Thursday, February 21, 2008

Craft -- Editorial Revisions

Since I always enjoy reading about how other writers work, I’m happy to write and talk about the writing craft. This week, my limited writing time (legislative session is going on, the busy period in my day job) was preoccupied with pre-publication revisions to my light paranormal erotic romance LOVE UNLEASHED, to be released tomorrow by Ellora’s Cave ( The hero, a modern-day wizard, gets cursed into the shape of a St. Bernard by a vengeful witch. Why a St. Bernard? Two reasons: (1) That’s the kind of dog we have. You can see photos of him by signing up on my newsletter’s Yahoo Groups page ( (2) Conservation of mass—190 pounds makes both a plausible adult human male and a plausible (although considerably on the heavy side) male St. Bernard. As a “stray dog,” the hero of LOVE UNLEASHED gets taken home by the heroine, a veterinary technician. He manages to twist the spell to let him revert to human form for a few hours each night. But is that enough time to seduce the heroine into giving him the help he needs to reverse the magic permanently? Much less to learn the lesson the curse is intended to teach him?

Saturday afternoon, I received an e-mail message that the publisher wanted some last-minute changes in the novel. One of the editors thought the heroine’s behavior didn’t make sense in two scenes. The request was for a rewrite to clarify that she was acting under the witch’s magical influence. After an initial “Eek,” I realized that, luckily, the changes could be made with only minor tweaks. As I saw it, the magical control was already obvious in the first scene, and in the second, I thought the heroine’s actions made sense without it. The important thing, however, is how the reader perceives a character, not how I see her in my own mind. Sometimes the writer’s intent doesn’t come across clearly in the first or even the second draft. It’s easy to assume that if I understand what’s happening, so will the reader. But if the editor misunderstands, probably some readers might, as well.

Critiquers often admonish me that I explain too much, so it felt funny to be asked to explain more! Actually, I was grateful for the opportunity of one more read-through. I noticed that several necessary commas had been deleted in the editing process. I also found an obvious typo—“a” for “an”—that had been missed through several rereadings by at least two editors and me. Although I have a Ph.D. in English and work as a proofreader in my day job, I’m beginning to think producing a perfectly clean text at book length is an unattainable goal. I’ve always been a picky reader, long before becoming a proofreader, and copyediting errors (not to mention just plain wrong English usage and mechanics) in published books make my teeth hurt. To find a missed error in my own published work is painfully humiliating.

1 comment:

  1. >To find a missed error in my own published work is painfully humiliating

    I think readers are generally very forgiving. If someone puts down your book because of a typo or two, then I question if that's the type of reader you really want.