I don’t know much about editing despite having once considered it for a career. And so, instead of restating what you’ve already heard, read, or learned by osmosis, I thought I’d interview an expert. It helps that said expert lives downstairs, just completed edits on her 15th book, leads three critique groups, and is my mom!
So, here you go: Donita K. Paul’s thoughts on editing and revisions.
DKP: What she didn’t say is that I’m not allowed to see my grandsons until I do this little questionnaire. That is diabolical persuasion.
ED: Diabolical–and effective. First question. Can you tell us a little bit about your methods of self-editing?
DKP: I always read what I wrote the day before to get into the flow of the story. I also pick up little typos and minor problems as I do this read-through. I have a blog now for when I am writing that shares editing things I run across during my writing time. These are short, short tips. http://awriterwritessometimes.blogspot.com/
ED: Obviously, you’re pro-critique groups. How do you assimilate all the comments you get and how do they shape your writing process?
DKP: When I go through the pages we’ve shared, I look at each comment seriously. I change things that I agree with and sometimes I am so very, very grateful to my crit partners for catching things that would embarrass me if an editor had sent me a note.
If two people note the same thing, I change it.
ED: Let’s talk about getting notes back from your editor. Have you developed a system for tackling that sometimes tricky process?
DKP: ACK! Do I have to talk about this? This is such a humbling experience. The author learns exactly how proud, stubborn, and uncooperative she can be. The editor learns the writer has werewolf genes and snarls when moonlight is shone upon her work. It is something you have to deal with. Eight times out of ten, I’m grateful for the insight of another person, who is geared toward improving my work. The other two times, I wonder if this editor-person is even from our planet. My advice: express all that sarcastic frustration to an empty room, then write a tactful response covering the difference of opinion. Or have your daughter review your comments to the editor’s comments and have her tell you the places where you have become too snarky.
ED: Just for fun, do any of your books stand out in your memory as the hardest to edit/revise?
DKP: The first of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, of course. I had to cut 20,000 words. I’d never done that before. It was over the Christmas season, so no one was in the publishing office for days on end. My editor had a death in the family and went missing. I didn’t know she was attending a funeral, and I felt abandoned. And I was resentful that this edit was infringing on my enjoyment of the season. In other words, I regressed to pouting thirteen-year-old.
ED: Newbie authors like me are told to polish, polish, polish our manuscripts before sending them to an editor or agent. What are some signs that indicate we’re ready to send that puppy out?
DKP: When you can quote whole pages of dialogue. When you call your husband by your hero’s name. When you put things on your to-do list that belong to your heroine. My advice really: to put it in a drawer for two weeks and the read it through cold. If you are not changing things on every page at this point, it is probably ready to go.
ED: Thanks for sharing your wisdom on editing and revisions. Now I’m supposed to tell you that your grandsons want you to get off your computer so they can play Fishdom.
DKP: Send them down.
Evangeline Denmark has storytelling on her heart and in her blood. The daughter of novelist, Donita K. Paul, Evangeline grew up living and breathing good stories. She has co-authored two children’s books which are under contract with Waterbrook Press. Evangeline is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, serving as chapter secretary.