• L.L. Stephens

What Editing Looks Like: Example from The Kheld King

Updated: 3 days ago

Just for yucks and giggles, I'm going to show how the process of editing looks and feels to the author. I will use an example from The Kheld King, which is being released in September. And which I just finished editing. Yippee!

The author finishes a book and it is good. A hell of a fine story.

Full of pride, the author sends the story to their publisher. Here it is! Let's publish it and let the readers have their fun (because I, the author, already had mine--just look at this great book!) The publisher writes back: You're right! This is a great book.

Let's make it better.

The author sighs. Because here come the EDITS.

This is the passage as I submitted it:

I changed the line spacing from 2 to 1.15 so I could screenshot the whole thing, but the above is taken from the actual submitted manuscript. Here is what I got back many months later when the edits hit my inbox:

This isn't even the most colorful page. This passage doesn't spoil anything, though, so I am using it for an example. Notice that the last paragraph is a mess. A bonafide literary mess. I know a mess when I see one (no one surpasses my ability to lay down impenetrable prose) and the editor correctly called me out on that one. And the other things.

So here is what I did about that paragraph:

Notice the red. The red is new writing. The purple bits are what I salvaged without rewriting. And some is a little bit of both. Writing is an imperfect process of getting the words down... then getting them right. I needed to get them both down and right.

This is the part of editing I love... maybe even more than writing the first draft. First drafts can be painful. Pulling words out of my head. Cobbling together sentences even I know are lame but at least they make an effort at that story I'm trying to tell. I can labor for weeks on a couple of pages.

But content edits? I love editing my drafts into something better. It's easy! It's fun! It's the part where I really can let the story rip. The editor tells me what works and points out what doesn't. This is where I pull it all into line. The plot. The characters. Sharpen them into something beautiful.

So I fixed that paragraph. Took what I liked and remade the sentences. Focused on the message I wanted those words to convey. It came out much better. I think it's good.

Even the copy editor thought so. Because not only did the manuscript go through two full edits from an editor calling me out on my every mistake and misstep, the manuscript after that gets sent to a copy editor. Copy editors are people bound and determined to catch all the small stuff that other editors (and authors) let escape. Punctuation. Spelling. Word usage.

Here is the copy edit of the first part of the example passage [the corrected paragraph, remember, was deemed acceptable]:

Small stuff, but important. An entire 200,000 word/350 page novel plus Appendix of small stuff. Copy edits take time too. And some of the edits are really nit-picky and annoying. Few things annoy authors more or cause more hair loss than copy edits. The above passage? Just for illustration. I could show pages with entire margins overflowing with nits being picked. But this one does show the difference a copy editor makes. They really tighten the nuts and bolts.

Copy edits often clash with my writing habits, which is why they drive me crazier than content edits. I can always find a way--and have fun doing it--to fix a content issue. With copy edits I can often see why something is supposedly "grammatically correct" but still think it sounds/feels/ or reads "wrong." Clunky. Awkward. And I don't want to do it.

This is where the publisher needs to have the author's back--and usually does. The author gets the last say. Even if the last say doesn't result in perfect grammar. That isn't the case in this example, but there is plenty of less than perfect grammar in other parts of my books.

So here is the final passage as it will appear (minus Word underlinings) in the published book. Cleaned up. Given a little buff and polish. Ready to meet the world.

This blog post is about edits in general and I used a passage that needed only the usual changes. There could be examples of major changes. This book's ending, for one. I chopped off an entire epilogue and wrote a completely new last chapter. That kind of thing is major surgery.

And the subject of a completely different kind of blog post.

If you might be interested in reading the finished, wonderfully edited book about Dorilian and his many and determined enemies, The Kheld King is available for pre-order from the publisher, Forest Path Books.

And also available from Amazon and other booksellers.

The Triempery lies crippled, its godborn princes slaughtered by treachery. Only a few survivors are left to communicate with the god-machine Entities. The ruling houses are making their play to control those survivors, desperate to maintain the wealth garnered from their monopoly of the Entities’s power.

In the aftermath of the slaughter, Stefan Stauberg-Randolph inherits his grandfather’s throne. Already an outsider because of his Kheld heritage, Stefan sees enemies around every corner–but he particularly fears Dorilian Sordaneon. Sole surviving heir to the Rill Entity, Dorilian is accused—by Stefan—of perpetrating the deaths of his kin.

Set upon conflicting paths by betrayal and suspicion, the animosity between the two young rulers could well threaten not only the Triempery’s remaining houses, but the Entities themselves.

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