Last month I blogged about the publishing deal I’ve just signed with Hodder & Stoughton (you can read that post here), and the Novelistas have asked me to write about the publishing process. Although I had a book published before with a small independent press and a couple of short stories in anthologies, this is my first experience of working with a large traditional publisher. A lot of the process is new to me, and I’m very excited about getting input from professionals: I'm certain that my book, The Christmas Holiday, will be all the better for it. As I take you through my journey, I hope to demystify the process and show how much work goes into polishing a book before it’s ready to hit the shelves.
First up: Edits
I had heard terrifying stories about writers who were asked to completely overhaul their plots or rewrite a character, and often in less than a month, so I nervously awaited my editor's email. However, when it arrived I was relieved because there was nothing major and no structural changes. (I’m lucky that I wrote The Christmas Holiday in my own time without any deadline pressures, and my agent Megan had also been through it and suggested minor changes to improve it).
I was asked to add a couple of new scenes, but mostly, my edits were about deleting repetition and adding depth; that is, revealing little snippets of additional backstory which help explain characters’ behaviour. I was careful not to fall into the trap of adding too much: I’ve learned over the years that a couple of lines or a paragraph are usually enough.
What I didn’t expect in my edits were little comments marking the bits my editor especially liked – a passage that was particularly tense or an emotional scene she found moving. I was grateful for these, because it’s good to know what you’re doing right. So I made the edits, read through the book again, making sure it made sense (any writer knows, the smallest change can have a knock-on effect: no one wants their characters referring to an event that’s been deleted, for example) and sent the book back.
Then I waited to hear.
I had told myself I’d get straight back to writing book 5 (this one does have a deadline), but it was surprisingly difficult to concentrate until I’d heard if my edits were approved. I forced myself to sit at my desk each day, but my mind was elsewhere, worrying. Was what I’d done good enough? Should I have added more? Would my editor send me a second round of revisions? And if so, how many rounds should I expect?
After two days I couldn’t bear the waiting (I know, I really need to learn patience!) so I emailed the Novelistas asking how long does it normally take – days or weeks? ‘How long is a piece of string?’, said Trisha Ashley. Everyone agreed: it depends on the book’s schedule, your editor and their workload at the time. I knew I had to be patient.
Later that same day my editor got back to me (see? I should have been patient!) saying she was delighted with my revisions, and there were just a few tweaks left. I did these the same morning, and sent them off. The next stage would be copy-edits, which I’ll talk about next month, but for now I could get back to writing book 5.