Thursday, December 22, 2011

How To Work With An Editor, Part 2

Previously, we talked about initiating the relationship between you (the author/creative person) and the editor, this morning I want to talk about what that relationship looks like in the day-to-day form.

Note: Not all editors function in this way, nor do they all use the same terminology or methods. If you're curious about how a particular editor works, ASK THEM.

Imagine this is Day 1 of working together. You've nervously emailed me your manuscript. And then you sit back and wait for the magical response emails to flood back at you. Maybe you're wondering what I'm doing to your manuscript. This is what I'm doing:

1. I'm chopping your manuscript into chapter/section-sized files, and making two copies. (Note: this is my method, other people....don't work this way)
2. On one copy, I'm double-spacing it and printing it out.
3. On the second copy, I'm working digitally.

For the print-out, I'm going through the pages by hand, circling and scribbling myself notes like:

"o.w." (one word) "hyphenate" "new paragraph" "no" "yes"

And then there's a series of furious underlines and symbols.

When I reach the end, I write questions, usually on the back of the last page. Questions like:

a) Did you mean for the two characters to be lovers?
b) How are you going to improve the next chapter, given that you've spent this chapter repeating yourself and not making any headway?
c) Where's the plot?
d) Which character am I supposed to be caring about?

For the digital copy, it's much the same thing, only this time, I make copious use of the 'Reviewing' Toolbar in Word.

Note: Only recently have I gotten into 'Track Changes' and it has made my work three to five times faster, allowing me to be more thorough in the comments.

Then, when the chapter is done, I email it to you. And at some point, should we meet in person, I'll also give you the hard copy with my handwritten notes on it.

This process repeats for all the chapters, until your book is done.

Depending though on what you've hired me for, you might also get some emails about particular issues I've found in your manuscript. These emails are basically lessons and examples of how to correct a particular flaw (like how to strengthen dialogue or how to build a better world readers will believe or something) or how to reduce your problems in the future.

Take a quick dance break. (DANCE DANCE DANCE WIGGLE WIGGLE)

So, how can you make this process easier?

I. Have a clear idea of what you think your manuscript's strengths and weaknesses are. The more you can put an somewhat objective finger on the inner workings of your manuscript, the easier it is for an editor to help you improve those areas.

II. Be honest about your manuscript. If you're not happy with pages 45 to 60, the time to tell me that is NOT when I'm about to start reading page 45. A little advance notice makes the editorial process so much easier.

III. Do the work. When you get these revisions back, it helps if you actually read them. It really helps if you actually implement them, but I'm not going to twist your should want your book/game/project/business/whatever to be better on your own -- if I have to prod you about your own project(s), then you may have other problems.

Hope that's helpful.

Happy writing.

Up next....your questions!