almost exactly how it will look once it’s printed and bound. Your job during this stage is to (yep, once again) read through and check for errors. The good news is that there won’t be that many queries from the proofreader. But I still read it all over one more time because this is my very last opportunity to catch something before publication. And I have caught errors. Nothing big. Just hard returns that shouldn’t have been there. Words repeated. Missing periods. Little stuff. When I send my list back I almost feel foolish; it’s so nit picky.
7. Celebrate! I’m not at this stage yet with WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE, but I look forward to it. Since so much of a writer’s time is spent just putting words on a page and our butts in the chair, celebrating the small milestones along a very long path is important.
White Heart of Justice Snippets
The Laurel Crown Race and Its Targets
The third book in my Noon Onyx series involves a race — the Laurel Crown Race. To win, racers must bring back their assigned target. The targets are always (otherwise there would be no story) difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve. Participation in this dangerous, sometimes deadly, race is voluntary (Noon’s more feisty and less reluctant in B3). So why race? Because the Maegester-in-Training who brings back their target before any of the others wins the coveted Laurel Crown and the right to control their own destiny (or at least the right to choose where they spend their fourth semester residency).
Noon’s target is the White Heart of Justice, a mythical sword with a dark, mysterious, and rich history that disappeared during Halja’s middle ages. It’s a fascinating artifact that’s discussed extensively in the book… but what about the other racers’ targets? My editor was curious about what the other racers would be searching for during the race so, during edits, I came up with the list below, which I then worked into Chapter 7 as follows [alas, the neat pictures won’t be in the final manuscript]:
Every year, the finish line was held at a different demon law school. Since St. Luck’s had hosted the rank matches, we’d also been given the honor of creating this year’s Laurel Crown and placing it at a finish line of our choosing. The St. Luck’s faculty had opted for a crown made of gold leaf, which they planned to hang on one of the lamp posts at the start of the race. The first Primoris to make it back to Timothy’s Square would exchange their target for the crown and win. It was that simple. (Or rather, it was that simple on paper. In practice, the race was often lethal.)
A sampling of other racer’s targets included:
† Eidolon’s Alternate Ending
Commissioned by the demon lord Nickolai as a bride gift for his inamorata, the painting is purportedly “enhanced” by the Angel artist’s botched spell. The scene in the painting changes for each viewer so no one knows what the original subject was. Anyone who gazes upon it is ever after incapable of feeling love. The painting was stolen sometime around the turn of the century by the Graeae, the trio of demonesses who were spawned from the ground together and who are now bound by their shared flesh and formidable magic.
† 623 bars of gold bullion
This weighty amount was the grand total stolen from the New Babylon Mint over the last three months. The thieves are reputed to be hiding somewhere around Rockthorn Gorge. Liberating the gold and returning it to the mint will take not only a Guardian but a small army of magic users prepared to battle the outlaws and then protect the heavy cargo on its way back through a dizzying array of steep, narrow mountain passes full of argopelters and hidebehinds.
† Gou Nan Jounen An
A.K.A. Rasha Pearl, a Hyrke courtesan and spy. Employed by the Office of the Executive since the age of eighteen, no woman is as well-educated or as well-traveled. She speaks almost as many demon languages as an Angel, she knows hundreds of exotic and erotic dances, and she’s been to nearly every regulare outpost – and not a few rogare hotspots. Problem? She acted as a double agent while doing so. Since the early 1990s, she passed all sorts of super sensitive Council information on to her rogare contacts. In 1997, she was arrested. But she escaped from her Maegester captors shortly thereafter and has been on the Council’s “Most Wanted” list ever since.
† 1 oz. each of blithe and bitters
Two fabled spices highly prized by the Mederi. One is a powerful aphrodisiac, nearly a love potion for those who use it, and the other is a sedative, one strong enough to keep someone asleep for a hundred years or more. Both spices are harvested from the same legendary tree, the Saeculi Spinae, which only grows in Halja’s western volcanic mountains – an area protected by the fierce, fiery djinn. The djinn’s price for just a pinch of blithe or bitters? Helping with the harvest.
† Lilith’s Last Resting Place
I’d found Lucifer’s Tomb two semesters ago, but the location of Luck’s lover’s gravesite was still unknown. History is clear that she survived Armageddon and lived for another two centuries or so. But the stories surrounding her death are wildly inconsistent. Some say she went north, beyond Rockthorn Gorge, toward Warja hoping to start another fight. Others say she went west and made a deal with the djinn to be sealed away in a room full of blithe and bitters forever. Still others say she went east and sailed off toward the Morning Star.
It would take far more than Luck’s blessing to find her remains…. or any of the other targets we racers were being asked to retrieve.
What about you? Do you type THE END at the end of your manuscripts? Are you in the midst of revisions now?
Are you taking any time off from work this winter? If so, what are you planning on reading? I hope everyone is having a nice December!