If you’ve been reading this blog for long enough, you’ve probably heard me talk about Of Rooks and Ravens, the big, weird fantasy novel set in the world of Ravensgate. If you have missed all the randomness about how the project evolved, that’s okay. It’s a Gothic high-fantasy with an ace/aro female academic forced by fate into a world of intrigue, politics, and birds.
You’ll love it.
Anyway, the big change is that I found a publisher for the book last year and we’re in the edit process so that we can launch in early October of this year. And I realized that this was a great opportunity to talk about edits. And more importantly, working with publishers and editors on edits.
So get yourself an iced coffee and pull up a chair. Shit is about to get real.
I don’t know how many times I’ve edited this book. This includes at least one and a half edit passes heavy enough I’d almost consider them rewrites. It got at least two big edits before I let anyone read it or the first time. And a few more since then.
And you’d think with all those edits, all that time, the book should be in really damn good shape, right?
Well, yes and no.
If you do your job well and the stars align and you get your manuscript out to the right people, all of your previous edits might be enough to get it noticed. They might like it. They might, heaven forbid, actually think it’s good!
But that doesn’t mean you’re done.
Because why the fuck are you settling for good?
With a talented editor or two by your side, you should set your sights on great. But even if you never quite reach that vague plateau, if you commit to the collaborative process with good editors, you can at least attain better.
They are your allies. They are there with the same goal you have: to tell the best story possible. No, they aren’t always right. But trust me on this: neither are you. Take your ego out of it and learn to listen.
Anyone who has gone through this process knows there are different degrees of editing. Everyone should at least have an extra set of eyes looking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the level of things a copy editor looks for. But ideally, you will find an editor who challenges you to look at the manuscript in new ways and find things that you overlooked.
“But Unca Nate! I’ve gone through this novel with a fine-toothed comb three times. I created this world! How could I have overlooked anything?”
Again, don’t get defensive. Do you know how much work I’ve done in Ravensgate? Years and years of work on this university city in the high mountain pass next to a vast, dark lake.
Guess what? It never occurred to me until the last set of deep edits that Preston had never eaten fish before because no one would eat something that came out of that giant, dead lake. It never occurred to me that despite the altitude and the cold that it was weird the lake never froze over. You’d think someone would have commented on that
And then in an edit meeting yesterday something else occurred to all of us. Not only is the lake, which is so central to the city not even mentioned until the second chapter, but I’ve never thought to actually give the lake a goddamned name.
I’d like to take this moment to commend Alisha Knaff and Christine Smith from Razorgirl Press. The first time we sat down to talk edits, we went through an entire novel’s worth of notes and suggestions over coffee. It took almost three hours. After that edit pass, we sat down again and looked not only at those changes, but at the whole novel and, in particular, the first chapter which was annotated and flagged with tiny tweaks and questions like a conspiracy board of the Kennedy Assassination.
And we dug into those for over an hour, note by note by note.
It was the most intensively collaborative editing step I’ve ever experienced.
And I mean that in the best way possible. Because several of those flags marked things that were already great. Some were simple suggestions of revised word choice. And some were little tweaks to bring in more depth and detail.
I dug into the notes today and started the latest edit pass. Two pages in, and I had to take a break to write this post. Because no matter how good you think your book is, it’s possible to make it better. Because that book you read that changed your life, that blew you away and made you want to be a writer? I can pretty much promise you it didn’t just happen.
I loved Of Rooks and Ravens. I loved this weird story about an awkward girl forced out of her comfort zone and into a bigger world which she has to navigate alongside an utter bastard of an accidental mentor. I loved it more after that last edit pass I turned in earlier this spring. And holy shit, guys, I can’t wait for you to read what it’s going to be when we’re done.
You’ll be able to see for yourself in October. And pay attention to this space. I’ll be revealing more, including the cover, in coming months.