Friday, August 9, 2013

Editing Nirvana

by Peg Brantley
Evocative Characters. Intriguing Crime. Compelling Stories.

I received my edits back from my editor, Peggy Hageman, Tuesday morning. (Peggy edited the Edgar nominated The Queen of Patpong by Timothy Hallinan. By way of clarification, we've both agreed that I'm not Tim, but that's another topic.) Receiving her edits was the good news. The bad news?

A two hour dental appointment followed by a three hour root canal with an endodontist who happened to have an opening that afternoon. Where is delayed medical attention when you want it?

My post on Facebook indicated that I'd rather be going through my edits. One commenter said:

Somehow the comparison of edits to dental work (i.e., pulling teeth) is rather appropriate.

She was kidding of course, but it made me want to talk about how much I love this part of the process.

Actually, there's not a bit of this writing schtick I hate, including marketing (although marketing is at the very bottom of my Love List). Each piece has elements of excitement and challenge. and each phase demands my attention, and sometimes blind faith.

This professional edit part is where a kind-of-okay story gets bigger and better. Where the flat places are fluffed up and the holes are fixed and the unsatisfactory bits are either made brilliant or they're cut. The incredible skill of one editor is going to bring my sweaty effort, currently wearing dirty and tattered workout clothes, to something ready to walk out on the dance floor wearing the sexiest gown on the planet.

My first book, Red Tide, was edited by Harvey Stanbrough. He was the perfect editor for that book. My second book, The Missings, was edited by blogmate Jodie Renner. She was the perfect editor for that book. I've been blessed to be able to find the right editor at the right time.

Readers, do you know how important an editor is?

Writers, do you love this part as much as I love it?

I swear I can hear the orchestra tuning up...


  1. I am not an editor. I don't readily pick up where characters were introduced improperly for example, but I am good a proofing. I rarely finish reading a book that has zero errors in grammar or spelling. I do proofing for people and charge a buck an error that I catch with a limit that the author puts on that and the author has to agree with the errors. For details see my blog at Al

    1. Proofreaders are also important, Al. Even having an edited manuscript proofed by multiple people prior to publication doesn't guarantee an error-free book, but at least it's a little better.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. I believe most writers have more of a love/hate relationship with editing. Often our first reaction to suggested changes is irritation, then we think about it and realize it's better. I envy your joy in the process, and I'm happy for you.

    1. L.J., I know exactly what you feel with some edits and comments. I wonder how they could have missed this or that, or just not get what I was doing… and then I realize, like you mentioned, that it's better with the editor's suggestions. And life is good. ;-)

  3. I do love the editing I do first, because it means I've actually finished the damned book. Then, when I work with an editor, it's a slightly more fearful kind of love. When I get that first set of redlines back, I'm afraid of opening the email. What if they hated it? What if they want to change everything in it?

    Then I get over myself and get to work. After all, I have another book to get published!

    1. "Fearful kind of love" is a perfect description!

  4. Editing is my favorite part of the process. When I read through my first draft, I cringe at how much it stinks. By the time I've edited it (about 8 or 9 rounds), it is much cleaner. At this time, it's ready for the professional edit. So far, I've been pleased with the editors I've used. They've all given valuable feedback and none have tried to change my stories.

  5. Peg, we've commented on Facebook about this. I've always contended that every writer needs an editor. And not just the internal one. I've taught college composition and even now, in other courses, expect my students to write. They freeze - just fear, no love. Egos are on the line.

    I think we enjoy - or at least appreciate - those edits that understand and improve the story.

    Jenny, editing is often a favorite part of the process for me. But then, I occasionally enjoy banging my head against the wall, too.


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