It’s one thing to write a book. It’s quite another to edit it, and it requires a particular blend of patience and stubbornness!
I have been working on my historical romance series for years and it has now gone through several edits. There have been six or seven major ones, although certain sections have been edited up to twenty times, especially those opening three chapters of the first book which are so crucial to hooking the interest of a potential agent or publisher.
How does one edit? I’m sure every writer has a different approach so I’m just going to talk about what works for me.
Have you ever taken a piece of scrunched-up tinfoil, maybe a Roses sweet wrapper, and smoothed it out until all the creases are gone? That’s the way I look at editing. The scene is all scrunched up but I’ll go to the beginning of it and smooth out the first crease. That may create more creases as I go along, but I’ll keep smoothing it out and smoothing it out until the scene flows as it should.
Some days it definitely feels like this scene from Father Ted…
As an editor, the CTRL+F function in MS Word is my best friend. Consistency is key so if I want to check that I’ve used a word the same way throughout the text (for example, ‘enquire’ as opposed to ‘inquire’) CTRL+F will help me locate every time that word appears. This comes in especially handy when I want to change a character’s name. Or when I belatedly discover that ‘hello’ wasn’t actually in common usage in the early 1800s.
28 changes later…
Back in February of this year, I gave my first book to a friend to read and she offered me some very helpful feedback. She felt that my main female character was – uh oh! – not likeable. In a romance, this is not good. So I sat down with the whole manuscript and edited it again with that point in mind. This required a shift in perspective that went down to very minute details. It was probably the hardest edit I’ve ever done but I really believe it improved the story overall. (Special thanks to my friend for pointing me in the right direction!)
Of course, the changes I made in the first book had a knock-on effect on the second and third books so that was my next editing task. Now that I’ve completed them I’ll probably do another overall edit across the whole series. An editor’s work is never done!