May 28, 2014

After The Call: The Edit Letter ... Dun dun dun!













"After the Call" is a semi-regular feature on my blog. It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, what the submission process is like, working with your editor, etc. For previous posts, please click on the "After The Call" button at the top of the page.

After a super long hiatus, I thought it'd be fun to resurrect this series! Truth be told, I never meant to put a halt to "After The Call" but I sort of ran out of things to talk about since I hadn't yet pushed past the agented stage and then I got pregnant and could only thing about cookies. But now that the baby is born and I've eaten most of the world's supply of cookies, I decided that I needed to resurrect After The Call. So here we are!

Today's topic: THE EDIT LETTER! Dun dun dun!

First up, what exactly is the edit letter? Basically, it's a list—often quite a long list—of revisions that your editor suggests for your book. I only have experience with one edit letter, compiled by my lovely and wicked smart editor Jody Corbett, and it consisted of:
1. An email with both macro editorial suggestions, like character arcs and overall pacing, as well as smaller micro edits, like reworking a specific scene. 
2. In-line edits within my manuscripts, which hashed out world-building details, finessing dialogue, etc. 
In short, my book underwent a MAJOR overhaul! Even though I had rewritten it three times based on my beta readers' and agent's notes, Jody's revision letter forced me to dig really deep into this story, pulling it apart and putting it back together again until ANOMALY (the original title) turned into THE ONLY THING TO FEAR (the new and fresh title that Jody came up with. I owe her my second-born child basically!). 

A good editor can take a decent book and make it great, sort of like how a good house flipper can turn a tear-me-down into the neighborhood crown jewel. In my case, Jody took a manuscript that required a lot of work and helped me to make it stronger, more concise, more actionable. Simply put, she made it more. Any failings in the final product are mine and mine alone. 

But here's the thing, do all editorial letters look the same? Not really! Edit letters are a strange beast, and they come in all shapes and sizes. A friend of mine had an editor who gave only small notes, like a few line edits here and there before the manuscript was sent to copy edits. On the other end of the spectrum, another friend worked with an editor who liked to be very involved in the entire writing process. They would even brainstorm plot points over the phone before my friend tackled her rough draft. (They were contracted for multiple books.) 

So your own edit letter will be just that: yours. Every letter is different because every editor is different and every book is different. Some projects will require a lot of overhauling—I've heard of letters spanning over 30 pages!—while others will need only a polish, although this is usually rare from what I understand. And here's another thing: oftentimes you will receive more than one edit letter. Your manuscript might undergo two, three, or even more revisions under your editor's watch before you're green-lit to pass into the copyediting phase, which is a beast in it of itself. That's one thing I didn't quite grasp until I worked with Jody. I thought I'd tackle one revision letter and that would be that. Fin! But no ... we worked on my manuscript for four or five months—it's all a blur now! I was revising while pregnant!—until I graduated to copyedits. And that was quite the happy day for me, full of many, many cookies. What else?!

Well, the Baby Overlord is squawking so I need to run, but feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I'll answer them as soon as I can! Also, I'd love to hear about your own experiences with revision letters. How long do yours typically run? How do you and your editor work? And how did you survive?

No comments:

Post a Comment