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Details Of My Second In-House Rewrite

When my editor called last Tuesday, I was sweating. I kept having visions of my first phone call, and all of the many things they'd asked me to change during my first rewrite.

I couldn't keep from worrying about what they didn't like this time. In a previous email, my editor had told me that "overall" they were pleased with the changes I'd made, but I knew that meant there were still things I needed to change.

The question was, just how many things still needed work and exactly what hadn't they liked?

So, when I picked up the phone and said hello, my voice trembled with anxiety. Fortunately, I've talked with my editor enough now, that I could be honest with her. And so, right off the bat I told her I was nervous about our call.

She put me at ease and reassured me that I really had done a good job with my first rewrite. My acquisition editor and line editor had both reread the entire book and were pleased with the outcome.

They each had taken notes, compared them, and now had just a few more suggestions and clarifications.

The first two items she mentioned involved the most rewriting, but she said they were optional. Both suggestions had to do with my hero and strengthening his character. In one scene, they proposed a specific way that I could show my hero with more action. And in the second scene they thought my hero was manipulative and needed to act more honorably.

Now, even though my editor said that I should think about their ideas and that I didn't have to rewrite the scenes, I decided that I needed to follow their suggestions. How can I, a novice, turn down expert advice? Needless to say, I'm in the process of rewriting both scenes.

The rest of the changes, thankfully, are less work. There are a couple of plot details I need to clarify, and I can easily strengthen them with a few well-placed words. I also need to make sure I'm on the look-out for any contemporary words I've accidentally used--words or thoughts people in the 1600's wouldn't have had.

They also wanted me to change what I'd originally titled "Afterward" to "Author's Note." This is the very last section of the book in which I explain what is true about my story and what I've taken liberties with. I need to simplify and rearrange this section.

And finally, there are a couple of places where my characters are a tad bit too loving. In other words, I have to tone down two kissing scenes. My editor shared the things she would eliminate if she edited it for me. I asked her if I could try tweak it first and see if we could find a compromise.

And that's it. I have approximately three weeks to get this second rewrite back to my editor. Once I make these changes, my editor reassured me that my major work on The Preacher's Bride is done.

She will go through the book again and do a line edit. She'll make most of the little changes herself but will email me if she finds anything bigger. She indicated that while she'll do some of the writing if necessary, she wants to make sure to keep my voice strong.

So, what do you think of this second in-house rewrite?

And what's your opinion? Do you think a writer should try to make all or most of the changes an editor suggests and trust their objectivity and expertise? Or do you think an author can go too far and somehow lose their uniqueness in the process of making so many changes?

61 comments:

  1. Jody, I have heard of authors trusting the editors too much and they felt as if they had lost the entire premise of the book they had written. This is NOT the case with you.

    I think writers have to trust their editorial staff. I mean that's what they are there for. Now if they want the entire book changed that's a different story. I've heard nightmarish stories about that too.

    It seems like you agreed with what they had to say. And you were glad when the phone call had come and gone. :-)

    It sounds like you are just about there. Question for you. How does it feel? :-)

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  2. Obviously I have no experience in this department...where book edits are concerned, anyway. But I remember the very first magazine article I sold (YEARS ago) and how the editor changed a QUOTE in the article. I think that was the most disappointing thing about the entire publishing experience. I wondered how she could change words that had actually been spoken, even if her wording sounded better. I'm glad to hear that the process is more collaborative in the book world!

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  3. Tone down a kissing scene???

    I'm balking slightly... a good emotion-inducing kissing scene can totally "make" a book (in romance, I'm serious... readers read anxious for that first mouth-to-mouth contact), but then if my memory serves me correctly Bethany house is a wee bit more conservative about those things than others?? (not a bad thing at all, just an observation)

    I think yes, you should listen objectively to the editor and acknowledge that they are experts, especially for the first book.

    But... it IS your book... and in the end, everyone has opinions, even editors. So I think open dialogue and discussion is key (although NOT argumentatively!!!)

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  4. I've never been in your shoes...but if the suggestions seem reasonable, and the explanation for the changes makes sense, then I'd go for it. However, if it alters something radically that you feel strongly about, then perhaps more conversation is in order. The editor is the pro...but like Bekah, I too, have had a magazine article re-written, in my case to the point that it changed my voice, and that didn't feel good at all.

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  5. When I first read the sentence about how your editor will make some changes for you, I thought, "I don't know if I'd like that." I think I'd be okay with it if I could look over all their changes. But then again, I don't know if an author would be considered too controlling if they don't trust the editor in that instance.

    I also echo what Krista said about the kissing scene. :-)

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  6. Sounds like you made good judgment in responding to their suggestions. If you felt any differently it appears you have the type of relationship where you can be honest and voice your concerns.

    It appears you did an excellent job the first time around being thorough with your rewrites, which made for an easy round this time. Good for you Jody! I'm learning so much here.

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  7. You're almost done!! This is so encouraging!!

    Why am I not surprised that your kissing scenes are steamy? ;) YOU ROCK!

    Have an awesome day, Jody!!

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  8. "Tone down a kissing scene?"

    Wow, that makes me truly curious about the scene. ;)

    The people in the business know what they are doing so what they say deserves a lot of thought, but in end go with your gut.

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  9. Unless my name was "Tom Clancy," I would seriously consider everything my editor/publisher suggested. I know NOTHING!!!

    Darn. You have to tone down the kissing scenes? Boo. Oh well, such is the life of CBA publishing...discretion is sometimes needed I suppose.

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  10. I love all of your comments about the Kissing Scenes! I'm cracking up! I feel the same way about toning them down, which is TOTALLY why I asked my editor if I could "tweak" them and see if I could get them a little more acceptable without them having to cut things!

    But as Krista mentioned, Bethany House is a conservative publishing house. They KNOW exactly what the MAJORITY of their readership wants. And so, I need to trust their judgement! (Even if I do push the edge a little!)

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  11. Sounds like you've crossed a major hurdle! That's terrific news, I'm thrilled for you. I'd gladly rewrite as you've opted to do. I'm sure your novel will be better for the effort. Can't wait to hear what the next stage is, I'm really enjoying sharing your journey with you!

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  12. Jody, I think it's awesome!! Wow, it's strange but I'm bubbly inside from reading this and really feeling like these changes are for the better for sure. How wonderful really to have someone there to guide you to a better piece and to leave it in your hands to make the changes as you wish!!

    I'd definitely work with their suggestions if I were in your place. As you say, they are the experts at this phase in your career. Now, if you really felt like their suggestions were going to weaken the story, then hold your ground for sure.

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  13. Trusting feedback is an important step in the process. I believe if you trust your agent and editor, then you can trust they are doing all they can to suggest changes to get your story to be the best it can be.

    Toning down kissing scenes. That's just funny to me.

    Question: Making changes to a character...I understand and agree with why you would, but does it feel awkward to do so/forced/strange? Curious?

    ~ Wendy

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  14. Hi, Jody. Congrats on making it through Stage 2! In my rewrites, there was an editorial suggestion I chose not to follow and gave my reasoning. It wasn't that I thought the idea was bad, I was just concerned that my word count was climbing too high. When they came back and repeated the suggestion, I knew I should follow it. I wrote a new scene and am really happy with the outcome.

    Oh, and don't worry about the line edits the editor makes on her own. If she is anything like my Bethany editor, she will let you read through the entire manuscript when she is through and make changes if something jumps out at you as not being your voice.

    Keep up the good work! (Any news on your cover yet? Can't wait to see what they come up with for you.)

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  15. Doesn't sound to painful to me. It's nice they said the changes they'd like to see were only "suggestions" and not mandatory. That would make me feel better anyway.

    My editor has always shown me every line edit thing she wanted changed. Most of them were no big deal, just things like: "was walking" got changed to "walked."

    Bet your getting excited about this progress. Congrats!

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  16. Question: why must the kissing scenes be toned down? Is it something they feel didn't fit with your story for some reason, or it is because Bethany House has certain guidelines/rules about content?

    Opinion: I think that all editorial suggestions should be pondered carefully, even if the first reaction is NO FREAKING WAY... and I also think that if the author can "own" a suggestion by executing it with their own writing style, then there's really not a problem.

    If an editorial suggestion gets any of the following writer responses:

    1) "why didn't I think of that?"
    2) "eh... no big deal, I guess, if they like it that way"
    3) "I don't know if I agree, but they've got so many years of expertise, maybe I can trust them"
    4) "I don't think I agree, but I have to pick my battles and other stuff is more important"

    ...then I think making the change makes sense. It's only if you feel it's WRONG, a betrayal of the point of the story, that I think it's 100% right to fight. And of course, all that is balanced against how important the editor thinks the change is.

    Writing (published writing, that is) is far more collaborative than people know. Sure, sometimes an editor can go too far an become a co-author (just look at the debates over Raymond Carver and his editor) but for most of us I don't think they want to tread on our creativity.

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  17. Glad the majority of rewrites were minimal. Too lovely dovey, huh? You just must be super sweet and loving! :O)

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  18. Hi Jody,
    Thanks for visiting my blog, too! I’m glad to meet you. It’s so interesting to read about your revision process. Thanks for sharing with all of us. I agree with you, I would have a hard time turning down advice from an editor. That said, it would be difficult for me to change certain things about the book. (Though I know I will have to be open to just about anything.) I’m curious about how much you had to tone down the kissing scenes. I have a couple in my book that some might consider “too steamy,” but my target audience is 20-40 and they don’t buy the whole he barely touched her thing. Do you think those edits will change the tone of your characters’ relationship, or are they relatively minor?

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  19. Way to go, Jody! You're almost there! I can totally see why you would want to try to "tweak" the kissing scene yourself and push the envelope as much as possible.
    And I agree with you in listening to the "professionals" re: the other scenes they mentioned. I'm so excited for you. It won't be long, and you'll be concentrating on the next book! Yay!

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  20. Patrice KavanaughJanuary 13, 2010 11:27 AM

    Hi Jody,
    This second rewrite sounds very do-able, so big congratulations on making such great strides with your first, more substantive rewrite. You really need to step back (if you can) and give yourself a huge pat on the back. Or, chocolate! If you trust your editor (and hopefully you do), then I say go with the suggestions. I admire you for wanting to take a crack at the revisions yourself before having your editor suggest new wording. In working with my freelance editor, I'm sometimes so grateful for her specific word suggestions...I just go with them. Patrice

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  21. Sounds totally doable and I'm sure you'll have it done before your deadline. It's been interesting to find out what kinds of things they look out. Thanks for sharing.

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  22. Jody, from what you've said, it sounds like you did a great job on the first rewrite and now you are continuing the process. Very cool!!
    Hats off to you. And thanks for sharing your process. Very interesting!

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  23. Like you, I'm new to all this and looking for any expert advice I can get. I don't have a publisher yet but I've been through massive line edits on both my first and second book with my agent. We're now thinking about diving back into the first one and rewriting it since we've had some rejections...just to make sure we're putting the best book out there. But reading your blog shows me what's in my future...and keeps me going through all this endless waiiiiting!

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  24. Hi Carrie,

    To answer your question: Why must the kissing scenes be toned down? Is it something they feel didn't fit with your story for some reason, or it is because Bethany House has certain guidelines/rules about content?

    My answer: It's totally a Bethany House guideline! And even that is somewhat in flex. I consider myself to be a fairly passionate writer and even somewhat edgey for CBA, so the places I need to "tone down" are on the extreme. And since I'm new, I don't want to alienate a large portion of potential readers. At the same time, I don't want to eliminate my passionate voice. So this is a tough struggle for me!

    And BTW, you should write a blog post with your comment today! Your list totally ROCKS!!!

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  25. I've had several content edits now...five I think? Four have been pretty light, a few tweaks here and there. But one was massive, major rewrites. There were very few things from that major rewrite that I stuck to my guns and didn't change. Most everything fell under the knife.

    And the book is better, stronger, faster...(I hear Steve Austin music!)

    I'm so glad for that tough rewriting.

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  26. I agree with Robyn's comments at the top of this thread. It sounds like you've been conscious of the changes and the reasons for them, making the CHOICE to trust their expertise. I agree that as a novice, we sometimes have to trust for a while. It sounds like you have a solid, open relationship with your editors - trust your instincts. :-)

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  27. Am I a sadist to enjoy reliving my pain through your story???

    Sigh. So far, the editors have proven to be right. I say, yes, ma'am and do what they say. After you sign in blood--I mean, ink--you don't really have much of a choice, anyway. And it is EVER so nice in this market to have editors who LIKE to work with you.

    GREAT usual post!!
    Patti
    www.pattilacy.com/blog

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  28. Sounds like it wasn't anything too harrowing then...from your tone, it doesn't seem like you really disagreed with the "optional" revisions. I'm sure I'd handle it like you did - if you're not opposed to the changes, may as well make them.


    As for the kissing scenes, bummer, but fitting the book to the publisher's guideline is a necessity, in my opinion. Just kind of goes with writing for that house. Those are the kind of edits I wouldn't balk at when asked for, though I think you handled that very well too. :-)

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  29. I think an author should always listen to advice and if he/she agrees with that advice take it and make the changes. However, we should listen to our instincts and go with what we think would make our story the best it can be.

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  30. It sure seems like it would serve you well to follow your editor's advice. At least try it and see what impact it has on the story. I really appreciate getting to follow your process and your thinking. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. I'm with you. Listen to the experts. The fact they said the changes were optional would be enough for me!

    How exciting all this new experience must be! (And nerve-wracking!)

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  32. I agree with most all the comments here. If it was me, I'd listen to the editor's advice. I've done that with most all of my non-fiction and they are usually always good suggestions.
    It doesn't sound like a whole lot and then you can celbrat that it is done!

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  33. Whew! I was worried for you, but this really doesn't sound bad at all. Especially with an attitude like yours--teachable and agreeable. Hopefully this will go quickly and easily for you.

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  34. I am so excited for you! It sounds like things are coming along well. I don't have experience with novel writing on this level but it sounds like you did the right thing. I am sure you will follow the right path when it comes to the choices that you need to make.
    Congrats and blessings! :)

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  35. I would tend to listen to the editors and make the suggested changes. I would have to rethink this if I completely disagreed and felt it would change my story into something I didn't want it to be. Even so, I'd still consider making the suggested changes. I think an editor would have a better grasp on this whole thing than I do.

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  36. Oh man, scary stuff. I would've been really nervous too. Too bad about those kissing scenes. LOL!

    I don't know how I would handle that. I guess we just need to be humble and yet go with our gut. Prayer is good too. LOL

    I can't wait to read your story! No matter what changes you make, I think you'll do an excellent, uniquely-Jody job. :-)

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  37. That's great, Jody! It sounds like things are moving along nicely, and you've got a handle on what's happening (and what's expected of you).

    I agree, that as a new writer under contract, you've got to take as much expert advice as possible. (I use "you" universally here.) As long as it still feels right for what you've written. Likely, you won't be steered wrong. And in the future, with other books, when you've got more experience under your belt, you can put your foot down if what's suggestion doesn't mesh.

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  38. I think I would have done just what you did. I am a novice and any help with the manuscript is GOOD. That said I'm sure an editor could go to far and mess up the author's voice or vision.

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  39. I think we need to trust them, but keep a strong sense of what we want to accomplish in the story. I try to look at critique this way: that the person making the suggestions really wants to make my book the best possible it can be. I try to rewrite then read through and see which works better--usually it's the suggestion! I think the best thing is being able to converse with the editor (as you did) as to the reasons why we need to make such changes. Sometimes that's all we need.

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  40. I agree with Eileen. Reading these posts has me excited, as though "we" are closer to "our" first release!

    When you mentioned toning down your kissing scenes, I immediately thought of Julie Lessman's Daughter of Boston series. But that's a different publisher. Bethany House, I believe, is a tad more conservative.

    I also cringed at the notion of the editor making changes herself, although it's at the line edit stage, not developmental. Still, will you have a chance to see the changes she's made in case there are any you aren't comfortable with? I mostly agree with you. I think as a novice author, it wise to trust your editor when your editor has given you no reason to do otherwise and has a sound reputation. The only caveat would be on something that you absolutely couldn't fathom, and then it would be time for discussion.

    Can't wait to see the book completed!

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  41. Not knowing anything about your plot, I giggled a little at the idea that kissing scenes in a book called The Preacher's Bride might need to be toned down.

    As for the rewrites, first off, the second round sounds so much easier than the first! Honestly, with regards to those two scenes, I would say to do what feels right. After listening to the suggestions, if you think the scenes should be tweaked accordingly, then do it. But if they feel right as is, leave them. They are experts and it is their opinion, but it is your book.

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  42. Love hearing this process! Hopefully, someday I'll be able to go through the same thing!

    I probably would listen to my gut as far as listening to an editor's advice. And I'm quite certain my gut would be saying, "Take the editor's advice!" :)

    Thanks for sharing, Jody!

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  43. Oh...and I forgot. Can I ask you question. Maybe a future blog post? I was very intrigued about the editor and kissing scenes. I really LOVE my kissing scenes. I like them to have passion. Passion speaks to me. And I think others. How much was too much for your editors?

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  44. Sarah Richardson asked: I’m curious about how much you had to tone down the kissing scenes. . . Do you think those edits will change the tone of your characters’ relationship, or are they relatively minor?

    And Katie asked (in regards to toning down the kissing scenes): How much was too much for your editors?

    My answer: These are great questions in regards to toning down! Katie, maybe I will have to do a blog post in the future. Maybe I can get permission from my publishing house to post an excerpt to show a "before" and "after" of one of my kissing scenes!

    But ultimately, I'm a very passionate writer too. So rest assured, my writing will still retain the passion!

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  45. Patricia asked: Will you have a chance to see the changes she's {the editor} made in case there are any you aren't comfortable with?

    My answer: My editor reassured me that if she had to make any bigger changes she would email me to let me see them, or just have me do the rewriting myself. She indicated that various writers have different pererences, that some just want the editor to make the changes, and some want to be involved in every detail. I probably fall somewhere in the middle.

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  46. Push that envelope, girl! :) I understand the publisher having guidelines, but to cut down a kissing scene???? That's one of my favorite parts! lol

    I wonder if they will compromise and allow your tweaking. HOPE they do!

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  47. I would think if your initial interaction with an agent gave you a sense that she really understands you and your writing, then trusting her judgement about changing details during the revision stage will be easier.

    I'm sure you're relieved that this round of revisions isn't major. The end is in sight! :)

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  48. Hi Jody -

    You must be so relieved!

    My only experience with editorial changes are in the non-fiction area. All the requests made sense and improved the end product.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  49. Only you can decide if the end results honor your vision for your books (in general) and your core values. I think that's the key issue, rather than the details of a particular plot.

    That said, if you have chosen a publisher that is right for you, you're wise to listen to your editors and learn all you can from them

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  50. Like you said... you have expert advice, so why ignore it? I guess with experience you may decide not to make some of the optional changes.

    I think for my first book, I'll do whatever they think is best.

    Good luck!

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  51. Jody, you know, even before your question appeared, I was thinking as I read along in your post about when I was going through the back and forth editing with my books, and how exhausting it felt as we were getting closer to the final, and how exasperated I felt when it wasn't quite good enough yet. (Really? There's more??!) It SEEMED like a relentless process while I was in it. But later, I could truly see almost all of the points that had been made, and I even have a few...regrets, maybe? I am very happy with the books, but I realized that at the point nearing the point of no return, I really needed to trust, then, more than at any other time. It's different than when you are sharing work with your critique buddies. Then, you need to discern feedback carefully. But at this point, I would take most of the advice, and only hold fast to those things that you know without a doubt are the way they are meant to be. I really think that later you will be relieved you listened and heeded their advice. Editors DO have a different and better vantage point at this stage of the game. That's my two cents. But NEVER compromise on something that would alter the soul of your story.

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  52. Congratulations! I guess it depends upon the advice and if I felt strong enough about that scene to risk not taking it. I'm pretty sure I would also take their advice. I'm in the middle of my fantasy book in which I have to remember to also not get too contemporary in my characters thinking. Thanks for the reminder!

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  53. I love your attitude. Some writers are egotistical and wouldn't re-write. The pros know what'll sell, especially to their readers, so why not take their advice? Good luck on the work. I'm sure you'll finish it in no time.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  54. You must feel so good that your editors were happy with your major revisions. Jody, I can't wait to be able to purchase and read your book. I think you need to both trust your editors and your own instincts. They have served you well.
    Karen

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  55. Wow, what a great story about working with an editor. How exciting!

    And I think authors should take every suggestion from the industry professionals that feels right and authentic to them. I don't think it affects the voice too much, especially when the author is rewriting. I mean, we know our characters and our stories SO WELL, that rewriting can only improve the text. (At least I think so.)

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  56. Jody: I am so excited for you I can't stand it! Yippee and even Dippee!!!!!

    I know this translates into tons of work for you, but YOUR NAME on a book!!!!! And I know you!!!! (It's okay to use exclamation marks in a blog comment, right?)

    I think you are wise to take their suggestions. It sounds like your editor is sensitive to you not giving up your unique style. After your 4ht or 5th book, you maybe can say, "Nah, I'm gonna stick with how I said it," although I can't imagine you ever being stubborn like that.

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  57. Jody,
    It sounds like you are moving along wonderfuly! I agree with what most have said about trusting the editors and knowing their audience. I also believe you're doing a great job balancing your "voice" and meeting their needs.
    And the kissing scene? Well, I hope you tweak it and they like it because I love a good kissing scene:)

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  58. You must be so excited. The end is in view and there's not a whole lot to do.
    All the best to you and I hope your next one goes fabulously too.

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  59. Jody, thanks for sharing so much of your journey with us. You may be a writer first and foremost, but I think you're a great teacher too.

    Having worked as an assistant editor, I watched good books made even better when our writers input the suggestions of the senior editors and publisher. They know the audience in a way we writers don't. And they have a vested interest in making our stories the best they can be. I like the idea of viewing our editors and agents as members of our team.

    So, yeah for Team Jody on getting The Preacher's Bride to this point. I'm sure it's an awesome story, one I'm eager to read.

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  60. It sounds like it wasn't too painful in round 2 Jody! :) I would tweak things, but I would also do whatever I could to keep the feel of the scene or story that I want. However, they are the pros and know the audience well. Good luck! Even through rewrites, this has to be extremely exciting!

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  61. I'm a bit late in responding, but I did have to laugh at toning down a kissing scene. That's hilarious to me!

    I'm torn with this question. It must be my fierce independent side coming out in me. Yes, we should objectively consider the editorial suggestions. But I can't help but pause when I hear about someone being asked to change endings and scenes and a character's personality. I guess it's just that I feel a writer knows their characters where as an editor knows the audience (they also have a heck of a lot more experience than I!). Use wisdom and ask God for guidance. He won't lead you wrong!

    Jen

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