Friday, February 15, 2013

Writing: Line Edits

I've been knee-deep in the line edits for my fall novel, Heart Failure. For those of you who think a novel springs full-blown and perfect from the mind of an author--keep thinking that. But in actuality, it takes input from a lot of people to make the finished product.

One of the difficult tasks of an author is to accept the fact that their work isn't perfect. They struggle to produce a manuscript, then their editor gives them "notes." These may be simple or (more usually) detailed. The author makes revisions, and then the line editor takes over.

Responding to line edits seems to me very much like writing with someone looking over your shoulder, often saying things like, "I think this will trip up the reader," or "this is inconsistent," or "I don't buy your premise here." That's in addition to suggesting changes by shuffling sentences and changing words. Those are easy decisions for the author. Significant rewriting, however, is tough.

Let me hasten to say that my line editor on this project has done a great job (you'll find out her identity when you read the acknowledgements in the book). Nevertheless, it's difficult--even a bit painful--to work through the recommendations. I wish I had her here so I could say, "But I meant thus-and-such." However, as was pointed out to me in my very first writing class, the author can't stand beside every reader and explain his or her work. It has to be self-evident. That was why we had to keep silent while the rest of the class read our submissions. And that was good training for responding to line edits.

Do you have any questions about line edits or any other part of the writing life? Leave a comment, and I'll do my best to answer.

(photo via

NOTE: I was interviewed yesterday, along with eight other authors,  on Novel Crossing, talking about Valentine Memories. Hope you'll click here to read it.


Judy Christie said...

Great post, Doc! I'm working on edits this week, too, and you nailed it. (Wait! Can't use that -- cliche.) I appreciate my great editors (am I showing here or telling?) -- even when gnashing my teeth to try to make a passage better. (Must RUE.)
Seriously, each of my books has been significantly improved by editors.
Now back to the manuscript ...
Have a great weekend. (Is this ending too weak?)
Judy Christie

Richard Mabry said...

Judy, I vacillate between wanting to strangle my line editor and blessing her for seeing things I didn't. Guess it comes with the territory. Now back to editing (for both of us). Thanks for stopping by. (BTW, reading your latest "Green" novel and enjoying it).