I have many writers ask me about edits or tell me their fears. Some of the things I've heard time and again are:
"What's the process like?"
"I don't want anyone telling me how my story should be."
"I'm worried they'll ruin it."
"What if you disagree with their changes?"
"I'd rather self-publish. Then I will have final say on everything."
"Do you have to change everything they say? Can you disagree?"
I can't speak for every editor at every publishing house out there. I can only tell you my experience. And in my experience, the editors I've worked with were never seeking to rewrite my book. They were attempting to partner with me to make my book the best it could be. Every editor I've had said the same thing. "This is your book. If you don't like my suggestion, feel free to change them back."
That said, there were certain things that they probably would have fought me on, had I fought them. For example, in Captives, I wrote a scene with Omar and Belbeline that ended up getting cut. I had two editors on that book. Jeff Gerke commented something like. "This is great, but is it okay for the Zondervan audience?" And Jacque Alberta commented back, "Yeah, not so much. Can we show this another way?"
They were right, of course, and I cut the scene and wrote another one.
Once you are multi-published and have the opportunity to sell books off proposals, you might not have time to have beta readers help you with your first drafts. It's just you and your story for a really long time... and then your editor(s) read it. Talk about scary! Still, it's so important and helpful to have people on your side who can help you with every aspect of storytelling.
Since Rebels (book three in the Safe Lands trilogy) just released *happy dance*, I thought it might be helpful to let you see the progression of page one through each level of edits that I received.
Some publishers will do more edits on a book. With Captives, I also got an overall content edit at the start, and I rewrote the ENTIRE book--which really needed to happen. But Rebels was the end of the story, and I had my world and characters figured out by then, so these edits were not so intense.
I've posted each image below. Some of the comments might be a little hard to read, so let me know if you have any questions.
This is the manuscript I turned in. Here's how that worked. I had a deadline written into my contract. Book three is due on this date. And so I worked on that book, finished it, and rewrote it as much as I could, right up to that deadline. Then I sent it in to my editor. Here is page one from that draft.
Then I wait, usually several months. And one day, out of the blue, my edits show up attached to an email. Here is the first page of my first round of edits. All of the changes and comments were made by my editor. It's my job to go through and accept or reject or rewrite things--and comment back to explain if I disagree with something.
Whenever I get edits, the first thing I do is scroll through the entire manuscript and read all the comments. Then I take the rest of that day to think--and sometimes cry. What's most stressful here is that the editor usually wants these edits back in two weeks. So I have to move fast. There are usually some major changes needed, at least somewhere, and I need to brainstorm how I'm going to fix them. Still, that day of thinking is important--I've sometimes taken two days. Once I've let things settle and reminded myself that these are all good things--not the end of the world--and that I am capable of fixing all this and it will make the book better, I'm ready to work.
First I go through and accept everything I totally agree with. That makes the document look much cleaner. Then I go chapter by chapter and do the rewriting. I skip major problems until the end. With Rebels, Jacque wanted some more work on the ending. This resulted in me adding two new chapters and was one of the last things I did during my edits. When I'm done, I read the whole book again and tweak. Then I spell check and send it back to my editor.
Here is my first page after I've gone through all the edits. I left on Track Changes, so all the edits you now see are my changes. Sometimes I will also add comments to explain something to my editor. This way my editor can see what I deleted and added.
Once this round of edits has been turned in, more waiting comes. I turned in this round of edits on March 2 and I didn't get the line edits until July 28.
The line edits are the final stage of editing. If my editor hadn't been happy with my changes, she might have re-editing some things (and maybe any new material I'd written) and gone back and forth with me another time or two. But like I said, this was book three, and things were fairly smooth at this point and my next edit was the final line edit.
In this case, my line edits were done by a different editor. Here are her edits for page one.
I chose to agree with all of her suggestions on page one. But there were some I disagreed with in the story. And I caught more things on my own as I read the book again, so I made additional changes (with Track Changes on so the editors could see what I had changed).
Here is my first page after going through her edits. And this is the final version that appears in the book.
So that's how it works. And even though the process can be stressful, I'm so thankful that I have had the help of editors. Without a doubt their help has made my stories better. And I've never felt like they forced me to ruin my story. In fact, even when I self-publish, I hire an editor to do this process with me. It's important to get a professionally trained editor to help me see things I can't see myself. I would never self-publish fiction without one.