The Editing Process: Teenagers and Talking Raccoons

The Editing ProcessBet you thought I was serious when I said I was finished with The Swallow’s Nest.

First my husband blogged to complain about the horrors of living with an author at the end of her book. Then I told you I’d sent it in and had “gone fishing,” which wasn’t quite true. I’d gone on a cruise, but we did eat fish. Frequently. And we saw flying fish gliding through Caribbean waters. Close enough.

Of course “finishing” a book is a relative term. Really all “finishing” means is that I finished the draft I wanted my editor to see. I knew more work was coming, and sure enough, it has.

Emilie changes editors

First scroll back in your memory to many posts ago, when I said goodbye to my editor of double-digit years who decided to retire. I didn’t have to wait long to learn that my new editor would be based in Toronto this time, not New York. Nor did I have to wait to make an obvious decision. In the summer I’m an easy drive from Toronto. So in early September I traveled to my publisher’s headquarters to meet her and other Mira staff I’d never been face to face with.

While I was there, in addition to everything else, I was able to see possible cover treatments, with the final selection above. Didn’t Mira make a fabulous choice? Everyone on my mailing list has already seen it, but this is the first time I’ve shown it on my blog.

I was delighted by my entire experience in Canada and confident that my new and delightful editor and I would get along.

The Editing Process (Not kidding about talking raccoons)

Still, you have to understand how fraught with tension the editing process can be. While different traditional publishing houses have different procedures, at Mira my books go first to my line editor (sometimes called a developmental editor) who asks questions, makes suggestions, and sometimes–depending on the state of the book or the editor’s personality–asks for a vast number of changes.

And yes, there are stories about this. Lots of them, most often repeated at the bar during writer’s conferences. The one many of us are fondest of telling is the one about an author who received her book back from her line editor only to find that the teenage boy she had written was now a talking raccoon.

After the line editor finishes her comments, changes, questions, the book boomerangs back to the author, who answers queries, accepts or rejects changes and makes whatever adjustments she/he needs to. While she’s doing that a copy editor at the publishing house is taking a second look at the book, correcting punctuation or spelling, checking research, and paying attention to continuity.

Eventually the line editor incorporates everybody’s additions, and the author gets the book one more time. This time he/she combs it for mistakes, which often occur when so many people work on a book together.

I’m in the combing portion right now.

Before this point, though, I waited for both my new editor and the copy editor’s comments, wondering exactly what I would find.  I was completely delighted to find that my new line editor not only loved the book, she really understood what I was doing. Her comments were insightful, and each time I felt the book was improved by clarifications she asked me to make. The copy editor, too, made The Swallow’s Nest a better book.

Finally proofreaders will carefully examine the book, but once I turn in this final version, I won’t see it again until it’s in print. Quite often then, I don’t look at it. Because if I do, I’ll continue to fruitlessly edit sentences in my head.

That’s how I roll.

Editing Can Be A Key Difference Between Traditional and Independent Publishing

While not all traditional publishers follow exactly this course, nearly all will follow a similar one. But independent publishing is different. These days any author who wants to can finish her/his first draft, format the book–usually as an ebook–and put it up for sale at online booksellers. She or he doesn’t have to go through this laborious process, although many indie authors (including all the best ones) hire developmental editors, copy editors and proofreaders on their own.

Right now I’m revising one of my backlist novels to sell as an ebook. Of course the original version was carefully edited and copy-edited. But I plan to make so many changes that I’ve asked an editor I’ve known for years to edit it for me again and give me her opinion. That’s how certain I am that editors aren’t optional. Not ever.

I hope that when The Swallow’s Nest comes out–June 13th–you’ll see the result of the attention each of us paid it. But whether you can measure that or not, I’ll know the careful scrutiny that the book received every step of the way, and I’ll be confident in presenting it to you.


  1. Nancy Lepri on February 9, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    I’m exhausted after reading about this process, but I’ve been through it with my children’s books. Phew. Anyway, I can’t wait till your book is available to read and review.

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