Gosh I was naive when I wrote my first book! I did all the right things. Made note cards to keep track of characters. Outlined feverishly. Checked plot, made sure it was correct and authentic in all aspects. Interviewed a lawyer, a cattle rancher, a doctor, etc., to get every detail right. Then I took a six month break, came back and edited. I had neighbors, family and friends read it. Took all feedback in a polite, mature fashion. Then I was ready for the editor.
I hired a freelance editor, Chryse Wymer, who I had worked with briefly on another project. I liked her style and knowledge. If she made a correction she pointed out why and gave references to back it. I learned a lot from her and especially liked her respect and patience towards my work.
Just knew she would be amazed at my book. I could hardly wait for her glowing praises, and most importantly, I knew we’d have it done in a month. (I can hear some of you laughing, be nice!) Five months later I was much wiser. Short version – I cried, pouted, re-wrote every chapter, and lost any shred of pride I had left.
In traditional publishing your book goes through several editors. One will check for plot problems, one will do a line edit, another may handle the grammar. Poor Chryse did it all. I swear she is working towards sainthood. Our first run through was just about plot. The story I thought was the best I’d ever written, was simply the caterpillar. Her comments were funny and to the point. When I opened her first page of edits I about fainted. The entire first chapter had to be re-written.
After the plot edit, we started the grammar edit. Won’t even talk about that. All through it she urged, suggested, held my hand, and was spot on. Then came the final edit, the line edit. If I had thought I had seen a lot of red before it was nothing to what I saw now. One morning I remember getting up and ranting at my poor husband that here I was arguing over what imaginary people did or did not do! One chapter beginning I re-wrote in a snit, and it came out to be one of my best! Patiently my editor helped me mold the final product into a wondrous butterfly of a book.
So in humble retrospection, I would like to warn any new author. There is no instant edit. If you want the best work ever, be prepared for a bone-breaking, pride-stomping, difficult and long journey. Take heart, in the end if you do the work, you will have a product comparable to a publishing house production. And an editor who is thankful it will take you another year before you write another book!