Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Diary of a Deadline - Time To Do It Right

I don't know about other writers, but when I get to the point in a manuscript where I know the finish is just around the bend at the top of the next small hill, I stop and take a breather. That doesn't mean I stop working on my WIP, but that I change gears and go back to the beginning and start editing, even though I'm not done with the book.


Because I want to make sure the story flows well and the facts fit before I head towards the finish line and tie everything up. This is where I make sure red herrings are in place, facts are presented but not too obvious, the timeline is practical, and the characters are behaving as they should, so that when I get to the finish it all makes sense and is satisfying to my readers.

And that's where I am right now in JUNK IN THE TRUNK.

I do it for every book.

And this is not the final edit before I turn the manuscript in. This is just my usual U-turn to retrace my steps. When I've finished editing the book and return to the place where I stopped adding new material, I'll continue on to the finish, then go back and edit AGAIN before hitting the send button to my editor. This final edit is where I check for typos, grammatical errors and clumsy sentences.

Once, when I was talking to a writers' group, I mentioned this process and another writer quipped, "That's what editors are for."

No. No. No. A thousand times NO!
An editor is not your maid or your mother.
It's not their job to pick up after you.

Editors are professionals who buy your books, then work with you to make them the best they can be before they get into the hands of the public. Before submitting a manuscript, every author should make sure it's the best it can be. Sure, you'll miss a few typos, and there might be some rough patches in the story. A good editor will catch those and give you suggestions on how to smooth them out, but editors are not there to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Tip of the Day:
Turning in slipshod manuscripts can end your career.

That's right. I'm working on my 10th Odelia Grey novel (my 19th contracted novel overall), yet I take the same, if not BETTER, care to turn in the best manuscript I can. I will do the same with the next book, and the next. No matter which book, series or publisher, I offer up the best I can. It makes for less work for all of us during the publishing process. 

Consider this: with publishing as chaotic as it is and with so many authors vying for so few spots, unless you are raking in buckaroonies for your publisher, why would they keep a lazy, sloppy author?  If your manuscripts take a lot of handholding, you might find yourself without future contract offers.  It's really that simple. Publishers want professional writers ... period. So be as professional in your writing as you can be.

One of my favorite quotes.
And this is also true if you are self-published or independently published. You may not have to answer to a publisher or editor, but you do have to answer to your reading public.  I have read a lot of great self-published books. Books that are well written, well edited and produced professionally. Yet, I have read more self-published books that felt slapped together. Continue doing that and it won't be a publisher pulling the plug on your writing career, it will be your readers.

Another thing to consider is time.  I'm under contract to write two books a year for two different publishers.  People are always asking me how I manage to do this and hold down a full-time job. Well, by turning in a very clean and well structured manuscript the first time, there is no need to go back and forth with editors except for the usual editing process, which tends to be minor. There are no time-sucking rewrites if  you do your best the first time around.

Every writer self-edits differently. I tend to do rolling edits. I write about ten to twenty pages or a chapter or two, then edit them before moving forward. Then near the end of the book I do this U-turn editing routine. When I finish the book, it's well edited, except for the final check for typos. Other writers finish a book totally before going back to edit. They might do several full drafts before they turn it in, saving each draft as a different version. Some authors even hire free-lance editors to check their work.  All are valid methods because we all have the same goal - to produce the best manuscript possible before it's published. Try a couple of methods and find what works best for you.

I should finish this editing U-turn by the Friday morning, then I'll be pushing to the end and the final chapters. I can't wait!


Christopher Hudson said...

To your final sentence: neither can we!
You go, girl!
Thanks (again) for all the writing and all the behind-the -scenes insights.

Claire said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who edits continually throughout. So often I hear people say, just keep writing. But that can lead you off into a long tangent that goes nowhere and wastes your time.

Thanks for the clarity on what an editor is not - very helpful.

Connie Archer said...

Great post, Sue Ann! Have you sent the link to your editor? I know she'd appreciate it!