Writers Helping Writers: How many edits does it take to make a novel?

It’s been some time since you’ve hidden your glorious first draft from yourself. You have created enough distance from it to be objective and ready to fix what needs to be fixed. It’s time to edit!

Now, your instinct will be to jump right in and start changing stuff. Don’t. Give yourself time to read through the story without making any changes. The reason for this is that when you start changing things, it will send a ripple effect throughout the novel. It is best to understand where all the changes will take place and how it will affect the rest of the story. Keep a separate document for your editing notes during this initial editing read through. Note down page numbers and what you need to address. It can be as big as complete plot change or as little as a spelling fix. This means as you read, you are creating a list of things to address in your edit. It will help guide your edits and make sure all of those ripples are accounted for.

When you are done with the initial read through, save your first draft into a separate document. This will be the first edit document. I personally like to keep versions of my stories by edits so I can see the progression. This is in case I change my mind about deleting that plot point. I can go back to the original and salvage what’s already been written and edit it into the newer edited version. Believe me, it happens more than you think. Plus it’s fun to see how far you come along the editing process. You can see how the manuscript transforms.

When I am ready to start actually changing things, I tend to go chapter by chapter and address the big things first. This means the plot changes, character reactions, prose clean up, etc. One of the absolute biggest things is the concept of “show, don’t tell”. More or less this means not telling the reader what’s going on, but showing the reader through descriptions, character actions/reactions and body language. A good way to look at it is that you are painting a picture with your words. Your words are being translated into images in each reader’s mind, so why not get as descriptive as possible? Instead of writing “Chloe was upset”, show what that means. “Chloe’s fingertips were white with the pressure of pressing into her hips. Her eyes narrowed into suspicious slits as she cut off his stammering excuses with an angry exhalation.” See the difference?

            So how many edits need to happen to make a coherent novel? A whole bunch. Not only do you have to go through it (I recommend at least three times), you then hand it over to one or two trusted people. These people need to be ones you trust and have a very strong friendship with because if they are worth their salt as editors, they will rip your beloved manuscript apart. You take your time to heal from their edits and realize that what they are saying is intended to make your work even better than it was before. You edit again with their feedback, rinse and repeat. How many times? Well, it depends. You will know when it is ready for the final clean up edits.

            Next, you give the story to a few beta readers. More on them in a later blog post though.   The last stage of editing is giving it to a professional editor for either content or line/copy edits. It is up to you and your budget for how much in-depth editing you want the professional to do. Because I have two very trusted friends who can find a content error like a shark can find blood, I usually have my (absolutely fabulous) editor, Beth, do copy edits- meaning grammar, spelling, etc.

            The whole process can take months or even a whole year depending on how busy your editors are. Have patience. Remember, this is when your draft becomes a novel. It is being polished and perfected. Consider this the labor of bringing a fully ready manuscript into the world and no one ever said giving birth was easy. In the end, you will have a beautiful new novel to present to the world.

Happy Editing!


Writers Helping Writers: You finished your first draft! Now what?

You did it! You actually finished your first draft! Congratulations! Welcome to the 3% of writers who actually DO finish that first draft! It was a long road to get here. There was the beginning where everything seemed to go well. Then you hit the middle where you got a bit bored. You had to push yourself through obvious plot holes you didn’t realize you had until you were upon them. Then there were the several plot twists that you weren’t planning for. The days where you didn’t even want to look at the story, days where you couldn’t even get to the story, characters not wanting to do what their told and yet not giving you anything else to go on. Finally, the end where you finally said “screw it, I’ll edit this into something decent later”. I understand. I have been there myself.

So, now that you have a first draft, you are ready to begin editing, right?


Here’s what you are going to do. Put the manuscript away. Hide it in a file on your laptop, bury the notebook in the bill drawer, and forget about it. Seriously. You need to put some distance between you and that work in progress STAT.

The reason for this is that you are still too close to the project. Editing a novel, especially your own, is a completely different mindset than writing. If you begin editing as soon as you are done writing, it will defeat the purpose, which is to break through all of those plot holes, clean up that shoddy prose, and flesh out that one scene you just didn’t want to right that one time. If you don’t allow yourself time and space from your magnificent work of art, you aren’t going to be able to see where you need to touch it up.

So, forget about your story for a while. Go do something else. Catch up on real life for a bit. Start a new story. Read some books. Just give yourself a month or two away from your work in progress. I promise, it is the best thing for it.

Trust me, it's better this way.


Publishing A Book AKA: Emotional Rollercoaster From Hell

Azra kindly let me take over the blog this week (don’t worry. He’ll be back next Tuesday). I’m in the final stages of publishing Legend of the Strega and, let me tell you, I am so ready for it to be done. At this point, I am just tired of waiting. I’m not a particularly patient person and this part of the process always has me on edge.

If you’ve ever published a book, you understand.

For those of you who haven’t, let me take you through the steps that has been this book and you can get a glimpse of what indie authors all over the world have to deal with.

1.       Write the story. This is the biggest part of writing. You HAVE to write! If you finish a first draft, you statistically closer to publishing the book. So many people give up on this very important first step. Legend of the Strega took about 2 years of me fiddling with it before it was ready for someone else to read.

Time: 2 years

2.       Editing your story. I am SUPER lucky in that I have amazing friends who aren’t scared to tell me what they really think. When I think my story is ready for public consumption, I send it to them first. They. Rip. It. Apart. Which is great because I know every criticism they have will only make the piece better. It takes me some time not to be salty about it (average is 3 days), but in the end, I know it is for the best. For Legend of the Strega, this process took a little over a year. This is because they had other obligations and timing was off. I also record the story in audio form for my husband to listen to. He is another one who gives me the hard line criticism that’s bound to make me not want to look at him. Again. In the end, it just makes the story better.

Time: 1 year

3.       Once all of the edits have been put in, it’s time for beta reader feedback. These people are amazing. They represent your general audience and read your story in order to tell you what they think as a reader. They are the ones that can tell you if that joke on page 54 is actually funny. For an author just starting out, these people are hard to find. Sometimes you have to bamboozle them into reading your story (sorry, Brad). Legend of the Strega was lucky to have someone really want to read it; a good friend of mine who already had a TON going on, but decided to help me out anyway. This process took about two months.

Time: 2 months

4.       Line Editing. It’s a good idea to have someone who knows grammar and sentence structure better than you look over the words you’ve committed to paper. A good line editor can make or break a book. For Legend of the Strega, my line editor (LOVE HER!) gave me a window of 15 days all through which I bit my nails in anticipation. Was it horrible? How many edits did she have to make? Why is it taking so long if I know how to write? Wait. Maybe I don’t know how to write. I can’t start all over! I have to get this project done! What if I have too many commas and she thinks I’m a jerk now? GAH!

Time: 15 days

5.       Now, your line edits are in and you’ve deleted all of the excess commas and adverbs. It’s time to format your word document into something resembling a physical book. If you don’t know what you are doing, be prepared to spend a LOT of time on Google figuring out how to eliminate widows and orphans. Also, pagination, embedding fonts, page breaks vs section breaks, alternating headers, adjusting the margins for the gutter, converting to the right kind of PDF, and if you have pictures, making them happen. This is one of the most frustrating parts to the process. You are tempted to just settle for what is fine. Don’t. Summon up the patience to make it exactly what you want. It will be worth it. I’ve spent the last weekend doing this for Legend of the Strega.

Time: 2 days

6.       Cover Art and ISBNs. The size of your cover art depends on the size of the interior. Most places will help with a template. I get my art locally. Depending on their timeframe, you are looking at a month to three or so. Luckily, my artist kicks ass and had my cover art and title logo done months ago. All I had to do was send him the template and he formatted it for me. ISBN- I bought mine through Bowker. It is fairly simple to generate a barcode from their website. I sent that on over to my artist and he made it all come together beautifully. The art process took about three month’s total, even though I did the initial art part while Legend of the Strega was being edited.

Time: 3 months

7.       Submitting your interior and cover files into the distributor. Each distributor is different. Mine is fairly simple. They have a style guide and will let you know if your files are messed up. The thing is that the process takes 2-3 business days. This is the part I am at. Waiting for the system to send me an e-proof. I’m so ready to be done! There’s just a couple more steps though.

Time: 3 days

8.       Getting your e-proof and ordering your print proof. Once the system sends you the e-proof, go over it with a fine tooth comb. Seriously. Make sure everything looks good, no pages are missing, etc. If there are things wrong, you have to go back to formatting and converting to PDF. Not. Fun. However, if it is right then you can order your print proof! I really recommend this step. Ordering the print proof is a good idea to have it in your hands so you can see things that are not visible on the computer screen. Like, are your gutters too wide? Did something cut off mid-sentence? Is your cover art the right color? When you get your proof, give yourself at least two days to go over it. Take your time and make sure it’s right.

Time: 4 days

9.       If all goes well, then you are ready to order your first print run (YAY!!!) and wait for the shipping (#$%*@!). Depending on how much you want to spend, shipping can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. The good news is that after that, you are done waiting and you can get out there and make the world read it!

Time: 6 weeks

Total time for Legend of the Strega:  3 years, 7 months, and 6 days.

It’s worth it.