Behind the Book, Part 4: Editing

Posted on Jan 29, 2010 in Uncategorized | No Comments

I’d acquired a publisher, and now the majority of the work was done, right?  HA!  Nope.  Not even close.  Then came the editing of the book.

But Elizabeth, didn’t you do a bunch of editing of the book prior to getting a publisher?

Yes, I did.  But now I had to work with my editor at Scholastic to get the manuscript in the best possible shape before it was released to the world.

I’m very fortunate to have one of the best editors in the business, David Levithan. (Who, for the few out there who don’t know, is a brilliant author in his own right. Check out: Love is the Higher Law, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Boys Meets Boy, How We Met…and about a dozen other books.  That guy is a writing machine. I don’t know how he does it.  Honestly, I’m starting to think he isn’t human.)

While the basics of The Lonely Hearts Club remained the same, David helped me dig deeper into the story and characters.  We especially worked on the beginning and he pushed me to expose Penny’s feelings a little bit more, which was originally hard to do.  I obviously love my characters, especially Penny, and making her suffer was really difficult for me.  But it was completely necessary to make the story better and believable. 

We worked in sections and he’d send me about 50 pages or so at a time.  He’d make notes about which sections to expand on, which to cut, what I should add to make a scene stronger, etc.  After working on the manuscript for four years, it was great to have a new perspective on the book.  I know that some authors don’t like editing, but I really enjoyed it.  I got to dive back into the story and characters. 

Both David and I realized at the same time that there was a continuity issue.  Early on, while I was still working with my agent, she had me tighten up the beginning so the Lonely Hearts Club formed earlier.  The problem was that I didn’t fix the timeline when I cut three weeks from the story.  So towards the end of editing, David and I discovered that Thanksgiving came about three weeks earlier than it should.  David made a ingenious suggestion (As I said, he’s brilliant!), so I added a chapter and all was fixed!

As the ah… four of you who read this blog know, I worked on numerous drafts of this book.  So one would think when I finished editing, I’d be relieved.  Not exactly.  When David told me that the content edit was completed and only the line editing and copyediting remained, I freaked out.  [Line editing is exactly what it sounds like, we go through each line to tighten up areas or make small changes while copyediting is to check for grammar.  I ain’t got no need for copyediting though.  Just joking.  Obviously.]

I couldn’t believe the process was complete and I kept questioning myself on what I could do to improve the book. I realized I had to let that go. It was done.  After five years of working on it, I was finished writing The Lonely Hearts Club.

Is The Lonely Hearts Club perfect?  Of course not.  I don’t think any book could be considered perfect… well, maybe The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  But The Lonely Hearts Club is my first book and I’m very, very proud of it.  And I’m very grateful to have an editor who enjoyed the characters as much as I did…and didn’t get offended when Penny said all guys with names beginning with D are the Devil.  (My father’s name is also David so I had a lot of apologizing to do for that one!)

So the final manuscript was finished.  All I had to do now was put my feet up, relax, and wait for the book to come out.

Yes, you know what’s coming next.  Not quite.  I had to get my author photo taken, website ready…all while Scholastic was prepping the Advance Readers Copy.  Details on that and more coming in the next installment of Behind the Book.

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