It takes me one to two years to write a novel, however, typing The End is not the end. Those two little words mark the beginning of the next phase a manuscript – the editing phase. Great editing is often taken for granted, whereas poor editing is difficult to ignore. The sudden appearance of a plot hole or grammatical error will jolt the reader out of the fictional world they want to inhabit. When this happens, the book has momentarily “lost” its reader. The book industry invests a lot of time, money and effort in an attempt to prevent this from happening and editing is part of their armoury.
Initially a manuscript is edited and fine tuned by an amateur editor. In this case – yours truly. This process can be an emotional roller-coaster for the writer, whose aim is to produce a manuscript ready for submission. I normally edit as I write as it is only natural to correct spelling, grammar and fill plot holes along the way.
My second edit involves reading the complete manuscript on my laptop. For my third edit I either read a printed version or listen to it. Editing using either method is incredibly useful as it highlights errors that can be missed during a screen read through.
By the end of my third edit I have lived with my manuscript for almost a year. The characters have never been far from my thoughts and I know it too well to read it objectively. It is about now that I give the manuscript to someone I trust for valuable feedback... also known as a Beta Reader. Stephen King gives his manuscripts to his wife. I give mine to my daughter and, thankfully, she is honest with her opinion. The manuscript is polished for a fourth time and it is at this point, which is several months after I typed The End, it is ready to send out to the book industry.
Getting a novel accepted by an agent and/or publisher can take months, even years. It may never happen. Luckily it did for me and I signed my debut novel with Choc Lit. Several months, it can even be a year or more, after signing on the contractual dotted line, the author starts working with the publisher’s professional editor to prepare the manuscript for publication. It requires concentration, motivation, compromise and the ability to manage your time efficiently in order to meet any proposed deadlines. The odd bar of chocolate helps a lot too! Professional editing is made up of several layers. A different aspect of the manuscript is scrutinised at each layer. All editors work differently and the names they use for the different types of editing (i.e. structural edits, line edits, copy edits and proof reading) may vary. Some editors overlap these layers. A good relationship with your editor makes the process far easier.
In my opinion, great editing is invisible enabling the reader to immerse themselves in the story without being disturbed by errors. So now you know how much time and effort goes into preparing a novel. Yet, there are still several steps to complete before a book is released into the big wide world. There is a cover to design, the acknowledgements, dedication and footnotes to write, and a catchy hook and synopsis to tempt readers to buy it. This is only the first phase of a book's life... a whole new phase begins when as it is distributed to retailers and read by others.