Welcome to the second installment of our Behind the Scenes series. Today, Carina Press editor (eh-hem, my editor.) Gina Bernal gives us the deets on the editorial process.
Take it away, Gina!
You got The Call. Now what? For a new author, starting the editing process can be just as nerve-racking as sending out that first query. You’re placing the book you’ve lovingly crafted for months, maybe years into the hands of a stranger you may have only “met” via email or over the phone. So would you believe me if I told you it can be rewarding, even fun?
Every publishing house has its own editorial process, but the major stages are relatively universal. The first round is what are usually called developmental or content edits. Personally, this is my favorite part of the process because I get to reread a manuscript for the first time since its acquisition and rediscover all the things that made me fall in love with it. During the developmental edit you can expect to receive a letter from your editor outlining the things you’ve done right, as well as places in the manuscript that could benefit from revisions. This is the time to tackle plot holes, pacing problems, character inconsistencies, conflict, world building—in other words, the big picture items. Developmental edits provide you, the author, a great opportunity to view your story and characters through a fresh pair of eyes. For example, a comment about how your heroine never really seems to have her guard up despite all her talk about fearing betrayal might lead you to write a new scene that’s an emotional watershed for her character.
Once you’ve turned in revisions and your editor feels confident all concerns were appropriately addressed, you’re ready for round two: line edits. At this stage, an editor will do a nitty-gritty, line-by-line examination of the manuscript. Line edits focus on basics like grammar, spelling errors, repetition and typos, as well as stylistic elements in the narrative. Do you fall back too often on the passive voice when a stronger construction would provide a better visual? Is tiny your favorite adjective? Does a certain sentence read awkwardly? Would cutting the last two lines of a chapter help it end with more impact? Do your characters have problems keeping their eyes from flying across the room or roaming each others’ bodies? Seeing their common mistakes helps authors learn from the process and become better writers.
Some editors combine both stages, line editing as they read for developmental issues—everyone has his or her own preference. I generally like to line edit as I go along and then do another thorough read-through once revisions are complete because I am just that meticulous (or a little OCD).
This entire process can unfold within several months or just a few weeks. In traditional print publishing, it might take up to a year for your book to go from contract to shelf. At a digital-first house like Carina Press, turnaround is faster, which means shorter production schedules and tighter editorial deadlines.
Regardless of the length of the process, the most important aspect is the author-editor relationship. The kind of relationship you establish with your editor depends on your own individual needs as an author. Some like to brainstorm with their editors and ask for opinions as they work out a new book or revision. Others like to hash out the creative process with a writing partner or critique group before presenting their editors with the finished product. Different people work different ways, and that’s okay.
Remember, the two of you don’t have to be BFFs. But the author-editor relationship should never be an antagonistic one either. At the end of the day, your editor is an ally, someone who loves your book as much as you do and really does want to help you best realize your vision. Jumping into the editorial process might be scary at first, but it’s a key step in mining your writing’s potential.
RU Crew, here’s your chance to ask those burning editing questions. And just for fun, to prove Gina’s point about overuse of favorite words, take a guess how many times I used the word “look” in Man Law. The person who comes closest wins an RU pocket jotter.
Special thanks to Gina for being here today. I hope you all get lucky enough to have an editor like her because she is a gem! Join us on Monday when Tammie King of Night Owl Romance gives us the who, when, what and where of book reviews.
Gina’s Bio: Gina Bernal is a freelance acquisitions editor for Carina Press. She comes to Carina with over seven years of publishing experience, having started her career at the Berkley Publishing Group and most recently serving as the editor of the Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. She holds a B.A. in History and Literature from Harvard University and currently resides in the Boston area.
She is actively seeking romance of all subgenres and heat levels, women’s fiction, historical fiction and suspense/mystery novels with strong female leads. Gina loves books that make her laugh, books that make her cry and books that do both. She’s a sucker for tortured heroes, unusual settings and classic themes with new twists.
You can follow her on Twitter @GinaBernal
- The Road to an Agent with Adrienne Giordano
- A Year in the Life of a Debut Author by Kelsey Browning
- Editor Gina Bernal Tackles Line Editing
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for May 4 – 11, 2012 – C.J. Redwine, Cris Dukehart & Gina Bernal
- Revisions to Success