I thought I’d share a little bit of my process with you.
This particular manuscript took me about eleven months to research and write. That’s pretty much the norm for me. While I’d love to write two reader-worthy books a year, I haven’t quite figured out how to do that.
A few days after I finished the first complete draft (many scenes having already been rewritten numerous times), I do a series of self-edits. The first is a read-through where I look for plot and character inconsistencies, glaring errors, scenes that need to be cut or added, etc. and then apply those changes. Then I do a text-to-speech edit that points out over-used words, and missing words, and places where I used the wrong word. It’s a computerized voice that demands your attention. When I work through the same words over and over, my mind does an auto-correct from what is actually written to what I think is written. For example, I remember in this edit hearing the word “now” when it was supposed to be “know.” I make those corrections and then do another full read-through.
At this point I’m standing in the middle of a word-forest and have lost all perspective. I know the story can be better, but where? How? (Just so you know, the story can always be better. At some point I just have to let it go.)
That’s where my beta readers come in. For this manuscript, I have seven people who have agreed to read and share their comments with me. Four of them are successful authors in crime fiction, one is a trusted friend who could be an editor if she wanted, and two are readers whose opinions matter to me. I’m in the middle of my fourth round of revisions from beta readers, with a fifth one waiting. So far they’ve run the gamut from general observations to a line-by-line edit. I value all of them, and it’s amazing… they’ve each caught different things! And each person made this commitment during one of the busiest and most stressful times of the year. Every one of them has my gratitude.
After I finish the beta revisions, it will finally be time for me to bring out the Big Gun, a/k/a my editor. Each of my three books has had a different editor, perfect for that book at that time. I’ll be using the same person I used for THE SACRIFICE for a lot of reasons. First of all, she’s an amazing editor who makes my brain bleed (in a good way). She’s also familiar with these characters because this book is the second in a series, following THE SACRIFICE. She was referred to me by an author many of you might read, Timothy Hallinan. Peggy Hageman, formerly with William Morrow, was involved in the editing process for Tim’s Edgar nominated, THE QUEEN OF PATPONG. (If you haven’t read Tim’s Poke Rafferty series set in Thailand, do yourself a favor. My advice is to read them in order, beginning with A NAIL THROUGH THE HEART.)
Sorry, talking about books and authors can often get me running off on a tangent.
The process of the final edit can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the scope of the story and any issues with the manuscript. My plan, always, is to present something that’s fairly clean so the remaining editing process can be as smooth as possible.
While my manuscript is with Peggy, I’ll be in touch with my cover and interior designer. Together we’ll hopefully come up with a compelling cover that reflects the story inside.
And finally after it’s edited, it’s time for a really good proof reader. So many edits and revisions and changes can wreak havoc on those tiny details—the same ones that text-to-speech helped me with earlier. Only now, even t2s is unlikely to work. My ears and eyes have grown numb and there’s a disconnect in my brain. So someone else, fresh to the manuscript, is needed to give it a nice, tight read. One more edit to go.
There you have it. My revision process. It takes a village to create a book, at least one of mine.