Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Agony and the Editing

I just finished several rounds of edits for my next new book, a romantic suspense novel titled The Detective’s Dilemma, which is scheduled to release in November from Kensington’s Lyrical Press Imprint. It was tough, it was painful, and it was necessary.

As a former magazine editor myself, I submit manuscripts that are pretty clean when it comes to grammar and spelling. I know where and how to punctuate a sentence, and I’m pretty good with spelling and word usage. But… I’m a terrible typist, and sometimes those typos do get by my repeated reviews.  I’m very glad to have an editor who catches my booboos.

Readers read a book over the course of a few days, but that novel likely took the author months if not years to write. I write novels from start to finish, so it’s entirely possible that I’m writing the ending a long time after the opening chapters. That means that I’ve likely forgotten a number of details from the beginning by the time I get to the end. And there are a lot of details to keep track of. I keep notes, character descriptions and some visual aids to help, but it’s nearly impossible to remember everything. The classic example (and I’ve read it myself in more than one published novel) is when a character’s hair or eye color changes.

Once I finish a first draft, I go back and read through, correcting and making notes on the things that have to be changed to align with what I’ve written later, but even then some things elude me.  Thank goodness I have editors to find those things.

What gets by me even more easily and too frequently is what I call “lazy writing.”  Sometimes I just take the easy way out, usually by telling about something that I should be showing.  It can be as simple as saying that a character “looked angry” rather than saying this “his eyes narrowed and lips pressed together in a hard line.” They’re not always that simple, though. I’ve had to rewrite entire scenes that should have been done better.

Like many authors I tend to rely on favorite words, phrases and gestures, too. It’s another variety of lazy writing.

I was blessed with this book to have an excellent editor who found a lot of those instances.  It took a week of solid work on the first editing pass to rework all the problematic areas. As always there were a few things where I disagreed with the editor on a change, but by and large I recognized that most of the things she pointed out were places where I could improve the story. Some of them were okay as they were, but by making the changes I could make it better, polish it up and, hopefully, make it shine.

Here’s the blurb for The Detective’s Dilemma:

Her fingerprints are on the gun, but Sarah swears she’s innocent.

Although Sarah Anne Martin admits to pulling the trigger, she swears someone forced her to kill her lover. Homicide detective Jay Christianson is skeptical, but enough ambiguous evidence exists to make her story plausible. If he gives her enough freedom, she’ll either incriminate herself or draw out the real killers. But, having been burned before, Jay doesn’t trust his own protective instincts…and his growing attraction to Sarah only complicates matters.

With desire burning between them, their relationship could ultimately be doomed since Sarah will be arrested for murder if Jay can’t find the real killer.

Coming in November from Kensington Lyrical Press.


  1. Great post, Karen. More proof that EVERYONE needs an editor.

  2. I've loved my editors, all of them. Everyone has helped me make the book she edited a better one. But I think my current editor has stretched my writer muscles the most.

  3. I fall inyo lazy writing too. My new editor is cracking the whip and I am learning a lot. This post made me feel a whole lot better

  4. Great post. Hmmm. I wonder if there is a definitive "list" of what to look for when doing edits on your own?

  5. Thanks, everyone. Hmmm... I don't know that there is a definitive list of things to look for, but I do recommend a book called "Self-editing for fiction writers." It hits a lot of those points.