Today I have returning guest posters Erin Callahan and Troy H. Gardner authors of Tunnelville, the second book in the Mad World Series. They are talking team editing. Welcome, Erin and Troy!
by Erin Callahan & Troy H. Gardner
Q. So you wrote a book, now what do you do with it?
A. Edit, edit, and then when you’re done, you edit it two more times.
Writing a book is only the first act of the long process of having an idea grow into a final novel. Once the manuscript has a beginning, middle, and end (hopefully), then it’s time to go back and revise.
With the split narration technique employed in the Mad Word series, our editing process starts when we combine all of the chapters into one file. At this point, either Erin or Troy has the file and works on it before passing it off to the other. We now use the Track Changes feature of Word, which allows you to track changes (well named, isn’t it?) in the document. This tool is invaluable when editing with a partner, as it allows you to quickly see what changes and comments your partner has added to the draft. It also reminds you which of those changes you made, which can occasionally get confusing. We also save each version of the manuscript with a new date. This makes it easy to tell which version is the most recent and preserves all the old versions, in case we decide to revert back to an earlier draft of a particular scene.
In the initial pass through of the manuscript, we mostly look for global issues (although we’re always on the lookout for typos). We look for inconsistencies in the timeline and the flow of each chapter and scene break. It’s not unusual for a first draft to have one narrator’s story progressing over two weeks in the course of three chapters, and the other narrator only two days. Once we notice a timeline issue we decide which version flows best (or brainstorm a third route), and how to rework one of the narrations to fit. The final version usually includes tweaks to both narrators’ chapters.
Similarly, one chapter will often flow directly into the next with a continued scene, and we must make the change in narration consistent. For instance, in Perfection, a character passes out at the end of one of Max’s chapters and Troy wrote a few more paragraphs of Max being concerned. Meanwhile, Erin had written Astrid’s following chapter picking up immediately as the character passes out. This made the transition somewhat jarring, so we cut the last few paragraphs of the Max chapter.
During this stage, we sometimes combine extremely minor characters who only have one or two lines. This beefs up the presence of more important characters and makes the story less confusing for readers to keep track of.
We use Track Changes to leave copious amount of notes for each other about things we love or aren’t fond of. Once these kinks are mostly worked out, we pass the manuscript back and forth for another round of deeper edits to tackle those notes. Sometimes these notes are as simple as one of us asking about a character’s motivations, but they can also be rewrite suggestions or
telling Troy that his writing sucks (just teasing you, Erin) pointing out inconsistencies.
Once we’re past the global editing stage, we move on to more minute details, such as tweaking dialogue, changing passive verbs to active ones, and deleting repetitive language. Though it can be tedious, we find the best way to tackle this level of editing is to examine each sentence and consider how it could be made stronger. We think about whether it could be made sharper, cleaner, and clearer, or whether it could benefit from a more dynamic verb or more descriptive adjectives. Fancy prose can be fun, but if you consistently use very “purple” verbiage, you risk pulling your reader out of the story. We use the sentence-by-sentence editing stage to try to strike a balance with the language we choose.
Writing with a partner can be particularly helpful during the editing process, but we also sometimes use beta readers. A fresh pair of eyes can often clue you into issues you didn’t even know existed in your manuscript. And though we welcome general feedback from beta readers, we also provide them with a few focus questions to keep in mind while reading. Specific feedback from beta readers is essential when we’re concerned about whether a particular world-building concept is presented clearly or whether a character comes off as three-dimensional.
On a final note, although editing is a crucial part of the writing process, it can be incredibly stressful. We’re hard on ourselves (and each other), but we also know when to set the manuscript aside and take a break. Just as with a first draft, a little distance from a frustrating project can rejuvenate you and give your brain time to refocus.
Following their panicked escape from Wakefield, Astrid Chalke, Max Fisher, and their friends find themselves adrift and on the run in western Massachusetts. After picking up a young thief with a complex philosophy, and dealing with the pains of prescription drug withdrawal, they make their way to Boston.
Drained by a long trek to the city, the damaged teens settle in an underground tunnel community—a city below the city that appears to lie on the fringes of both the world above and the world of magic. Among the eccentric tunnel folk, they encounter the fabulous Angie DeVille, a self-made hipster and socialite who takes them under her neon wing and envelops them in her breathless and fast paced life.
Funded by a seemingly ruthless organization, the relentless Dr. Lycen is tasked with hunting down the Wakefield escapees. But as Astrid and Max eke out a meager existence in their new home and do their best to stay off Dr. Lycen’s radar, they learn that new and even more harrowing threats might be lurking just over the horizon.
About the Authors:
Erin Callahan lives with her husband in the bustling metropolis of Hooksett, New Hampshire, and works for the federal government. She enjoys reading and writing young adult fiction, playing recreational volleyball, and mining the depths of popular culture for new and interesting ideas. A year after graduating from law school, she found herself unemployed and took a job as a case manager at a residential facility similar to the one featured in Wakefield. Though she worked there for just over a year, the strange and amazing kids she met will forever serve as a well of inspiration.
Troy H. Gardner grew up in New Hampshire and graduated with a B.A. in English/Communications with a dual concentration in film and writing from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. He spent ten years working in the banking industry dreaming up numerous stories to write. When not writing, which is seldom, Troy busies himself jet-setting from Sunapee, NH to Moultonborough, NH. For more, check out TroyHGardner.com.