From the Archives: A Journal of Two Writers – Thoughts from the Other Side of Edits

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Rachel and I published our popular series The Persis Chronicles with Torquere Press, which, sadly, is now defunct.  I realized at one point that all the posts I’d written for their LiveJournal and blog would disappear into the ether, so I’m going to republish them here for your enjoyment.

This first one was the first LiveJournal post I did for them, back in May of 2012:

As Rachel and I wrapped up the editing of Emerald Fire, our new release from Torquere Press this week, we found ourselves reflecting on how to make the process more streamlined so we can speed it up – and make it less painful.  Since folks sometimes ask us what it’s like to write with a collaborator, we thought we’d share some thoughts on what it’s like to edit stuff we’ve written together, since that’s the most visibly collaborative part of our process.

Once we’ve finished a manuscript, we each go through it and make minor changes and continuity checks.  That’s where a partnership is good and bad – because we have two pairs of eyes looking at it, but we cannot work on it simultaneously because of varying work schedules and time zone differences.  In addition, we both edit very differently:  Rachel is a hawk for continuity problems and timeline issues, whereas I am the grammarian and look for “POV” (point of view) problems.

Our first step is to sit down together and go through the manuscript chapter by chapter.  We break our sessions into 30 minute chunks, so that we have a way of judging our progress, since we might not get all the way through a specific list of chapters in one sitting.  We also learned the hard way not to do too many at one time because it fries our brains.  Usually we don’t do more than three or four chapters in one sitting since, from experience, doing five or more leads to exhaustion which can make us sloppy.  Editing is a left-brain sequential process, with established rules, and because of that, the approach is much more logical and methodical.

After we finish our first edit, we then go through what might be called “line edits,” except that we’re looking for specific words or problems.  For example, Rachel looks for excessive use of names in dialog (since people in conversation don’t usually repeat each other’s names over and over), as well as punctuation and overuse of things like exclamation points.  I look for POV problem works (like “felt” or “thought”) and rework the sentences in which I find them.  For this part of the process, we tend to work separately; however, this means that only one of us can be working in the main manuscript at a time since we’re using the “find” command to look for problem words and are jumping around non-sequentially.

Finally, we print out a copy of the manuscript and read it from front to back as though we were one of our readers.  It’s best to do this process a couple days after completing the other sections; this isn’t always a possibility if, for example, we’re under deadline; however, if it’s for stuff that isn’t on deadline then it’s good to let a week or two go by so the manuscript is “cold.”  Once we have our printed copy read and marked up, we meet again and go through our changes to make sure we both agree on them.

One thing we both have noticed is that it’s more fun to go through the editing process with a collaborator, whether or not that person is a “CP” (critique partner) or one’s coauthor.  Having that second pair of eyes and another person to bounce ideas with can mean the difference between dreading edits and looking forward to them as the final stage of completing a manuscript.

 

Originally published on the Torquere Press LiveJournal, 05/30/2012

 

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