BEYOND THE PAGE: The Horrifying Experience

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August 25, 2015

BEYOND THE PAGE: The Horrifying Experience of Receiving Edits

BEYOND THE PAGE is here to spice up your Tuesday! Late to the party? Beyond the Page is our tell-all blog series about the process of turning a manuscript into a published book series.

Last week, we revealed the Dark Rituals book covers. Everyone exploded when faced with the sheer awesomeness.

This week, author Catrina Burgess explains why receiving edits back from her editor is a little bit like standing in a field during a lightning storm…

All authors want their stories to be the best they can be. We want to polish our stories so that the readers love them. But let me tell you, when you first get edits from your editor, there is always a moment of sheer panic. As you open that email, your heart pounds. Did the editor hate the book? Did she love it? What did she find in the story that needs to be fixed? And then these last thoughts pound through your head: OMG how much more work do I have to do on the story? And can I do it or will I have a mental breakdown?

Well, that’s the process I go through in the first thirty seconds of seeing that email from Kayla, my editor. Kayla is the associate managing editor at FFFDig, which means her primary job is not editing. As she mentioned in a previous post, she does a lot of the day-to-day management of FFFDig and prepares stories for publication. But, like in all small companies, employees sometimes wear more than one hat. Kayla does some editing and I’m lucky enough to have her as my editor for the Dark Rituals series.

There are two kinds of edits you can get from an editor: line edits and content edits. The first one is pretty self-explanatory. The editor goes through each line of the story and marks up sentences that need tweaking to make sense, or paragraphs that are confusing. When Kayla sends the edits back to me they are saved as track changes in a word document. [Psst: I know a lot of writers on Wattpad write stories on their phones using the Wattpad app. You need to submit your story to a publisher as a document. If you don’t have access to Microsoft Word, you can download a program that is almost identical called Open Office. It’s free! You can find it here.]

Here is what a page of line edits looks like in Word track changes:


See all those changes in blue? And the little notes on the right side? The changes are the corrections Kayla is making on the story—things she thinks will make the story better. Kayla doesn’t just make the changes, she marks up the document so I can go in and see what she would like me to change. Then (if I agree with her changes) I go ahead and make them. If she requests a significant change that requires a judgment call, she leaves a comment explaining or asking my opinion.

Why doesn’t she just make the changes herself? Because a good editor lets the author make the final decision. If there’s a correction Kayla wants me to do, but I feel very strongly that the text should not change, I can leave Kayla a comment telling her why I feel that way.

Content edits are a little different from line edits. They are changes to the storyline and characters—the “content” of the story. You might have plot holes that need to be filled. You might have a character acting out of character that you need to tweak. Or you may have to give some extra explanation about something going on in the story.

When you write a story, you as the author know all the ins and outs of the plot, but sometimes you haven’t explained something well enough and the reader could get a bit lost. A good editor will help you fix all these problems. Content edits can show up in comments in the track changes to the right side, or as notes in an email from the editor.

How long does it take to go through line edits? It can take a few days or a couple weeks, but content edits always take longer. They usually take weeks. Or even months.  It all depends on how many changes you have to make and how fast you can make them.

In the second Dark Rituals book, Possession, Kayla asked me to add a whole new chapter. I’ve heard stories from writing friends who’ve been asked to rewrite the whole second half of their book. Content edits can be minor, or they can be major. Now can you understand why my heart pounds when I first see that email from Kayla?

Once you finish the line and content edits, you send them back to the editor. Here is that same page with my changes sent back:


Then, the editor makes another pass on them. He or she may or may not send them back to you for a few more tweaks. Here’s where I hold my breath and hope there’s not too many more!


Don’t worry—there were only a few more. We’ll tell you about them next week, when Beyond the Page continues…


Ever wonder what happens after you sign with a publishing house? Catrina Burgess, author of The Dark Rituals series coming this October, has convinced us to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how a manuscript becomes a finished book. Tune in every Tuesday for a new installment, and check out the series on the author’s blog at!

Catch up here:

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