Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Editorial Notes and Revisions-The Bane of Writers?

On Tuesday I received official word that my revisions for THE FIRST DAYS have been accepted by my editor at Tor, Melissa Singer, and she has declared the book "finished." Now it's moving on to the Production Department where the copy editors will get a stab at it. I'm not certain when I'll get the copy edits, but it will definitely be an interesting to see that stage of production.

So how did it feel to read the editor's notes and see the marked up manuscript? Honestly, exciting!

I had an interesting conversation with David Dunwoody, author of EMPIRE, when I was at Horror Realm. I am a huge fan of his work and I read his most recent work before I read EMPIRE. When I finally read his first work, it fell a little flat a points for me. We were talking about this and he laughed and reminded me that he had written it online for fun and it wasn't supposed to be "real" writing. That really struck a chord with me, because that is what I had done with AS THE WORLD DIES. It was supposed to be for fun and the fact it hit a chord with so many people really surprised me. Even when we self published the books, it had been for the fans and I honestly had not expected everything that has happened since then.

Therefore, when I saw the revision notes and opened up the document to see all of Melissa's comments and editorial suggestions, I was enthusiastic to dive in.

A shot of what the revisions look like.

So what were the editorial notes suggesting? Elimination of extra words, trimming down of sentences, notes to add more action or emotions, and to give clarity to certain events or character actions. She also made comments in the margins about a wide range of things from what she liked, to if the girls took a bathroom break on their first day on the road, to questions about how trucks work, etc.

I went through the manuscript the first time and worked on her suggestions and comments. In her letter, she had stressed that I had the right to reject and accept the editorial suggestions. I accepted most of them, because she was absolutely correct about strengthening the sentence structure. But they were still my sentences. They just had words removed or were combined into one, stronger sentence. Her editorial notes reinforced a lot of what I have learned to correct in my writing over the last few years since I originally wrote the zombie trilogy. It was during this time I was able to add a whole new major scene and a few smaller ones. In fact, one scene that had originally been in the story, but I had somehow "skipped" when posting online was inserted back into the storyline. I only rejected a few things and those mostly had to do with the Texan way of talking or our culture. I definitely felt by the end of my first time through the manuscript that the writing had been tightened up to create a stronger story.

Then I went through the manuscript again. This time I was looking for ways to flesh out my characters and story. At the end of this process, some scenes ended up a bit more fleshed out and character motivations were clarified. I also scoured the manuscript for my "lazy online writing" phrases and fixed those up. Jenni gets a great new line, Ralph and Nerit have stronger moments, the depth of Travis and Juan's friendship is revealed, and Katie and Jenni express themselves more "in character."

A fear of a lot of the fans was that Tor would come in and change the story, my writing voice, and take away from the originals. Quite honestly, my Tor editor did the absolute reverse. She helped me enhance the story in every way possible. This new version is closer to my actual "writing voice" as opposed to writing a story online for fun and only running spellcheck before posting.

A fan recently told me he had the "real version" of THE FIRST DAYS and would buy the Tor version, too.

I can assure you that when the Tor version comes out, it will be the "real version" of THE FIRST DAYS.


  1. Great insight into the process! Although I admit I've learned a lot since EMPIRE that has fleshed out my prose, I do think the casual (and episodic) nature of the original online version carried over through the revisions which brought it to print. It's interesting to look back and see how that made a difference in my voice. Living in a time when readers can witness the development of a work via the Internet creates feelings of both vulnerability and excitement for me.

  2. Very interesting to read about the process! I read the kindle version but I think I will buy the new version, too.


Thanks for commenting!