The Boomerang Effect

When I finished my first draft of Heart Search and the initial euphoria had worn off a little, I gave my raw manuscript to my editor, Maria Johnson, to smooth out the rough edges. At that time, I had no real idea of what was involved and the true ‘boomerang effect’ (as I affectionately call it) my novel would be involved in.

Maria skilfully and professionally guided me through the process, giving explanations, good constructive criticism and recommendations along the way. By the time Heart Search: Lost was ready for submission, I’d learnt so much about the process, how hard a good editor has to work and the importance of building a good working relationship between author and editor.

Now, one of my nicknames is ‘Hawkeye’, mainly because if something is lost on a carpet or furniture, no matter how small, I’d be the one to find it. So where is this leading? Be patient, I’m getting there! Lol.

I was reading a book on Kindle and began to notice various grammatical errors, words missing and the like. The author was a contact of mine on Twitter and I sent her a polite Direct Message mentioning I’d found errors in her book. She sent me her email address and asked if I would tell her what I’d found, which I did. This was the start of a lovely friendship between Alison DeLuca and me.

After she’d written her third novel, she asked me to beta read and line edit it for her. I not only did that, but also gave her feedback and suggestions for structural changes. Alison and I worked well together and our friendship has grown as a result. Alison was very happy with the work I’d done for her and has recommended me to some of her author friends.

Now I’m editing the third novel of Connie J Jasperson (on Alison’s recommendation). This time I’m doing more than just line editing. Connie warned me her manuscript was, in her words, “very raw” and needed a lot of work.

When you edit you have to look at so many things; attention to detail, as well as a good grasp of grammar is a must. These are the sorts of things an editor must look for, apart from the obvious spelling mistakes:

  • Repetition of words and phrases within a sentence and/or paragraph
  • Over-use of words – ‘that’ being the most common
  • Sentence structure – does the sentence flow? How does it sound when read aloud? If it doesn’t flow then it need changing and then you make recommendations of how to improve it
  • Extraneous words
  • Grammar – this is more than just having commas in the right places. It also involves looking at over-use of exclamation marks, seeing where two short sentences could be joined and what punctuation is required to do it successfully
  • Dialogue – has it been written too formally (as in the ‘Queen’s English’) or is it realistic?

These are just a few examples of what a good editor will do for you, but in each case there should be an explanation for the author as to why something isn’t working as well as suggestions for improving it. I can’t stress how important this bit is. How can a writer learn and grow if they don’t know why something they’ve written is wrong or why it doesn’t flow? And as for the suggestions to improve a particular section, this gives the author ideas of how they can correct it in their own words.

Some authors think an editor should just go ahead and make the changes for them, rewriting sections as necessary, but what they fail to understand is no one can imitate an author’s voice. Of course I could make changes to Connie’s manuscript, but would it read differently to the rest of the novel? Of course it would! Connie has her ‘voice’ and I have mine.

Anyway, having finished the first round of edits (I’ve been sending them to Connie a chapter at a time); along with an overall feedback on the novel, we are now starting Round Two. And this is where the Boomerang Effect comes into play.

No editor is infallible and whilst they will try their very best to capture everything first time around, there are the occasional holes in the net and bits do slip through. Now Connie has made the changes based on my first set of comments, I’m now going through it again to check there’s nothing I’ve missed and this time to look at any sections within the story that slow it down or aren’t really needed. I will make my recommendations and it’s then up to Connie whether she accepts them or not. At the end of the day, it’s the author’s choice to accept or reject suggestions an editor makes. It’s their baby and they’ve poured their heart and soul onto the pages so it has to be their decision.

Again, we have the Boomerang Effect. After this second round, I will have a final check over before Connie sends it to someone she trusts to beta read it and ask them for constructive criticism and feedback on the overall story. At this point, the author can take it upon themselves to make changes suggested by the beta reader or discuss them with her editor before making the changes – again her choice. However, it’s very important for the author to save each version of the manuscript under a different name so if something doesn’t work, they have a reference point to go back to and, if necessary, restore an original phrase/sentence/paragraph.

So what happens next? Yep, you’ve guessed it – the manuscript Boomerang’s its way back to the editor for final checking before it goes to the publisher. [I can’t wait for this to be published – it’s an AMAZING novel!!]

I’m happy to say Connie and I have built a lovely friendship as well as a great working relationship. She can see by the way I’ve managed the first round of edits, the loving care with which I’ve treated her ‘baby’, and appreciates the way I’ve handled the constructive criticism with kindness. Connie is a joy to work with, as Alison was; they are both consummate professionals when it comes to their writing and it shows in the way they’ve responded to the editing I’ve done for them.

Most of what I’m able to do with editing, I learned from my own editor and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude, one I may never be able to repay.

One final word of caution, to those considering undertaking an editing job for someone, be prepared to spend humungous amounts of time and maybe even put your own projects on hold. Editing is a time consuming job if done with the loving care each manuscript deserves and you can’t duck when that Boomerang comes flying back!

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10 thoughts on “The Boomerang Effect

  1. Hi Carlie. This post is wonderful. You have helped me with a beta read I am doing. Most important – one chapter at a time. I was doing several chapters at a time and it was tiring. I will now do one and send my comments. I think it will make me a better beta and the overall process even more fun. I will be saving your post for reference:)

    • Hi Laura,

      I’m so glad you’ve found this post useful. It’s much easier to work with one chapter at a time and having the ability in Word to comment against the relevant section / phrase / sentence / paragraph or even word, makes it even more so.

      One thing I’ve found with beta reads; it’s great to give a chapter by chapter critique as it’s so valuable to the author, but so is overall feedback. I have a standard sheet I use to give feedback on the entire novel and I use this for editing as well as beta reading. This is also priceless to the author and something you might like to consider doing.

      Thanks for your lovely comments and for stopping by!

      Carlie 😮

  2. Hi Carlie, great post.
    My own experience so far with the boomerang has been from my non-fiction books, and for that I was allocated an editor by my publisher. The first manuscript came back smothered in notes and queries, which was a bit alarming to a rookie! I took it away with me (I happened to be competing a horse in Spain – glorious!) and my poor room-mate was subjected to frequent cries of: “Stupid man! Does he not understand that I’m the expert here!”
    Of course, in the end much of what he’d queried was far better once I’d settled down and re-worked it, although as you say, in the final analysis it was my book, and my decision what to re-work and what to leave as it was. Happily it, and its successor (same editor, less corrections: I learned from that first one), have both been selling steadily for several years now.
    For fiction, the writer’s group I belong to do an admirable job: we look at around 3 chapters of a novel at a time and all (that’s nine of us at full strength) come back with comments and positive critiques. It’s so important to have this positive approach: writer’s confidence can be so fragile, even when you are already published.
    I’m now planning on sending my WIP to a beta reader once it has had a bit of a polish, because I want someone to look at it with a totally fresh eye. When you go over and over the same manuscript in various incarnations I think you can sometimes ignore certain plot points that perhaps should have been attended to, but which the author has talked you into to accepting.
    What do you think?

    • Hi Deborah,

      Good editors are very skilled and in most cases have been in the industry for many years. Those attached to publishers have, in some ways, a more unique perception of what works and what doesn’t. However, at the end of the day (and wearing my editor hat now not my author hat) I don’t believe an editor should force an author to make changes the author isn’t happy with. Everything should be open to discussion. During my first round of edits on Connie’s book I would use phrases like ‘consider revising to something like’ and then come out with a suggestion, or ‘you’ve repeated this word 3 times, I suggest you consider changing this one to x and that one to y, or similar’. This puts the creative control directly back into the author’s hands, which is where it should be. Whilst some of my suggestions weren’t exactly what Connie wanted for a particular section, it did act as a catalyst for her own creativity to come to the fore and correct the section in a way she was happy with.

      Now we’re working on the second round where I’m making recommendations for whole sections to be cut. I’m not only giving my reasons why, but asking her what she thinks.
      This to me is how the author/editor relationship should work – based on mutual respect and consideration.

      I would always, without exception, suggest an author has a small pool of beta readers. They should not only be people you can trust implicitly with your novel, but preferably someone who enjoys books of the same or similar genre. A good beta reader must be prepared to give you an unbiased opinion of the novel and be prepared to point out anything which doesn’t work and, if possible, give their reasons why they think that.

      You’re quite right when you say about going over a manuscript in various incarnations can cause you to miss things. A fresh pair of eyes on a novel can, in my opinion, make the difference between a good novel and a great novel.

      I hope that helps.

      Carlie

      • Great post that shows the depth, dedication and complexity of relationships in this field. I believe that all series writers should invest in an experienced editor, and they should do some editing work for other people. The wider your perspective becomes, the better.

        -A.M.
        http://amschultz.com

        • Hi A.M.

          Thank you for your kind comments.

          I agree that all writers, series or otherwise should invest in an experienced editor. And whilst I also agree that writers should try some editing work for other people, it should be done in stages. I would recommend starting with a beta read or two, then working their way up from there.

          A writer learns and grows through the editing process so it does give them a wider perspective, so when the writer turns editor, that learning process continues in a slightly different way.

          The more a writer can learn about their craft from all sides of the process is priceless!

          Thanks you for stopping by and giving us your thoughts.

    • Hey MG,

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Thank you for your good wishes and I wish you every succcess with LightMasters and your future projects.

      Carlie xo

  3. OMG Carlie – you have NO idea how much I love working with you! The goal every writer has is to write a book that will stay with the reader (in a good way) and you and your efforts are the key to that! Anyone who is fortunate enough to have you for an editor is bound to be closer to achieving this goal. Thank you, a million times over for all your time and attention in this matter. (insert hug here)

    • Hi Connie,

      Now you’ve really made me blush, and for once, almost speechless!

      I love working with you too and I think you know by now, I will work my butt off to help you make this book a huge success. I’ve even put my novel completely ‘on hold’ so I can give your ms my full attention..

      Thank you for your lovely sentiments – you have NO idea how much they mean to me!

      Right, I’d better get back to my editing now, hadn’t I? Lol.

      Hugs back to you, my dear.

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