Red Edit 

This is an image of the developmental and line edit that an author receives. On the left is the manuscript hardcopy in black and white. Those two stacks are only 1/4 of the novel. On the right, on screen, is the digital version. The right margin is full of the proverbial red pen.

Also included is a four page report wherein the editor analyzes any broader issues.

I have a different approach to screenwriting: I always write in a professional screenwriting group headed by an editor, workshopping about 20 pages each week. I have the editor, the group and external beta readers go over the full manuscript down the line once the drafts have been cycled through the workshop a few times. During a workshop I hear the work read aloud, we discuss the work while I take notes and then I collect their annotated copies to use while revising. I prefer that method, but it doesn't transfer to novel well. And it also doesn't transfer to traveling.

With the novel, I write and revise on my own over and over again until I'm too close to the story to do any further good and desperately missing my screenwriting group. Then the editor has a go. Then I have a go. Then the editor has a go. Then I have a go”¦ . What you see above is the first round of notes on the new prologue and the second round of notes on the rest of the manuscript. Once I notice that the feedback has arrived (usually in the evening because I'm a late riser), I rush to wherever I'm printing from, download all of the feedback, print the hardcopy and proceed straight to a cafe. Receiving notes is a little like Christmas morning due to the anticipation and joy of the process. ”¦And then suddenly it's not at all like Christmas morning because, instead of lazing about, I'm standing at the foot of a mountain I must hike.

Last time it was a mountain. This time it's a hill. Soon it will be flat, even ground and I'll be done!

Latte in hand, I spread out over a cafe table and read through all of the margin feedback looking closely at the comments that address content concerns. Copy edits (spelling mistakes, line cuts) are an easier fix and less important up front than content editing, which may require rewrites. I read the analytical report twice and annotate how to address the notes, noting any questions that I have. Then I go to wherever home is and put my remaining latte in the fridge so that I can run and do a training circuit. Afterward, I eat, resume my latte, get on the Internet and catch up with news and friends. From the news I move into researching anything that I need in the revisions or that has to do with problem solving (for instance tonight I spent about an hour on the effects of water and gear in space and across different terrestrial environments). I let the notes sink in for at least four hours.

Around midnight - for some reason it's always midnight - I go back to the notes and begin the latest pass on the first chapter. I revise one chapter a night, depending on how deep the notes go. The deeper the notes, the longer the time.

There is always a moment when you first open the package and the wall of redness looks daunting, but once you've been through the process, the feeling quickly dissipates because training kicks in and you chip away the red step-by-step with each micro-revision. The true challenge is figuring out if and when there are notes that may be ignored. Most of the time the red ink 'tis but a scratch suggestion. The author must decide and forever live with the choice.

If you're new here: I'm finishing a forthcoming scifi novel and sometimes I write about that. Other times I dye my hair purple. It's all related. The baristas at Starbucks informed me that the editor's annotations were interesting and that I should put it on my blog. They've turned out to be good at casually focus grouping book cover mock ups, so here we are. I don't write about the writing process often, mostly because John August, John Scalzi and other writers already have those resources available, so I would direct you to those sites for more information. When I was a student, I read all of Wordplay. (Those writers now contribute to John August's blog.)

4 AM. No wimps.

Comments (2) | Permanent Link | RSS
© 2003-2024 Jessica Mae Stover • All Rights Reserved • Webmaster: Iain Edminster • Design: Greg Martin