Editing is Completed: I’m Almost Ready to Publish

I’m excited to report that I’ll soon have a publishing date for In the Fullness of Time: One Woman’s Story of Growth and Empowerment. A sequel to Hattie’s Place, the book is about Hattie Robinson Barton’s struggle to reconcile her life as a wife and mother with her passion for women’s rights and the equal suffrage movement of 1914-1920. Here’s an update on my progress since September. http://www.fortheloveofwriting.net/off-the-grid/

It’s Never Really Finished

I never feel like my writing is finished, but in September I reached the point where I couldn’t add to or delete anything from the story that would enhance it, without submitting it to the fresh eyes of an editor. I’d used the Kirkus Review author services with Hattie’s Place, was pleased with the results, and decided to go with them again. http://www.fortheloveofwriting.net/editing-my-novel/

For In the Fullness of Time, I chose the Professional Editing Package, which includes three rounds of editing to make the manuscript ready for self-publishing. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/editing-services/services/

Having purchased the package, I uploaded the manuscript onto my author dashboard and waited to receive the first edit, which was scheduled to be completed on October 11.

Phase 1: Collaborative Edit

When the edited manuscript was ready, I received an e-mail with a link to my author dashboard, with two documents attached:  (1) a memo from the editor with general feedback and specific notes on elements such as structure, grammar and style, formatting, and notes about historical context and (2) the edited manuscript ready for download. I also received instructions for setting up a one-hour consulting session with my editor after I’d incorporated the suggested changes.

All edits are tracked in the document using Microsoft Word’s tracking changes function, making it easy to accept or reject each editorial comment. In terms of content, very little re-writing needed to be done, a departure from Hattie’s Place, in which whole sections including the ending had to be rewritten.

Most of the suggestions related to consistency in grammar and style and were easy to fix–e.g., use of serial commas, correction of linguistic anachronisms, rules for spelling out numbers, and verb tenses changed from simple past to past perfect to signal flashbacks. Some re-formatting was required to even out chapter lengths and to help with clarity on when certain events occurred.

I made the corrections, completed the consulting session, and uploaded the revised manuscript in less than ten days.

Phase 2: Copyediting 

Based on my experience with Hattie’s Place, I anticipated the next edit would require only minor technical revisions. The content issues having been addressed, the only thing left would be cleaning up any missed or repeated words, making certain the grammar and syntax were in order, and formatting the text for publication. However, this editor proved more heavy-handed than the last, reversing the revisions of the prior editor regarding use of verb tense with flashbacks, and making a number of word replacements and deletions in the dialogue that I considered inconsistent with the characters’ personalities.

I was jarred by some of the comments and began to question whether this second editor had understood the early nineteen-hundreds southernness of the characters I’d created in Hattie’s Place and was now following in In the Fullness of Time. On the other hand, I worried that perhaps it was I who had misunderstood how to communicate the intricacies of my characters to my readers.

I was determined to remain open to all editorial suggestions and to avoid taking a defensive posture. I still have so much to learn about writing and want to take advantage of every opportunity to improve my work through constructive criticism. At the same time, I felt that this second editor, and to a lesser degree the first, had missed the connection between the two books.

I finally decided to contact the editorial director at Kirkus and express my concerns. She responded immediately with great understanding and an offer to assign the manuscript to a third editor at no additional cost. Although my publishing time line was delayed by several weeks, the solution proved to be of great benefit in that the copy editor for Hattie’s Place, who had previously been tied up on another job, was now available to work on In the Fullness of Time. Her familiarity with Hattie’s Place became the bridge for maintaining consistency between  the original book and its sequel.

I received the added benefit of the option to retain suggestions that the second editor had made on how to streamline the flow of the narrative and heighten the dramatic stakes in specific areas. He really was quite helpful, despite my disagreement with him over some of the words he wanted me to replace in the dialogue. I just didn’t think my characters would have used those words and felt I knew them better than he did.

I’m convinced that four types of revisions he suggested and I implemented resulted in signifiant improvement in both the narrative and the dialogue of In the Fullness of Time. I’ll remember those suggestions and incorporate them into future novels.

(1) Use contractions in informal dialogue whenever possible.

(2) In dialogue, where characters speak of events that have already occurred to catch the reader up or set up a dramatic situation they are about to go into by detailing its history, structure as background sections in the regular part of the narrative.

(3) Edit passive voice when possible to avoid dulling the prose. I thought I’d done this, but was amazed by the number of lapses into passive voice, when the editor pointed them out, and pleased with the results when I revised them to active voice.

(4) Use past perfect tense to signal a flashback, but revert to simple past after a sentence or two to avoid awkward language.

My third copyeditor, the one who had also worked on Hattie’s Place, is meticulous in spotting errors in grammar, spelling, and technical inconsistency. Since those are my areas of weakness, I found her input to be invaluable.

She checked every historical reference for dates, proper spelling, accuracy of usage, and linguistic anachronisms. For example, she noted that the first reference to bananas Foster and mimosas and the term “take charge” came at a later date than when my story took place. I substituted basked Alaska for the bananas Foster, champagne for the mimosas, and “assertive” for “take charge.”

This editor constructed a timeline for every chapter, listed every name and place mentioned in the book, and pointed out inconsistencies in dates. For example: “You mentioned that Richard was nine, but in Hattie’s Place you said he was born in 1904, which would make him ten in 1914.” She also kept track of the chronology of events and suggested revisions at critical points where the reader might be confused about the time and place of a given scene. She had internalized the facts and details of my story more thoroughly than I had, and I wrote the damn thing! Scary, but her input definitely tightened up the technical aspects of the narrative and improved the writing.

Finally, I finished making all of the revisions and uploaded the manuscript for the final edit, which is scheduled for completion on January 13. I remembered to add my author contact information at the end, which I neglected to do with Hattie’s Place, and wrote a few author notes related to the historical relevance of the book as it relates to women’s issues today.

I’d hoped the publication of the book would coincide with a national celebration over the election of our first woman president. Alas, that story lacked the happy ending so many of us anticipated, and I felt compelled to add a few words that might put the outcome of the election into historical perspective, based on the research I had done on the women’s movement. I’ll share that section with you in a future post.

Next Steps

While I wait for the final edit to be returned on January 13, I’m keeping busy with my blog, updating my contact lists, and making preparations to get out the word about the publication of In the Fullness of Time through social media. I’ve already reached out to the CreateSpace staff who will publish my book. They are working on a design for the cover, which will be ready on January 8. I’ll share that with you as soon as it arrives. The cover and the final edit completed, it should be less than two weeks before the book is published.

I’m realizing that professional writing is a process in which the author recursively, and often simultaneously creates, edits, revises, promotes, publishes, and markets her work. It can be confusing at times, but there is a real rhythm to it. www.http://CreateSpace.com And thanks to the draft I was able to complete during National Novel Writing Month back in November, I’ll be ready to begin the editing process on Mountain Brook Memories: 1960-1963 early in the spring, after In the Fullness of Time is out and circulating. The cycle continues.

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