Editing Famished: The Commons
When I wrote Famished: The Farm, I was lucky enough to work with the inestimable Lillian Cohen-Moore as an editor. She took the draft, and she truly made it work – in ways I didn’t understand, and in ways I didn’t see.
She fixed my grammar without comment or complaint. I wouldn’t have been published without Lily.
As I said, however, she did work I didn’t see.
I often thought of editing as the second cousin to writing. Fiddly and mechanical, neat and precise; words which are rarely applied to any part of my life.
Still, I was willing to do the work on The Farm once Jennifer had her final read-through.
Hardly anything was left to be done. I was surprised, but pleasantly so, and I didn’t question it.
With Famished: The Commons, Lily’s work schedule had picked up; and I wasn’t able to reach out to her for assistance. My alpha and beta readers included smart, clever people, and other writers; but their feedback was not on the mechanical precision of the work. It was on the themes, the characters, the plot holes. Things I could fix … not easily, but fixes I was comfortable with.
Jennifer Brozek’s first words after her editing pass were, “Don’t panic.”
The three biggest issues – or, perhaps, the issues I would struggle with most – were the use of passive voice, mangled tenses, and pacing. In my long-passed English classes I could tell the difference between voice and tense well enough to pass a written test, but there are years of age and whiskey between those classes and today.
Jennifer recommended I get a copy of The Ten Percent Solution: Self-Editing for the Modern Writer and review it before starting to work. I did so, and found it a remarkably helpful book. Between its advice, Jennifer’s editorial notes, and a few executive decisions, I got the tense and voice issues resolved.
I also tightened the prose. I tended to write meandering, aimless, dreamy scenes.
(Words which are often applied to many parts of my life.)
That tightening, along with losing one main character to the edits, probably cost me a third of the written book. Over 20,000 words down the drain.
From the standpoint of someone who no longer views editing as a second cousin, but as a stern but fair parent? It’s a godsend.
The book has been delayed by this work, but has been improved by it.
I, too, have been delayed and improved by this work.
In the next Editing post: pacing issues and conventions.