Answering YOUR Questions About In-House Edits (Part 1)

As most of you know, I'm working furiously at completing in-house edits on my first book, The Preacher's Bride. Last week I shared the nitty-gritty of my rewrite process. (Click here if you missed the post.) This week I'd like to answer some of your very thought-provoking questions!

Katie Ganshert & Cindy Wilson asked: How much guidance do editors give you in the rewrites? Do they give very specific feedback or is it more general?

Before answering this question, I just wanted to take the opportunity to congratulate Katie on her recent offer of representation by Rachelle Gardner! Congrats again, Katie! Way to go!

My editors have given both specific and general feedback. For example, they've specifically asked me to change my hero's last name, delete a past occurrence I'd used to intertwine my characters, cut a particular kissing scene, and more.

Most of their requests, however, are general like change the ending, switch hero's character arc, or add more emotional elements to the romance. With each of the general changes, my editor gave me suggestions for how I might rework the areas--especially during our first long phone call.

Later, after I'd finished laying out my scene-by-scene spreadsheet with my notes, I called my editor and shared my new ideas. I wanted to get her confirmation before I began. She liked them, gave me a few more helpful suggestions, and told me to call her any time I wanted more input or help.

Ultimately Bethany House trusts my creativity to reshape the areas of my book that need it. They've pointed out what they want changed, but aren't micro-managing how I change them.

Patricia Woodside asked: How are you capturing/organizing the deleted passages for easy, later reference?

Initially, I read and edit my completed work in hard copy. I mark it up with a red pen. If I need to move a section to a different chapter, I red-line it and make a note of where it needs to go, both on my hard copy and my spread sheet. If I need to delete, I mark that too. Then I refer back to both as I work through my book.

Before starting the rewrites of a chapter, I copy/paste the chapter into new Word document. With my marked up hard copy and printed spread sheet in front of me, I go through the chapter line by line in my Word document, deleting what I don't need, pasting from other areas, or in some cases adding completely new information. When I'm done with the revised version of the chapter, I paste it back into the full document.

So, in answer to the question, I don't specifically save deleted sections. By the time I pick apart what I need from that scene or paragraph, I usually don't need what's left.

Karen Peterson asked: Are you excited about the changes? Or do you feel like your entire original story has been rewritten?

I'm amazed at how my creativity can still jump into high gear even during rewrites. One new idea leads to another, and yet somehow all of the changes still fit within the original plot and story. The rewrites have forced me to dig deeper into the story that's already there to bring out the rich treasures waiting under the surface. So, I would say it's still very much the original story, just richer.

Tamika asked: How is this stage of your writing different from the first draft?

I don't do rewrites with my first draft. I'm definitely a plotter (not a pantser!). After weeks of researching and plotting, I have a very sturdy structure to build upon when I start the writing. Of course, I always leave room in my plotting for those wonderful twists and turns the story brings. But overall, I have a blueprint for my story and stick to it.

Therefore, my first draft editing consists primarily of line-editing--combing through my manuscript, adding sensory details, correcting awkward sentences, etc. My current in-house edits are giving me my first real experience doing major renovations.

Thanks for the questions! Now I'd love to hear how you edit! Do you have to make major rewrites after your first draft? Or do you mostly have line-editing? I personally would rather get my story mostly right the first time through, rather than have to go back and try to make it flow. What about you?


  1. I hope to be able to answer this question someday. Nice stories to me for now. :-)

  2. After my first draft, I do both line-editing and major additions/deletions. When an editor gets it, there are more of both.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. It was interesting to read the process you are going through and how you approached your edits. All authors eventually have to do this, yet no two people approach edits in the same way, or so it seems.

  4. Thanks for the congrats, Jody! It was SO much fun celebrating with you via email! Loved your squees!

    Thanks for answering these questions! I find it incredibly intriguing at this point in my writing career...I hope someday I get to venture into this aspect of writing! I can't imagine how amazing it would be to work with an in-house editor!

    I'm very much like you. Before I write the first draft, my outline is solidly in place. I outline each scene with GMC, then plod along during the rough draft writing the book scene-by-scene.

    However, during my first draft, I tend to ramble...A LOT. I tend to include a lot of unnecessary dialog and my scene openings tend to drag. So when I revise, I cut a lot of stuff! I line-edit, like you. I axe the showing, find a way to convert it to telling. Make sure everything flows. Possibly strengthen the spiritual thread, OR unstrengthen it (since sometimes it tends to be too in-your-face). Delete redundancies (of which there is a lot). Get rid of passive voice. All that sort of thing.

    I've never had to venture into major rewrites, because like you, I stick with my outline.

  5. Line-editing. Maybe that' why I write so slow; I'm trying to get it right the first time.

    I like the idea of making the tale richer through digging deeper with the help of editors. I often wonder if I pose the question "have you considered this or this" enough when I craft a story.

  6. Oh, the first time, definately.

    Now, I say that, but I did "rewrites" on my first book for almost 2 years, but that was because I was still learning the craft (still am!) so would go back and apply my "knowledge" and rewrite/fix/delete.

    It's funny, though. When I got my first request for a full, I was ready to send it, but decided tot ake a few days to read through ONE MORE TIME just to feel better about it. Hind site, stupid mistake (if an agent asks for a full, SEND IT THAT DAY!) But... I cut more out of my manuscript in that last edit than I ever had. Parts I *liked* I looked at it from the agents POV and was like, CRAP that needs to go. And all that was done in about 3 to 4 days.

    But with this newest book, I'd really like my "self" edits to be done in one get go. Granted, I don't have the value of having an editor's opinions though, so I know I'll have to rewrite again once it's on it's way to publication (here's to hoping!)

    Now, here's a KRISTA question:

    Delete a kissing scene??? Why???? Did it not fit, or was it a bit too oh-la-la?

  7. I edit as I write and then, after the first draft, edit until I feel it's "done." I'm a pantser all the way, with only an overall idea of the story and general feel for the main characters when I begin. Watching the story unfold before my eyes is one of the most mysterious and gratifying things in life. ;-)

  8. Thanks so much for answering those questions!

    I'm a pantser, but the only story I've done major rewrites on was my first. For the other ones, I go through the full three different times, once in hard copy, twice in Word. I thought I did rewrites until you said what they were. Now I think maybe I just do a lot of editing and clarifying, etc.
    This is really interesting stuff! I'm so disappointed that you had to cut a kissing scene though. LOL!

  9. Jody,
    I'm mainly a seat-of-the-pants writer, although I always have an opening and closing in mind, as well as a general idea of the hook and story arc. As I write, I go back to the preceding chapter and edit it before starting on the next one. Then, after several chapters, I backtrack and line-edit those again. After I finish the entire manuscript, I let it sit for a bit before doing yet another edit.
    In the case of my own forthcoming novel, my editor at Abingdon gave me a macro edit with points she thought should be changed in the story. Her line-edit was more detailed but had less effect on the story itself--just word choices, etc. And she was careful to tell me I was free to reject any of her changes with which I disagreed. But she's more experienced than I, so I went with almost all of them.
    Thanks for sharing your journey.

  10. I look at my writing as the development of the human body.

    The rough draft = the bones. The first draft = the organs. The second draft = the muscles, etc.

    Normally, the rough draft is getting the story out from beginning to end. The other drafts flesh (sorry) out the characters and story, tighten things up, and all that other jazzy stuff.

    I think the first few revision phases are where I'm normally adding stuff, and then I get to the point where I'm deleting sentences and whole sections as I try to tighten the manuscript enough to say it's ready for query.


  11. I'm a pantser, although I do better if I have a few "plotted" guideposts along the way (a big known event for each of Acts 1, 2, & 3, for example).

    I write a ROUGH draft (may have big plot holes, intentionally left open and skipped over because otherwise I'd be stuck and never finish), then a FIRST draft (no remaining plot holes, story makes sense), then I submit to beta readers who give me the fresh view I need... usually re: characterization. Then once the forest is taken care of, it's back to the trees... an edit with the focus on language. And I always line-edit as I go.

    I would rather get it right the first time than go back to make it flow, but that's not actually an option for me. My choices, based on my writing style, are to get stuck entirely at the outset because I don't have all the pieces in place yet, or go back and make it flow. I pick #2.

  12. I've done both. I have done only one huge major rewrite the rest have been a little more in detail than an in line edit. So on to my pressing question ;) Did you get to keep your title?

    Thanks for the info on tweet deck. It's great.

  13. After the first draft, I often add depth to the story, with researched details. It might involve expanding on an experience, or giving a character more authenticity with traits and behaviors suited to her. I guess it gets further developed once the structure of the first draft is done.

  14. Woo Hoo to Katie. Great insight provided here. I am about to find out if I'll need to do major rewrites on this one. My gut, more line editing b/c I read through it often as I began writing and I also went with an outline this time. I'm looking forward to what my writing group thinks.
    ~ Wendy

  15. I'm currently in a period where I'm doing both line edits and major re-writes. I decided my story really starts at chapter 4, so I'm having to find ways to weave chapters 1-3 (well, what's needed of them, anyway) in the rest of the book.

    It's good that they give you direction but aren't micro-managing you. At that point, I'd love to run ideas by someone first too. Sounds like a great relationship!

  16. My rewriting tends to be a bit of a hatchet job at first, then I go over and do the smoothing out. It takes an enormous amount of run throughs for me, so I end up writing new stories inbetween to give me a needed break. But I am discovering with eah new story, it comes out a little less messy that the one before.

    Yeah, I'm aiming to have much cleaner first drafts each time I take a new one on.

  17. Wonderful insight! Thank you for this.

    I'm definitely a panster. I have an outline/general summary I work from but once I get started, it just goes. When I finally type "The End", I let it rest a bit and then I go through and read it with a very criticel eye. I cut open my first draft, let it bleed, and see what comes from it. Honestly, I usually re-write/edit a novel at least 3 times before I feel I can say "It is finished".

    Good luck with your re-writes!
    Happy Monday,

  18. It's been enlightening, sharing your journey with you, Jody. I hope someday I get to experience a similar journey. With my memoir, it was so different, because it was my own life and story. I didn't make anything up. But it did require the same kind of editing you describe, enriching with details, metaphor, description, etc.

  19. Thanks again for offering us an inside look at your editing experience! I'm curious: why did they want you to change your hero's last name? I'm not sure if I remember correctly, but wasn't your initial story based on real historical people? Did they want you to make it completely fictional instead? (I'm curious about this because when one publishing house evaluated my first novel last year, they told me that they might reconsider it if I rewrote it from a "true" story based on real people into a completely fictional story.)

  20. I'd like to get it right the first time, but I usually still need to do a lot of rewriting.

  21. After my first draft I end up doing a combination of line editing and some major rewriting, sometimes adding scenes but mostly developing characters and pushing scenes further.

  22. I've had to force myself to stop editing as I go in order to increase productivity, so when it comes to editing, I have more to do than I would like. But I'm less intimidated by it now than when I first started.

  23. Your lucky to have an editor help you with the rewrites. I'm rewriting my novel, too. I have my critique group to guide me though. Thank goodness for them.

    P.S. If you know of anyone in search of a critique partner/group, send them to my blog.

    Lynnette Labelle

  24. Thanks for answering these questions, Jody!

    I definitely like to get my story right the first time through. I'm finding it easier now that I have a better idea of how to plot my novel. I'm not a huge fan of rewrites and I love making the characters and the story come alive on my first try so that the rest of the editing can simply be about enriching that world I created.

  25. So far, I'm just completing the second of two drafts I finally feel are "worth" spending time editing. My previous drafts are so riddled with plot holes and bad arcs I just didn't have the tenacity to even attempt editing. I learned how to plot, think I finally found my outlining method, and in two short weeks will be starting my first revision of a novel draft. Outlining has helped dispense with the major plot holes, but I still have some arc and character issues to address (because I don't outline in detail).

    I'll be experimenting a lot, but it's my hope to do just two passes. One for revisions - character strengthening, structure, arcs, etc. And one last for line-edits. Won't know how it goes until I dig in... :-)

  26. I did a major overhaul change for my first book and learned a lot from that. Mainly that I don't want to have to do it again. Now I plan more, so I will just have to do line edits and a few modifications, not entire story changes.

  27. Jody, thanks for welcoming me back this morning. :) It was so nice to hear from you. I'm a recent graduate to longer works, having started out as a picture book author, so all of this is still intriguing to me as well. I'm mostly just listening in, taking a few notes. :) When I wrote my memoir, the story was already there. It was just a matter of how I would put the pieces together. I ended up having a thread that kept everything tied together, then sprinkled the rest with bits and pieces of my childhood journey. So, I can't say yet that I know how to plot out a novel. I'm looking forward to trying soon. This is good food for thought for that eventual effort.

  28. I'm enjoying all of the comments today. I'm definitely a tweener. I plot, then I'm a pantser, sticking to the main outline for the most part. I'm deleting a portion of my current MS and adding scenes to strengthen the part of the plot that I like the most. My current MS is becoming stronger each day, and I love it.

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  31. Thanks for the inside look :)

  32. Wow, sorry about the triple comment :(
    Not sure what happened.

  33. Your delight with this journey is evident. I know it's a lot of work, but I can just feel your enthusiasm!

  34. Thanks for all the great information.

    My first manuscript was a learning experience. I'm having less trouble with this one, so I think the revisions won't be as extensive.

    Susan :)

  35. I feel like all I did on my first work was rewrites! I'm hoping that won't always be the case. Thank you for all your insights they are very helpful as always!

  36. Great questions & I love that you take the time to answer them Jody!

  37. Its so good to hear that you don't feel like your story has gotten lost in the edits. It's still something I worry about.

  38. Jody, I know I have siad this before, but thank you for sharing so openly an dhonesly about the process you are going through. It is really helpful to have some idea of what to expect and how to ready our hearts for editing in the big leagues. I am learning the valuable art of seperating myself from my WIP. I am able to hear the negative as well as the positive. I am able to hear that my WIP still needs work. I knew it did,but when I got it back from the manuscript evaluator I was surprised that the work to be done was such major things. But I am not bummed out about it. I am excited as to where this will take my writing and it is all one step closer to being ready to submit.

  39. I'm with Walt... someday I'll be able to tell you all about me and my process. But for now, I enjoy you and your posts very much... always so insightful! xo Thanks Jody, may God continue blessing you on your journey!

  40. Jody, Thanks for the inside scoop on this process! It was interesting to hear both the specific and general edits they had you do. I haven't gone through the editing process with an editor, but I'm a plotter like you. I like to have a general direction for the story before I start.

  41. Nice post, Jody. always curious to learn about the "professional" editing process of working with a publishing house. And I also read your post about how you manage your chaotic writing life. Your dedication to writing shines through the lines. Very inspiring. Patrice

  42. Oh, yes! I finally am able to commment after three failed attempts. Reminds me of writing--never, never, never give up.

    I love your informative posts on your process to publication. When you are rich and famous, remember us, okay?

    Audience of ONE

  43. Jody, thanks for sharing your process. I appreciate getting an inside look at the steps you've taken. You're blazing a trail many of us would like to follow. Because of your informative and well-written posts, we'll know better what to expect when our turns come.

    Having just completed a major rewrite, I'm determined to have a better plan in place before I begin my next story. Although this one is far better than it was as a result of my work, the process was grueling, even for someone who enjoys editing as much as I do.

  44. My first rewrite generally is to fix awkward sentences and any mistakes. If anything needs an overhaul, I do it in the next rewrite.

  45. Mostly line editing now but that could change. I agree with your comment about digging deeper. It seems like I learn something new every day that can improve my story.

    You sound like an agent and editor's dream:)

  46. Great answers to some really thought provoking questions. I fear I am not as detailed in my process as I should be,

  47. Thanks for the peek into your process, Jody. Recently I've begun to call myself a planner, which is neither a pantser nor a plotter but somewhere in between. I need a few ideas in place before I start, thus the planning, but a detailed outline tends to kill my creativity. So once I'm done the first draft the basic story is usually in place but needs lots of refining -- details and description improved and fluff eliminated. Later read-throughs are for fine-tuning and line-edits. It seems like a logical sequence for me and yet that final stage goes on indefinitely. I can't stop tweaking!

  48. Those were some very helpful answers. Thank you!

    For me, I pretty much freewrite the first draft. I have an idea of where the story is going, and sometimes I'll even write the last chapter in the beginning so that I know where I want to end up. But I don't really do a lot of plotting because I like to just find out where the story is going to take itself.

    Which means I basically have to rewrite the entire thing when I'm done.

    Which is probably why I have yet to finish something to the point that I feel like I'm ready to query agents.

    Hmmm...Maybe I need to rethink my strategy...


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