Like everything else about writing a book, the editing process takes time and work.
Step One: Write. The first step, not surprisingly, is to write. I signed a publishing contract in December 2008 that gave me until June 2009 to deliver a first manuscript. Even though over half of my manuscript was written in December, it’s always a challenge to finish a book.
Step Two: Collaborate. This is where your editor comes in. Rather than waiting for feedback until June, I collaborated with my editor, Susan, much earlier. She gave me her big picture thoughts about the book, and I shared my vision for completion. We tried to wrestle with some of the tough questions up front, like How can we make my writing more universal? Are there too many stories about my own family? Will my audience be able to relate to Lady Lawyer? If your editor has the time, I’m a firm believer in early collaboration.
Step Three: Back and forth. After June 2009, Susan and I both worked heavily on the manuscript, passing it back and forth. The wonderful thing about working with a skilled editor is she will make your work better and sharper. When I think about Susan, I think about Proverbs 27:17: “Iron sharpens iron, so one [woman] sharpens another.” A good editor will provide solid criticism. This chapter has no take away. This story doesn’t belong in the book. This part is too redundant. Susan and I went back and forth – line by line – until we were both satisfied with the content.
Step Four: Copyedit. Once Susan and I were done editing, she passed the book to the copyeditors. These are the master proofreaders! They also gave the content a fresh read and caught inconsistencies. Presently, the manuscript continues to go through several sets of proofreading until it’s ready to go to print. (This is where we’re at right now. Printing is set for late March 2010.)
That’s the editing process in a nutshell. The most difficult part of editing can be opening yourself up to criticism. For me, this wasn’t anything new (I’ve worked in a large law firm for 15 years) but I can imagine that constructive criticism is probably tough for most writers (especially the Lone Ranger types). In the end, two heads are better than one – that’s the beauty of editing!