Last week I explained how my structural edits on my debut novel made me face my nemesis: the dreaded first chapter. I said that my next stage of editing – the line edits – would be just around the corner. Well, they arrived on Tuesday evening. Ooh. Next stage!
I’m pretty new to this being published malarkey. Before I got a publishing deal, I had no idea that there were two stages of edits or what they entailed. If I were to Google it, I’m sure there’d be a stack of information explaining the differences but, as I didn’t know they existed, I didn’t know to Google them. A classic case of you don’t know what you don’t know! For those who aren’t sure, here’s my take on it and apologies if it isn’t a perfect definition; it’s what it means from my experiences:
STRUCTURAL EDITS – As the name suggests, these are changes to the structure of your novel. These can be minor (like the couple I had where it was suggested the action at a couple of points didn’t seem to come to a close) or major like removing a sub-plot, changing the first chapter, making a character more likeable or villainous or changing the order of events.
LINE EDITS – Once the structural edits have been completed (which could involve some back and forth between author and editor), the line edits kick in. These are quite simply the editor working his or her way through the novel line by line, checking for typos, consistency, clunky sentences, grammatical errors and so on.
There should also be a proof-reading stage after this to correct any final typos and grammatical errors that may have slipped through the net.
I didn’t really know what I expected. My publisher had written me a covering email saying that there were very few changes in there and a lot of them were stylistic. I was therefore a little shocked when I opened the document to find the pages seemed to be littered with track changes. Panic! Had I really done that many things wrong? But as I started to systematically work my way through them, it wasn’t quite so bad as the same offenders kept cropping up again and again. For example, a … shouldn’t (for my publisher) have a space between the word and the dots … like I’ve just put there… when I should have done it like that. Actually, this may be an industry standard. My husband is a typesetter and I vaguely recall him saying something about this before… but I wasn’t really listening!
The thing that surprised me was commas. I always thought that I had a pretty good command of commas and it seems that I do… except when used in a sentence that contains the word ‘but’. Oops. I now wonder whether I’ve been taught incorrectly. Or is it that I’ve remembered incorrectly? I wanted to learn from my line edits and ensure that I wouldn’t submit my second MS with the same mistakes so I decided to use Mr Google to help me understand why my commas were in the wrong places. Sadly, the answers he gave confused me even more and we had a bit of a falling out (Mr Google and me; not my editor and me!) I will take some time out and see if I can understand it but not just yet as I know it’s going to give me brain-ache.
Another thing that has surprised me is that there are still typos in my MS! How? It’s been read and re-read so many times by so many people that I can’t believe they’ve still snuck in there! No wonder it’s so common to pick up or download a book these days and spot one or two that have slipped through the net. Mind you, I’ve read some books recently that are littered with them and feel so sorry for the author as that should surely have been picked up before publication. The most random one had been spotted by one of The Write Romantics who kindly read Steven for me recently. She spotted the mention of ‘predicative text’. PredicAtive? Where on earth had that come from? Neither my editor nor I had spotted it but, thanks to Sharon, it’s now corrected. I must have read the MS dozens of times yet I’ve never, ever noticed it. Mind you, had Sharon not picked it up, it would have been spotted at the proof-reading stage.
My line edits took me longer than I expected, but this is because I made the decision to properly read it again, line for line. Searching for Steven is book one in a trilogy and I’ve finished the first draft of the third book. Whilst writing the second and third part in the trilogy, characters and plot points have developed but in ways that I need to reflect in book 1. Mainly these are little things e.g. I needed to change the job of a character slightly to fit with something that happens in book 3, and I’ve decided I don’t like the name of the village that my hero in book 2 lives in so I wanted to change that. He’s meant to live in a pretty chocolate-box village and the name I’d given it – South Edgeton – sounded anything but cute village.
Last night I sent my edits and comments back to my publishers. There’ll be a bit of back and forth as I’ve raised a few questions but, once this is finalised, I’m really on my way. The book will get typeset and versions will be available for reviewers which is both thrilling and terrifying at the same time!
That’s it for now. If anyone knows a great source of information about use of commas in a sentence containing ‘but’, please shout!
PS Apologies for the lack of pictures but I couldn’t think of any relevant pictures for this post!