Surviving my final round of edits

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At long last, I am getting back to some kind of normal today. I have missed my last two blog posts and so it feels good to be writing one again. During my absence, I have been busy with my final round of editing of ‘From Here to Nashville’ and I have to admit that I have been finding it really hard. When I first looked through the edited manuscript, I could see that the majority of the edits were straightforward suggestions for improving the story but there were also some major issues which I knew would involve me in some lengthy rewriting. My immediate feeling was one of panic because I had already booked my proofreader for 8th December and I didn’t think I could keep to that schedule if I went ahead with the rewriting. I did the sensible thing and contacted my proofreader and thankfully, she was very understanding so I have now postponed the proofreading until the end of January to give me some more time. If I do keep to this plan, I could be self-publishing my book in early March.

However, one of the issues is that my description of settings is not detailed enough. This is a difficult one. I know that many writers write about places they have never been and so your descriptions need to be backed up with some good research if this is what you’re doing. I have done all this of course, for Nashville, but still my descriptions don’t seem to be quite good enough. So, is it something that would be improved by personal experience or is it just the quality of the description writing? As I’m going to Nashville next April, I have wondered whether I should wait till my return to finish the story so that I can add in description details from my personal experience but in the end, I’ve decided not to wait. If I delay any further, I won’t be publishing until the end of May and I will just be twiddling my thumbs, as far as this book goes, for the first five months of next year. This has been a very hard decision to make but, for now at least, I think it’s the right one.

One of the other major issues the editor has flagged up to me is the narrative voice I have used in the story. In fact, it’s narrative voices and this has been an issue I have worried about and blogged about all the way along this journey. Just to remind you, the first part of my story is written from the female character’s point of view in first person; the second part is from the male character’s point of view, in first person and the final part, alternates between them. The editor has suggested I rewrite it all in third person or rewrite it all in first person from Rachel’s point of view. After I’d got over the initial shock, I tried rewriting a section in third person and I didn’t like it at all, which leaves me rewriting it all from Rachel’s perspective. This would mean losing Jackson’s perspective on Nashville, which is quite a large chunk of the novel. It would have some advantages though, in that I could lose some of the minor characters who are stacking up quite high and it would allow me to lose a lot of words from the story, tightening the pace a bit too. I haven’t reached this part of the story yet to see what the effect of rewriting it would be but I am willing to give it a try and see what happens. The hardest thing is having to make these decisions on your own, without the benefit of advice from a publisher and I have really been struggling under the weight of that responsibility. I have talked it over with a number of people but in the end, it has to be your decision if you are self-publishing and I want to make the right one for my book.

The final major issue is that for a romance, the editor thinks it’s not sexy enough! Following the advice from a partial edit earlier in the year, I did try to inject more emotion into the story but apparently, I haven’t gone far enough. I went on a course last year about how to write passion on the page and at the time, we were given a handout on ‘The Twelve Steps of Intimacy’ by Desmond Morris from his book ‘Intimate Behaviours.’ I did try to use this to help me build up the sexual tension and I had succeeded to some extent with it but I only went so far, forgetting that I need to keep it going all the way through the story. This is another difficult one in that I like to read quite sexy stories myself but writing them is a completely different thing. I don’t want to go too far and alienate readers but nor do I want it to be a so-called ‘sweet’ romance. It needs to be somewhere in the middle and this is not as easy as it sounds. The research for this one is good fun though 😉

I have to admit that I have felt quite despondent over the past couple of weeks because every time I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, it moves away from me again. Now that I have started working my way through the edits though, I know I can deal with them. I realised that I would need more time and I’ve built that in. I’ve had to accept that I’m the one making all the decisions, including whether or not I agree with all the editor’s suggestions and comments, and I’ve started making them. For the time being anyway, I can see the light again.

Thanks for reading. Do leave me a comment and let me know how you dealt with your final round of edits. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

33 thoughts on “Surviving my final round of edits

    • Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Wendy. I recognise some of those symptoms! Traumatic is definitely a good word for it. Thanks for your good wishes 🙂

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  1. Julie! I really felt for you when I read this. Look – it’s YOUR story. Write it how you damn well want! It’s only that editor’s opinion. One of the advantages of self-publishing is that you don’t have to do what anyone says – you can do what feels right for you. Lots of description of the settings? More sex scenes? What’s this, writing a romantic novel by numbers? I don’t think you can learn to write erotic scenes by going on courses; they have to feel sexy to you, you have to find them a turn on, or they just read as awkward and embarrassing, or, worse, cliched and cringe-making. If you don’t want sexy scenes in your novel, don’t put them in. Ditto lots of description of settings – will it really be worth delaying the publication of your novel just for a few firsthand descriptions of street scenes???? Get it from the internet, if you want to put more in. That’s IF you do.

    As for doing a complete re-write, if you’re not careful you’re going to end up so fed up with the sight of the thing that you’ll end up abandoning it. I really think you need to get this done, out and published, so you can stop worrying about it and move on to the next. No, it won’t be perfect, and yes, you may get the odd negative review, and it may not sell like crazy or make you the next romance hot seller, but just get it done and GONE!!! From everything you’ve written, I am sure it’s going to be a hell of a lot more professional than a lot of debut novels.

    Some people love the way I used lots of POVs in my novels. Other people find it confusing and disjointed. I like it, so that’s the way I write.

    Many people publish too soon. A few people end up never publishing because they can’t leave the wretched thing alone! No-one is superbly confident about the first novel they put out, but until they put it out they can’t write the second and the third. Write YOUR book, leave the proofreader to sort out the typos. Please!!! I had to write this as soon as I read what you were going through – I do hope it helps!!

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    • When I read this and your later comment, I realised that it’s your motivational messages I’ve been missing out on too! You always make me laugh and you say it like it is 🙂

      We’ve had this discussion before and I know you’ve told me that I need to be confident and accept that it’s my own book but I guess I wouldn’t be a writer if I wasn’t plagued with doubts, some of the time. The trouble is that as a newbie, I am looking to others for validation, I suppose but there is that inevitable danger if I keep on like that, of never publishing. I think I have finally accepted that. Yeeha! I hear you cry all the way up there 😉

      By the way, I do want sexy scenes, it’s just that I find them hard to write so I’m working on that and it is getting better, I think. I take your point though that you have to feel it.

      So now I have the final edits; I have a date for proofreading and I have a professional cover. I’m going to put in a new date for publication and go for it, Terry 🙂

      Thanks again, it really has helped.

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      • I really like Terry’s comment, because it echoes some of the reaction I had when reading this blog post. I totally agree with her, and want to add that part of what makes your voice unique is the WAY you write it; potentially unconventional POV and all.

        If you want someone to give it another look over before you send to the proofreader at the end of January, I will have a 2wk break over Xmas and would very much like to spend some time with Rachel and Jackson again, if you needed me to. 😉

        Chin up, you’re doing a fab job. And, not that it’s any consolation, but knowing that you’re also going through some rewrite hell has helped me put my own editing woes into context.
        xx

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      • Thank you so much for this lovely comment, Cat. Maybe I will start a new trend! I still haven’t finally made my mind up about what the best thing is to do but I think I’ll know what feels right when I get to that section again. I would love you to read it again and thank you so much for offering when I know you have a lot on your plate as well. I’m sorry that you’re struggling with editing too – it definitely is a kind of hell 😉 I’m sure you’re doing a great job too, better than you think but you can only see that afterwards!

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  2. pssst – just re-read that and realised I might have been a bit emphatic!!!! But I think these are the key points – Unless YOU feel the sexual tension between the characters, you won’t be able to write it; you can’t manufacture it.
    Self-publishing means you don’t have to adhere to strict guidelines as set out by publishers.
    And this most of all: No-one is superbly confident about the first novel they put out, but until they put it out they can’t write the second and the third.
    Anyway – good luck and I’m sorry if I went on too much, I just felt so sorry for you!!!!

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      • Julie, I just had to run an errand or two and walked over the park to do so, and I was thinking about this as I did so and hoping I didn’t seem too nagging – actually, it’s inspired a blog post I am about to start, which I will send you, rather than write it all here and then again!!! I’ll just leave you with this, too – you will never get 100% validation from everyone, and sexy scenes are the very devil, yes!!! I think one way to write them is to (ahem!) explore your memory…!!! Ha ha 🙂 Think I’d better go and write that blog post … :^D

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      • I never find you nagging and if my misery has inspired a blog post for you, then I’m glad 😉 I wish that I could let go of that need for validation. How old do you have to be for that to happen?! Anyway, I take your final point absolutely 🙂 I look forward to reading your post.

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  3. Hello Julie – I just wanted to say I know exactly how you feel. I am going through a similar thing and redoing large chunks (no, in fact, let’s just call it effectively starting again with the same story). You know you’re not alone 🙂

    What always impresses me about you is how you manage to still keep blog/twitter/facebook going during all of this – as in today, yet another great post from you! I’ve found that I’ve just withdrawn into myself and find it hard to do all the extra stuff. Speaking of things like that, are you going to the Winter Party? If so, hope to see you there, Rachel (@genbeecroft)

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    • Hello Rachel and thanks for reading and commenting. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been suffering with rewrites too. We are still learning and it’s going to take some time. Thanks for the lovely comments too. The fact is that I have been quite withdrawn over the past couple of weeks but now I’m coming out fighting! Don’t feel guilty about social media, it still goes on without you and when you come back, it’s as if you’ve never been away.

      I’m not going to the Winter Party this time so I won’t see you but if you fancy a chat, DM me and we can swap horror stories any time you like 😉 Keep your chin up. We can do this 🙂

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      • A couple of weeks is nothing! I’m on a couple of months and counting… hoping the Winter Party will re-energise me for socialising! A great pity you won’t be there but will definitely DM you. Just keep going and you absolutely will get there… 🙂

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    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Rebecca. I did give it out to a small group of beta readers but that was some time ago now. Only one of those was a writing friend but she helped me such a lot, even though she doesn’t write romance. I now have some great friends in the RNA who I think I could call on in future as well. It is a hard process, you’re right but everything is going to be useful for the next time round 🙂 Good luck to you too. We’ll have a big party when we get there!

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  4. I agree with Terry, your editor’s suggestions are just that – suggestions for your consideration.

    When you started out on this story, it must have seemed important to switch point of view from one character to another. Provided it isn’t used as lazy narrative, different viewpoints can bring more meat to the plot.

    Regarding your setting descriptions, focus on what Nashville means to you – and what it means to your characters. Maybe it’s possible to watch Nashville’s local news station on line? Should be bang up to date!
    I’ve never been there, but immediately think of intimate drinking holes with country singers, and could be completely out the ball park here, waitresses snapping bubble gum and making wise cracks, cowboy hats and tasseled jackets, Dodge pick up trucks and tree lined roads with cracks in the sidewalk’s paving stones.
    I’m probably two decades off the mark, so maybe have your character muse on how Nashville has changed since its heyday – no longer (the blah whatever) and x had been replaced by y. maybe something like: occasionally a pick up truck roared by, drowning out the purr of executive limos. (character) inhaled deeply, detecting a faint aroma of moonshine; and decided he/she would take time out to visit an authentic bar, sip Tennessee Whiskey and listen to one of the Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton impersonators.

    What’s the first thing you see driving into Nashville or getting off the train? How does Nashville smell? Sound? Take time to give one really vivid overview, then bleed description into your characters’ experiences. Readers expect to find fictional settings within a factual description, so unless it’s pivotal, adapt a generic scene.

    As for the intimate scenes, my advice is don’t write anything that makes you squirm. Readers will sense your discomfort.

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    • Thanks so much for this really helpful comment, Julia. I think this is what my editor was getting at. I don’t need to put much more in but it needs to be the right kind of description and just one or two lines might make all the difference. I have concentrated more on places rather than describing them in a bit more detail. So I have been watching a few programmes (helpfully, the BBC has been having a ‘Country Nights’ season on the TV and the radio and as I’ve listened, I’ve picked up lots of bits and pieces of information which I think I can use. Thank you again for all your suggestions. I will definitely come back to them and thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

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  5. Julie, my stomach curled up and knotted reading this. I can only imagine having to make all these decisions on my own. I have been teetering on whether to self publish my second book or begin the dreaded queries, but after reading this, it makes me realize that I’m probably not prepared to step out on my own just yet. I need that little encouragement of someone leading the way and offering some advice.

    I will tell you, that regardless of whether you are traditional or self published, we all go through these feelings and emotions. I was surprised and a little embarrassed at the things my editor suggested with my first round of edits. It made me feel very incompetent as a writer. Not that she was belittling in anyway. She was actually a gem to work with, I simply put the self-doubt there myself. So, what you think are likely major problems, really aren’t as big of a deal as you think.

    I still consider myself an avid reader over a writer, so from that perspective, I will say that I agree with your editor about the POV changes. I find first POV from either source throughout the entire book or 3rd POV easier to digest for some reason.

    As for the sexy scenes, like some suggested above, maybe let some beta readers take a look. Fresh eyes may either confirm what your editor said or you may find that it’s fine how it is. I do have to agree, I love everything from clean and sweet to smutty, but I find those scenes very difficult to write. I tend to fall in the medium of hitting the high points but leaving out every detail. I think we will become more comfortable with this aspect, the more we write.

    Just remember, keep your head up and don’t give up. It may sound daunting, but in the end it will be well worth it!

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    • It has been a hard decision to make, Dena, I’ll be honest and there have been many times that I’ve wondered whether I’m doing the right thing. I want to get my book out there though and the quickest way to do that is to do it myself. I mustn’t lose sight of that! But it would be so nice to have a publishing person holding my hand along the way. That’s where all of you lovely people commenting on this blog come in. I feel so supported today and it only builds my confidence further.

      As you say, we do all have doubts and the only true validation you’ll get will be from readers, I guess. I hope that the things I’m worrying about turn out not to be too big a deal in the end but only time will tell on that one. God knows how I’ll deal with reviews when I get to that stage!

      The POV issue is a tricky one, I know and I understand your point completely, as a reader. I’m going to go with my gut feeling when I get to that section and I think I’ll know what feels best when I get there.

      I really like your suggestion for the sexy scenes of hitting the high points but leaving the rest to the imagination and I’m going to give that a try. I have already upped the tension a fair bit and it does feel better but it can take such a long time to get it right. Like someone else said, you have to feel comfortable with it. I really do hope it gets easier with practice 😉 I do hope to run it past someone else before it finally goes to the proofreader which should help, as you say.

      I can’t begin to tell you how grateful I am for your support. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment. I’m so glad I wrote this post today because I needed to get this feedback from you all to keep me motivated 🙂

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  6. Really empathised with what you wrote. I find the sex thing difficult but I also believe leaving it vague at the point of… is ok and doesn’t make for a sugary novel. Other aspects can give it bite. I was told to leave out the 1st person and write in 3rd and I went with it. I think it’s better for it. I’m trying really hard to get right inside the skin of a character now rather than imagining what they are like, if you understand me. I’m writing about ww1 so I can’t go there; well only to the landscape but not the times in which my protagonist is there. It’s hard but has to be possible. I think Terry gives good advice. It’s YOUR book and one mans meat etc. ect. Take the advice, think about it, alter what you decide is correct to do so and keep the rest. Good luck. XX

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    • Thanks, Ros. It is so incredibly difficult to take feedback but then to have to make all the decisions about what to keep and what to ignore is even harder! I’m naturally quite decisive so I have found this a real struggle because it is all new to me, of course.

      I have looked at so many books recently to see how the author handles sex scenes but knowing what you want and writing it are two completely different things! I think you’re right though that there are other ways of giving it bite, so to speak 😉

      It must be really hard writing an historical novel because as you say, you can’t go there but there are plenty of knowledgeable people who will pick you up if you get the slightest detail wrong. Wishing you all the best with it. Is this the book you’ll submit to the NWS next year?

      Terry gives great advice as always and has made me realise that I need to just get on with it now.

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  7. HI Julie
    I know exactly what you mean! Every time I receive the word doc from my editor my heart sinks and I start palpitations. Of course, once I get into it, I’m fine, but that initial fear of having to begin again, or at least make some major changes, never fails to leave me downhearted.
    Regarding the POV, that sounds like a tough call. I’m inclined to stay stick with the two different POVs. Particularly in terms of making the romance hotter, having the two sides would really help with that. Was the complain that they were too similar? Because I think that would be easier to remedy than going to only one POV
    Thanks for the great blog post. Nice to know other people struggle with the same things 🙂
    cheers
    Mike

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    • Thanks for reading, Mike and for reassuring me that I’m normal!

      It is so hard not to feel downhearted when you’ve worked on something for so long but as you say, now that I’m into it, I can see that I have made some really good improvements.

      Re: the POV, you can probably see from the comments that there have already been some differing views expressed about this. The editor feels that my female character’s voice is stronger than my male character’s (unsurprisingly, I suppose) so she suggested I choose 1st person in the stronger female character’s voice or go to 3rd to give them equal weighting. I like your idea that keeping the 2 POVs would make the romance ‘hotter’ but I don’t have any idea how to go about making Jackson’s voice stronger than it is now. I think this is just lack of experience in writing from the POV of a male character. I discussed this with my husband some time ago and it was hard even then 😦

      And so it continues…If you had any suggestions though, I’d be really grateful for them 🙂 Thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment.

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  8. Hi Julie, what a great piece, and I think really helpful to other writers. Finding your voice as in which type of voice (first or third person) I think has to be a personal choice, only you know how best to tell your character’s story, and what POV it should have. I chose first person for Letting in Light and the whole book is written from Ellie’s point of view. I had massive doubts at one point that I could carry it off throughout the book and changed it more than once. In the end though it just didn’t sound right any other way, so I put it back to how I first heard it in my head. I didn’t have an editor and in a way perhaps this was easier, as I had nobody’s opinion to contend with but my own, and at times that was bad enough! Your thought processes always sound so reasoned and well thought out though, they do you huge credit, and I’m sure your decisions are the right ones and therefore the best ones for you.

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    • Dear Emma,
      Thanks for reading and leaving a message. I hope my ramblings are helpful to other writers 🙂 This one certainly seems to have struck a chord and it is so helpful to be able to talk it over with other writers and to see their advice. I agree that in the end, it has to be a personal choice based on what you feel is right. I hope now that I’m in a much better place to make that decision, having thought about it myself and discussed it with all of you. The support from all of you means such a lot and to be honest, it’s what has got me this far. Thanks again.

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  9. Hi Julie. I feel your pain! The editor seems to have had good reason for giving you the advice she did (the female character being stronger than the male etc) and so I’d say her suggestions are certainly worth listening to. However, editorial suggestions are just that – one (professional) person’s view, which you can follow or not. You have, however, indicated – if I’ve read your responses correctly – that you do agree with a lot of what the editor has said to you and know that the book will be stronger for the changes. You seem to be looking at it all very methodically – which to my mind shows great strength of character – I’m sure I’d be cowering under the desk in a quivering heap if it was me having to revisit the whole story.
    My (unasked for) suggestion would be, if you trust your editor (which I’m sure you do), to listen to what she’s said (which you are) and make the changes you feel comfortable with. But if your gut instinct is to stick with what you’ve got – do that. There will be some things you know could be written better, but if you try too hard with it, you will lose your own voice – sometimes a natural ‘good enough’ is better than writing ‘perfect’ to order.
    This is your first book – of course you want it to be blemish-free. Unfortunately, no author is ever going to please all their readers so don’t lose yourself in trying to. Get this one out and start on your second – the more practice you put in, the better you will become. But don’t put all your practice into the one book. Polish it, but hone your craft on the next one, and the one after that.
    As for the sexy scenes, if you are not comfortable writing them, your readers will be able to tell. Push your writing a little out of your comfort zone in order to get better at it, but don’t veer too far away from what you know is right at the time. I am going to Twitter DM you the title of a book that I feel does just that – the author has written some beautiful scenes, but she has tried to cement them together with a love story that to my mind is shoe-horned into a genre she isn’t comfortable with and it spoils the book for me. If she had stuck to the other bits, the story would have been quite magical (although shorter!). It doesn’t always pay to try to fit what people expect from you.
    One of my biggest bug-bears with some authors is that they won’t listen to professional advice. The other side of the coin, though, is that you can listen too much and not be true to yourself.
    Your book will be great, and I can’t wait to read it!

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    • Dear Sally,
      Thank you so much for this very helpful comment. I have tried to be very measured about the editor’s advice, otherwise there would be no point in having asked for it. As you say though, it is so very hard to get advice at this stage in the process that suggests a massive rewrite. This has been a big lesson for me to learn. I have been quivering under the desk for the past couple of weeks but in the end, I decided that I couldn’t fall at the final hurdle. I need to finish my book and publish it.

      I love your idea of a natural ‘good enough’ and I hope I can achieve that. I have learnt so much from writing this first and I do have another almost first draft in the bag which I wrote in NaNo last year but when I went back to it, it seemed terrible after all I’ve learnt since! I feel some definite rewrites coming on with that one and hope that there will be a lot of honing involved too 😉

      That book you mentioned looks interesting and a bit confused about what it was aiming for. The story line sounds very interesting though. You have to be very strong and confident too to know your own mind though as a writer and I really feel for her. Sometimes, it would be great to have a publishing contract and to just do what someone else is telling me to do. Damn my independence! I have moaned many times on this blog about the mountain of often, conflicting advice out there for writers. All I can do is to steer the best path I can through it and hope that my book is as good as I can make it. I hope you will love it when the time finally comes. Thanks again for taking the time to comment. It has been great talking this over with you 🙂

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