But, once I finish the book, it’s time to send it to my editor, and that’s a whole different phase of my writing journey, because when it comes back from her, the book doesn’t look the same. All those beautiful words of prose, and witty dialogue, have colorful, squiggly lines under them, with speech bubbles crammed in the right margin, full of questions and suggestions. Now my story looks more like a crime scene, and the vision in my head is the outline of the body.
Sometimes, an editor can help clarify a muddy action scene. For example, in my first book, Prisoner of Love, I got a lot of grief from my editor about a particular fight scene. She asked, “Does he throw the punch first, and then get in a fighter’s stance, or vice versa?”
Her suggestion to watch fist fights in movies or on Youtube helped a lot. When I’m writing, sometimes I get so excited about what I’m writing, I speed through the scenes without visualizing them first. She caught my mistake, and the scene is now one of my favorites.
Another red flag I have in my writing is wordiness. Being a former English teacher, I love words. I love using new words, different words, difficult words. My editors always sing the same refrain: use easier words! Not because readers are dumb. On the contrary; readers want to flow through a story. They want it to sound like normal conversation, not a recitation of Webster’s dictionary.
The same goes with contractions. I have a habit of writing out phrases, instead of using contractions, but when people read, the words flow better when contractions are used. The narration or dialogue doesn’t sound stilted. My editors always remind me to write like people speak. For example, nobody sits down to read The Canterbury Tales for relaxation or escape.
Editing is a necessary part of the writing process. Removing unnecessary words, streamlining scenes, and staying true to the characters are all adjustments that make a good idea into a great book. I value my editors’ suggestions, and lean on them plenty. They know their jobs, while I’m still new to this whole gig. Between us, my novel becomes something readers can’t put down. At least, I hope so.
Next up: we’re almost done with my writing process. The final step is Release Day, and all that that entails. It should be fun to reveal some trade secrets.