by Paula Eykelhof, longtime editor for author Tara Taylor Quinn
Tara thought it might be interesting for you to hear from an editor—specifically her editor—on exactly what the editorial process entails.
I can only speak from what I’ve experienced and observed—which is that the successful editor-author relationship is a complicated and always very interesting one. It’s a professional relationship but it’s probably unlike most other professional relationships you might have. Because, inevitably, there’s a significant personal element, too. It requires honesty and immense trust, and that goes both ways.
So, you already know what the author does, right? At least in general terms. What part does the editor play? I’ll try to describe it using The Chapman Files as an example.
First of all, of course, the editor acquires books—and very often they haven’t been written yet! (So, in a sense, we’re acquiring the idea of a book. Or, rather, for a book.) In the case of The Chapman Files, the whole thing started with a conversation. I told Tara I wanted to see a story, a series, that had the same emotional intensity her Supers are known for, as well as action and genuine suspense. We talked back and forth for a while as she worked out the idea. The starting point was the character of Kelly Chapman, a psychologist in a small Ohio town, modeled on the town in which Tara’s currently living. Kelly, as you’ll realize if you’ve read the books so far, is the link from one story to the next (although I assure you they can all be read independently). Needless to say, this character had to be very clearly thought out—her circumstances and her background and how they influenced her personality and beliefs.
Next, Tara sent a few chapters of the first book, the Superromance titled The First Wife. That title, by the way, emerged naturally from the story—which led, just as naturally, to the other 3 titles. I read those chapters, asked some questions, made some suggestions, and then she got to work revising them and finishing the book.
Also worth noting is the fact that we’ve done something quite unusual in creating a series that actually begins in one of our romance lines.
At any rate, when I got the complete manuscript I read it for further revisions (and meanwhile, Tara was working up the proposal for The Second Lie, which she’d already been thinking about). The bigger revisions I asked for included clarification of certain situations and motivations (particularly on the part of the story’s heroine, Jane), some streamlining of plot and a heightening of the suspense. I felt that the use of first person in the Kelly segments, with third for all the other characters, was effective. I also had a number of smaller questions and requests, which I presented as page notes.
Then it was Tara’s turn again, and meanwhile I had the proposal for The Second Lie to read… And so on, right down to the revision of The Fourth Victim.
The actual line editing is a process that involves a very close read. Editors look at every word, every line, every paragraph. We concern ourselves with the individual components of the story as well as the whole. As you might expect, any grammatical, word use and punctuation problems are dealt with. Style issues are a significant part of what we deal with at this stage. These can include overuse of certain words, phrases, devices and so on. Anything that’s unintentionally awkward is addressed. So is lack of clarity—that’s major. And transitions between one thought or action and the next. We confirm (or ask the author to) accuracy of information. An editor also makes sure that dialogue is believable and appropriate to the character. And story details, logic, unanswered questions, consistency of characterization, pacing that lags and so on—these are elements that would have been addressed in the revision but they’re things we look at during this stage, too. Basically, we make sure the story works… in the big ways and all the small ones.
That’s a succinct and extremely general description of a line edit. I should add that an editor is also aware of each author’s particular style and “voice”; it’s something we never lose sight of.
Once the edit is done, it goes to a copy editor (at this company, most are freelance—I have one I prefer, as many of us do). The Editorial Managers handle this. At the same time, a copy of the line-edited manuscript goes to the author; she deals with any questions the editor may have had and has the opportunity to approve changes (or revise them). Then, when the editor has both the copy edit and the author’s corrections, he or she marries them (so to speak) and the manuscript goes to Production. A few weeks after that—moving right along here—the author and editor will receive a galley (in electronic form these days); this is the final chance to make alterations, although there shouldn’t be too many by this stage. The manuscript receives two proofreads.
You can see that a lot of people besides the author and editor touch any given project. Besides the Editorial and Production departments, that includes Art and Retail Marketing, to name two, who are involved in the packaging process. While the editorial work is being completed, the editors also attend cover briefings and prepare copy. Creating the “package” also goes through a number of stages.
The editor and author really do work in tandem from start to finish. Tara’s always been a committed participant in the editorial process. She’s the best kind of author to edit: Reasonable, cooperative, appreciative and with a strong sense of her own stories, her own characters.
Hmm…I’m beginning to think someone should have edited this blog–especially for pacing! Hope you’ve found it useful and/or interesting. Let me know if you have any questions.
There’s an item from my new book, The Third Secret, hidden on the tour with us. Guess the item to enter the drawing to win it! Today’s clue: They’re pretty hard to break. Send all guesses to email@example.com. To see previous clues visit blog sites listed at http://www.tarataylorquinn.com/.
Guess as many times as you’d like!
Don’t miss The Chapman File tour party on December 4th at http://www.eharlequin.com/! We’re giving away a KOBO e-reader and many other cool prizes! All you have to do to be entered to win is leave comments on the tour!
Next tour stop: Tuesday, November 16, 2010. eHarleqiun Community Superromance Authors Blog. We hope to see you back here! The more blogs you visit with us, the more chances you have to win! Every time you comment your name is dropped in the bag for the prize drawings.