I talked before about the first stages of editing, from pre-round edits, to cover copy, to round one content edits. We attacked details with gusto, but moving into copy edits and final line edits, the details went microscopic. Clarity of prose, sensitivity of subject matter, echo words, punctuation—we looked at every sentence as through a magnifying glass.
It was worth all the debates over word choices—via email and in the comment column of Word’s Track Changes. The end result, we hope, is a seamless read. The reader stays engrossed in the experience of the book. Any spot where she could be “taken out of the story” and put the book down has been smoothed over. We want her to not close the book until the end, and then, be so sad it’s over that she’s itching for the next one. Hence the stress over detail that goes into editing.
Everything needs to be clear. No image or idea difficult to grasp, no sentence needing a re-read. No stumbling. To identify and fix any spot that makes perfect sense in my head, but makes a reader say, “Huh?”
In the effort to create similes and fresh writing, I often use non-traditional verbs. Sometimes it works well. Other times…not so much. Like debating if “her eyes glowed” invokes a literal sense of paranormal eyes glowing in the dark, or if simply saying “her eyes brightened” would be clearer. Clarity, that’s where the emphasis is. If it could be construed the wrong way, we altered it to make the language as clear as possible.
There were times when my instincts fought the idea. I liked “eyes glowing”— it reflected the emotion the character was experiencing. But when I looked at it again, I could see my editor was right. If it could potentially distract the reader, we needed to change it.
Words become “echo words” when they repeat multiple times in a short period. Sometimes this is intentional, like in a rhetorical device. Example: “She loved her home, she loved her job, but most of all, she loved being independent.” Here “She loved…” is repeated three times for emphasis. It’s an intentional rhetorical device, not an echo word or phrase.
However, if I were to use the verb “spin” three time on the same page, or even in the same chapter, unintentionally, that would be an echo word. It could annoy the reader, so we want to reduce the use of echo words as much as possible. They’re pesky buggers. It seemed on every pass through, no matter how hard I looked, I found more.
In any story, characters express beliefs in reaction to places, people, and events. The tricky part comes in making sure none of those opinions are offensive to a reader.
Many will say, “You can’t please everyone,” which is true, and toward the end, I developed some paranoia about my words being potentially offensive. But it’s my responsibility as an author to “Do no harm”. We altered many passages with respect for a variety of readers in mind.
After my editor and I agonized over the manuscript in our two passes, it was time to let our copy editor take her turn. I’ve heard from other authors how difficult this process can be, and after spending hundreds of hours writing a book, and then dozens more editing, it can feel almost insulting to have someone go through line by line and nitpick every tiny detail.
It can be headache inducing. Especially when what we’re worried about most are the characters and the story engaging the reader. The copy editor is there to look for mistakes.
The detail in the decisions was nauseating, eyeball rolling at times. It was easy to forget while sweating over commas and semicolons that these edits are about making my book the best it can be. About polish and shine and professionalism. And I’m grateful to the people who help it to become that.
Final Line Edits
The trouble was, as soon as the copy edits were done, I wanted them back. We were on to Final Line Edits—and the point of no return.
Final Line Edits are it. After that, there’s nothing to be done. It’s set in stone. Concrete. No other changes allowed. Scary. As sick as I was of doing the copy edits, the idea of never being able to fix anything in the book ever again, that any mistake left over would be permanent… I did a lot of sweating that night. It still makes me nervous.
The book is done. It’s out of my control. Any spots left over that might take the reader out of the book, well, they’re there to stay. Hopefully, they’re as few as possible.
I have to focus my need to write and edit on other projects now. This four month lag time between finishing the final edits and my release day should be easy, but it’s not.
The only thing left for me to do between now and the release date on July 5th…
To be continued . . .
Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.
She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.