Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The proof is the cherry on top of the pudding it's in, or something

In the last few weeks I have before The Queenschair is born into the real world (i.e. becomes available for purchase in both physical and digital form), I've busy with my final edits. Although the book has undergone 5-6 full edits since the first draft was completed in June 2012, this is it. The REAL ONE. The one that counts, because afterwards some actual living, breathing strangers might actually read it. It has to be as close to perfect as I can possibly get it, and that's a lot of pressure as I scrutinize every single word and every page layout.

Note: The below was written after I finished the editing process. I survived! And more importantly, the book did, too.

I think every writer's editing process varies widely, just as much as their writing processes themselves. There might be a whole lot of authors who don't edit at all; I sure hope I never come across one of their books, because I don't see how that could ever be a good thing. Some edit and rewrite and end up with trash cans full of scrunched up paper (or so the TV shows would have us believe); some do a few quick rounds of revision and are ready to go. And many seek outside help to polish the book.

My own editing process truly began in June 2012 when the first draft of The Queenschair was completed, even though I'd gone back and done some revisions during the writing process. For the next 2 years I read through the whole thing maybe 5-6 times, making changes here and there. My friend Ivy, a terrific professional editor, read one of the early drafts and made lots of significant recommendations, which also helped teach me how to self-edit.

In both 2013 and 2014 I had to pare down the word count for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition (150K limit in 2013, 125K limit in 2014), so those were pretty intense rounds of editing. After not advancing all that far in either year, I went back to my longer "director's cut" version of the book, which I liked a whole lot better anyway.

In April 2014 I began ordering printed proofs through Amazon's Createspace, where you can set up your book to be printed on demand. The experience of holding your own printed out novel was pretty amazing...and then the real work began. Over the next few months, as I set my sights on self-publishing The Queenschair by October and finally putting it out there in the Real World, I scrutinized several printed versions.

And on September 12, I received what I considered to be the very last one - this was the one that I would really go line by line and make it "perfect" as could be. If there were any mistakes left after this round of editing, the world was going to see them.

So I was real careful. Across the roughly 480 pages of The Queenschair, I estimate that I made around 1200 changes, highlighting them in pink marker and writing them in pen before revising the Word doc at the end of each chapter. About 15 of those were straight-up typos, like missing quotations marks or phantom periods. The rest were all stylistic or preference-related changes; yup, I'm quite a nit-picker! What was amazing to me was that I'd never noticed them during previous read-throughs. It can't be understated: you haven't really gone through your book until you've tackled the printed proof.

Have pink highlighter. Will edit for food, or Amazon credit

On September 30, after countless hours of staring at cream-colored pages and marking them up in festive pink, I was done. There are still mistakes in the book. Don't ask me how I know that; I just know. But this is as good as it gets without performance-enhancing drugs or professional therapy, and I think it's pretty darn good and on par with anything you'll find in any book put out by the major publishers. I put in the work, I did my best to create a professional product...and I'll look forward to hearing what you think!

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