O! The Editing Process!

Amid all the excitement surrounding the Independent Book Publishers Association award, I haven’t yet fulfilled my promise of discussing what it’s like to edit a book and then have it edited.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned along the way to seeing Ripped: A Jack the Ripper Time-Travel Thriller published, it’s that second-guessing yourself is the enemy. I wrote. I rewrote. I rewrote again. And again. After the eleventh (twelfth? But who’s counting?) draft, I checked it against my very first draft and found they were amazingly similar.

My initial reaction was often the correct reaction. And so, going with my gut, I changed the first chapter yet again at the eleventh hour (with the publisher’s staff waiting for me to finish . . .).

I also discovered that writers probably shouldn’t give their books to too many people to read. The book gets torn to pieces (in the nicest terms and with the best of intentions), and the writer becomes insecure. I found it’s not a good idea to drive a book in directions that follow other people’s maps!

Writers’ groups are different. They don’t try to steer you to a place you don’t want to go. While they provide helpful advice, they respect you as the author.

During the last phase, you need a professional editor. You need to trust the editor and trust the process. The editor is not the enemy. The editor wants what you want—a good book—so there’s no need for an adversarial relationship. I counted on my editor, Nan Fornal, to catch grammatical mistakes, factual errors, and more.

And in the final moments of the project, I found that I had to let go as the author, and just let Nan do her job.

—Shelly

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