April 29, 2022: The Editing Process
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
When Nancy and I completed our first draft of HIS ONE WICKED DEED last October, the book weighed in at roughly 500 pages and over 135,000 words. Naivety swelled in our debut novelists’ hearts. Surely everyone will want to know exactly who the richest unmarried woman in the United States was and how she related to our story! And how about the background story of the bespoke tailor turned real estate developer who once held a mortgage on our murder victim’s first house? Why we certainly need to include him!
Our attention to detailing every interesting tidbit and fascinating historical morsel we unearthed during our research had gotten the better of us. Yet, undeterred and brimming with self-congratulatory pride, we reassured each other that once we found a good editor, we’d re-visit the manuscript. With his or her help, we would make the necessary cuts and revisions at that time. Many months and two major revisions later, we come to you with hat in hand, rather humbled by our experience.
We were lucky early on to find a writer’s group to critique our work and offer unfiltered advice. This challenged everything we thought we already knew, which turned out to be very little. Their recommendations were invaluable and led us to our first major round of revisions. At that point, we thought our book was perfect! We reduced the word count to roughly 108,000, and felt confident we’d successfully separated the wheat from the chaff. We were then fortunate enough to be recommended to an editorial advisor who provided us with further guidance as we leapt head-first into the query process.
And then the rejections started rolling in. What? This isn’t a good fit for you? Why, you’ve only read the first three chapters! Don’t you know it starts getting really good around chapter five? (Yes, we thought that very thing.) We now realize how very fortunate we were to have a publisher request our full manuscript fairly quickly. Whether it was out of some sense we had the makings of a good story, or recognizing she was dealing with two inexperienced authors who might need a little hand holding, she offered us the opportunity to go back and work on it again.
We fretted during the editing process—afraid we might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater—until a dear friend off-handedly remarked “sometimes it is better to throw out the baby and keep the bathwater.” And that is exactly what we both needed to hear at that moment. We can only assume many authors suffer the same … holding on for dear life to a paragraph, character, or chapter they have fallen in love with and deem necessary to the story. Simply put, we had to get over it, and do exactly what the editor was suggesting.
Now, our book stands at a healthy 85,000 words. It is much improved in every aspect than the previous versions we thought perfect. As it turns out, we were not the best arbiters to determine what could and would make our story a better experience for the reader. But we listened carefully, and took to heart the advice of those with the experience and wherewithal to know better. So, when we are asked to make changes on anything we write going forward, we will embrace the editing process with gusto, knowing what we write can always be made a bit better.