Line Edit stage with Harlequin Special Edition author Amy Woods…

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Publishing is definitely a business of ebbs and flows, with periods of intense activity and emails and tension followed by a lull when it’s just business as usual. The latest burst of intensity Amy Woods has been going through is the line edit stage…

Reviewing the line edit–or what did you do to my baby????

 

Thanks again for having me on the SOLD! blog! It’s a pleasure to be back. I hope that these posts, which deal with how I’ve navigated the publishing process, will offer insight and encouragement to fellow new authors, so that when you sell that first manuscript, you’ll have a better feel for what’s next.

Remember that feeling in school when you got back a paper you’d written, certain that it would be covered in smiley faces and comments praising your expert execution of prose, your astute and artistic employment of the English language—only to find the thing covered in red marks rather than happy faces?

Yeah, line edits are a bit like that. At first glance, they can be daunting enough to scare the pink off a pig.

Bear with me now.

I say this not to terrify you or send you running away from publishing to take up a less formidable career path such as, say, being a professional trapeze artist. I say it because it’s the truth. Line edits can be a little overwhelming. When I first received them for my debut novel, HIS TEXAS FOREVER FAMILY (out from Harlequin Special Edition in September 2014), I opened the document with one eye closed.

There they were – all those little red Track Changes boxes. So, I took the advice I gave in my last post for tackling revisions. I read through my editor Carly Silver’s suggestions, which she sent in her cover email, scanned through the manuscript, made myself some notes, and walked away. There may have been some chocolate involved – I can’t be certain.

But, the next day…I came back, ready to face those little red boxes. And, much like during the revision stage, as I addressed each comment, the book became better and better.

Revisions usually cover issues that are the broad strokes of your manuscript; your editor might ask you to add more emotion or work on deepening characters or plot. In contrast, line edits are like polish. They exist to clarify language, to smooth out bumpy spots, and to rectify inconsistencies or any confusing elements.

For example, I had a section in my manuscript in which all the teachers went to a luncheon in the middle of a school day. I’ve been a teacher – I know how ridiculous that sounds. Who’s watching the kiddos? In real life, chaos would erupt immediately if that happened, but I didn’t catch my error. As writers, we often get so focused on telling the story, getting to the meaty emotions and sinking our teeth into the heart of a scene, that we forget details like this, which might cause a reader to stop reading and think, “Hey. Wait a minute. That doesn’t make sense,” before closing the book in frustration.

But Carly caught those things and I was happy (embarrassed, but happy) to sort them out.

As I’ve said before, editors and authors have the same goal for their publications. Carly is on my side – she wants this book, and all the others she works on, to be the very best that it can be. When we care about something we’ve created, we want it to be at its finest when it makes its debut. We all know how important first impressions are.

When talking your own line edits, it might help to keep the following in mind:

-Now is a good time to take off your writer’s hat and view your manuscript as a reader would. This is your chance to fix all those things that might pull your reader out of the enchantment of your story – no writer wants that.

-Your editor is there to help your book shine. If something comes up in your edits that confuses you, or that you perhaps disagree with, ask your editor. He or she will be more than willing to answer your questions or clarify the issue in a way that’s in the best interest of the book.

-If you start to feel overwhelmed, consider addressing the edits in stages – handle the minor changes (word choice, etc.) first, take a break for a day or two depending on your deadline, and then tackle the larger issues. I like to make a list of my editor’s suggestions and cross them off as I go along.

As I continue posting about my newbie author experiences, I sincerely hope to provide insight into the publishing process that might serve you well when you get to this juncture of your own journey.

As ever, I am more than happy to answer any questions.

Yours truly,

Amy

 

Thank you, Amy, and we’re eager to see just how those little changes made the difference for your September 2014 debut! 

You can also keep up with Amy’s adventures on her website or on Twitter, where she is @AmyWoodsBooks. Her editor can be found on Twitter as @CarlyASilver. 

And don’t forget to check out our Writing Guidelines for specifics for each line, or visit the Harlequin Community!

 

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Comments

  1. Erica H.

    Hi, Amy. I’m really enjoying this series and seeing what happens after the contract from your perspective. I’ve always been curious about what happens after revisions. I have no experience with the steps after that. As such, I have ALL THE QUESTIONS about line edits?

    I saw a tweet from an author that had page numbers where she used certain words several times, I assume to fix/change some of them. Is that something that you might get with line edits? What do they look like?

    I assume this is the stage where they catch things like a character’s eye color changing or other continuity issues? Were there a lot of things still to edit/change at this stage?
    About how long did you have to turn these around?

    Thanks in advance for answering my newbie questions!

    • Amy Woods

      Hi Erica!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to read my post.

      Each editor probably has a slightly different way of handling line edits. Carly used Track Changes in Word to leave comments, so I didn’t have a list of pages with word overuse or anything like that. That sounds like something that would come up in copy edits, though, which are a little different from line edits. Carly’s line edits were less broad than revisions, but less specific than copy edits, if that makes sense. Line edits address content issues, but on a more narrow level than revisions. Copy edits include the nitty-gritty stuff like grammar, word repetition, time consistency, etc.

      As far as turnaround time, I think I had about a month, but that depends completely on delivery deadlines and publication dates.

      I’ve probably confused you more than helped (sorry), but I hope I answered your questions at least a little. 🙂

      -Amy

  2. andie brock

    Thanks for this Amy. Really useful for me as I’ve got line edits coming my way soon and had no idea what to expect. To be honest I was almost afraid to ask! Feel a bit more prepared now and am ready to adopt brace position… Thank you! Andie

    • Amy Woods

      Hi Andie!

      First off…congratulations on your sale! 🙂

      I definitely adopted brace position myself. I had no idea what to expect, so of course I expected the worst. I just reminded myself that my editor wouldn’t have pulled my book out of slush if she didn’t love it, and that working through edits would make it a better book.

      This is an open offer but please, please if you end up with any questions or general comments that you’d like to share with a fellow newbie, my virtual door is always open. 🙂

      Amy

  3. Great post Amy!

    At this point I’ll relish being an unpublished writer and enjoy telling the stories I want to read and re-read. 🙂

    I have a question though. How lenient are the deadlines for all the editing stages (i.e. structural edits, line edits, copy edits)? If that isn’t too impertinent a question…

  4. Amy Woods

    Hi Hana!

    It’s definitely not too impertinent – but unfortunately I can’t really give you a solid answer. It’s very, very subjective. The deadlines depend on when the book is slotted for publication, so, basically: sooner put date, sooner deadline for each edit stage. From the time I sold to the time my book comes out in September, I had about 9 months, and things have moved quite fast. There are a lot of things that happen before a book shows its pretty little face on a shelf, so even if the pub date seems far away, there is plenty going on in the interim.

    Hope that helps. Very best wishes on your journey to publication! 🙂

    Amy

  5. Mary-Theresa Hussey (Exec Editor, Harlequin)

    Hana–

    As Amy says, it can all depend. As editors, we work backward from the pub date. If a Special Edition is coming out in September, than we’ve got to have it in stores on the last Tuesday of August (often in earlier than that). It’s out to our DTC group at the beginning of August, so it needs to be printed by July.

    Before printing, it goes to proofreading, author alterations (author’s last chance to see the manuscript), copyediting, editing, revising and so on.

    Editors can be working on one to four titles a month, so they’ve got to track all those books backwards as well. Vacations, holidays, weekends and such are added in for every level.

    That’s why it does take about nine months from start to finish!

    Authors will generally get about two weeks at AA stage, and depending on the editor’s process might see the copyedit, with week turnaround, or the line edit with a month turnaround.

    Revisions are generally a month or so, but all can be tweaked by the amount of work to do, and when the publication date is.

    So it’s a complicated system! (multiplied by 120+ titles a month!)