Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Guest Blogger Pippa Jay: A Newbie's Guide to Surviving First Edits

I'd like to welcome guest blogger Pippa Jay, who will soon be a new author with Keir, a SFR coming from Lyrical Press. Today, Pippa shares some valuable insights into surviving a first round of edits, always a humbling experience in the path to becoming published.
A Newbie’s Guide to Surviving That First Ever Set of Edits

1. Whatever happens, DON’T PANIC! Take a deep breath. Look them over. If necessary, walk away. Have a coffee/tea/beverage of your choice. When you’re ready, go back and look through them again.Read through carefully. If it’s too daunting, start with a few of the simpler fixes. Ridding yourself of a few pages of tracking changes with nothing more than a few odd errors in punctuation, word choice, grammar etc. can make it seem less overwhelming.

2. Your editor is NOT your enemy. On the contrary, they could be your greatest ally. If you’re struggling with the changes/rewrites, they will often brainstorm or offer further suggestions and encouragement. Or if you’ve made a big change and you aren’t sure if you’ve gone too far/far enough, get their advice. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. And if you don’t think you’re going to make the deadline, let them know as soon as possible.

3. Don’t let the suggested changes get you down. They are generally exactly that - suggestions. What your editor feels will really improve your work and make it more marketable. They have the advantage of coming in fresh to your work and can spot any plot holes, inconsistencies or errors that could have been missed by beta readers. But writing is very subjective, so discuss any issues you have with your editor.

4. Do not rant at your editor. It’s rude, unprofessional and could earn you the reputation of being a difficult author that no one will want to work with. They are just doing their job. If you feel the need to let off steam, do so to your BFF, crit partner, spouse etc. Don’t blow your writing career on the first book.

5. Don’t be afraid to argue your point. If you really feel that strongly about something, or you feel it’s essential, then say so. Your editor and publisher are experts in their field, but only you really know your characters and your story. One comment that came out in my edits was that it seemed odd my female MC had had so few relationships in her lifetime. My answer - she’s just not that kind of girl!

6. But do be prepared to compromise. With this being my first experience of the whole process, I’ve probably accepted a lot more of the changes than I would in future (although hopefully I’ve also learned to make fewer mistakes too!). Try to be objective when looking at the changes and don’t take them as a personal attack.

7. Stay offline. Unless you’re talking things over about your MS or doing some research. It’s just too much of a distraction.

8. You will feel better at the end. It’s a cathartic experience, but afterward I felt the story was much stronger. To be honest, even after all the work I put into my MS there were still things that niggled me about it when I submitted it. I don’t feel that now. My editor may have kicked my behind from one end of my book to the other, but I appreciate the effort she put into it and the support she gave me throughout.

9. Don’t think that’s the end! Chances are that you will spend at least a couple of weeks batting the MS between you and your editor until the copy edits are done and you’re both happy.

If anyone has anything else to add, please do so in the comments. Some of these are things I wish I’d been told before my first set of edits arrived, and others are from things I’ve heard in the publishing world that should or shouldn’t be done. If you thought getting your book contracted was the end of it, you’ve a shock coming. Just remember to breathe. J

Outcast. Cursed. Dying. Is Keir beyond redemption?

For Keirlan de Corizi--the legendary 'Blue Demon' of Adalucien--death seems the only escape from a world where his discolored skin marks him as an oddity and condemns him to life as a pariah. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise: Tarquin Secker, a young woman who can travel the stars with a wave of her hand.

But Quin has secrets of her own. She's spent eternity searching through space and time with a strange band of companions at her back. Defying her friends' counsel, Quin risks her apparent immortality to save Keir. She offers him sanctuary and a new life on her home world, Lyagnius.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes his dormant alien powers and earns instant exile from Quin's home world, will she risk everything to stand by him again?

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metal and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. She spends the odd free moments between torturing her characters trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 18 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head. Keir is her first full-length novel, a science-fiction romance being released 7th May 2012 through Lyrical Press Inc. 


  1. Congrats on the upcoming release, Pippa!
    Ah edits - I cried when I opened my first lot, many moons ago. It was like being back at school - particularly getting homework back from my biology teacher Mr Beer, who seemed to adore his red pen. But, I redid the work for him because I didn't want my books full of crossings out and underlining and that's the way I feel about edits. They will make your story better.
    And I agree, stand up and speak out if you disagree with some major thing that's been brought up. I've only had to do it once, thank goodness.

  2. Thanks Barbara. Yep, that first set is a shocker but it's worth it in the end. :)

  3. Welcome, again, Pippa. I have yet to survive my first round of edits, but based on the reaction of several peers, I'm sure they'll be daunting. I think you offer great advice for taking that deep mental breath and getting to work.

  4. Great advice, Pippa! I've only had edits for smaller stuff so far, but edits for my novel are coming soon. I've learned a lot from the smaller stuff, so that should make novel edits much easier to handle. At least, I hope. LOL

    All the best to you!

  5. Thanks Laurie! I just hope I'm not scaring anybody. It really isn't so bad once you get into them.
    @Jessica - lol, maybe I should have started with something smaller for my first set then. Best of luck when your novel ones arrive! :)

  6. The book sounds great, Pippa--looking forward to it! And your advice on surviving the editing process is terrific. I come out of a journalism background, where hours of work can be gone with the snip of an editor's scissors and a shrug. I like to think I have a thick skin, but fiction is different. That's your baby! It pays to follow all your good advice to make sure that baby grows up good and strong!

  7. Thanks Donna! I guess it's a bit like taking your kids for their inoculations - you know it's going to hurt, but it's for the best.

  8. My worst "first" was actually not my first. It was when I contracted with Five Star. Man, the editor there was interesting. Some of them felt like changes to change something, but most were really good. Except when she kept trying to change "cops" to "the fuzz." LOL!

    I have a fab editor at L&L and my sister-in-law kicks tush at copy edits.

    Congrats on surviving! What I loved, once the feelings settled, was seeing how much my work did shine when it was over.

  9. Great post Pippa and congratulations. I second the bit about your editor not being the enemy. A good editor is the best treasure you can receive. Mine not only saved my first book from a lifetime of slush...she made me a better writer.

    Rant to friends, cry a little, but love that editor! They are your best defense against publishing something you might cringe over ten years from now.


  10. Great advice! I'm crossing my fingers I get to use it. Thanks so much for posting this!

  11. Woo and congrats on the release! I can't wait to read it!
    And thanks for the advice. It's spot on.

  12. Such a gorgeous cover, Pippa! Congrats.
    Edits can be grueling, but hang in there. As you said, it will be worth it!

  13. I love the use of "large friendly letters."

    The hardest thing for me when I started out as a stringer for the newspaper was seeing my beautiful work EDITED!! It's hard to deal with, but you hit the Vogon on the head when you said that the editor's job was to improve your writing.

    My mother pointed out to me then that a rough diamond, while still a diamond, doesn't have the same value as one that has been cut and polished by a master hand. Even those are not as valuable as diamonds placed into a setting by an artist.

    Too often I'm seeing self-published books on Amazon that would have benefited greatly from having a skilled editor working a little literary magic prior to publication.

    Great post, Pippa!

  14. Great post and thanks for sharing your experience!

    @Pauline OMG "the fuzz"? ROFLMAO!

  15. Heather wrote: @Pauline OMG "the fuzz"? ROFLMAO!

    Pauline answers: Not just once either. Through THREE books I fought her. My brother is a cop. If I called him "the Fuzz" he'd shoot me. LOL!

  16. @Pauline - lmao, 'the fuzz'?! What the heck was wrong with 'the cops'?!I remember my editor changed a line of dialogue and included a swear word I will not use, but she apologized for offending me when I scrubbed it out, lol.
    @Frances, oh I adore my editor! She made me cry at the start but it's so much better for all the work she made me put into it. :)
    @Sarah - you're welcome!
    @Cate - thanks, I LOVE my cover. And I definitely think the edits were worth the trauma.
    @Lauri - thanks. I'm glad that first one is over though.
    @JC - lol! The Douglas Adams quote feels very appropriate. I think it should come plastered across the front of edits every time. :) And agreed - seeing some of the self-published stuff that doesn't seem edited at all makes me all the more grateful for having an editor.
    @Heather - thank you.
    Thanks to everyone for your comments, and to Laurie for hosting me here. :)

  17. As a small-time editor myself, I can honestly say that I personally view any edits I make on others' work as suggestions - it's the only way to cope if they reject the changes!

    And as a self-editor for my own work, I can say I've scared myself with the edits I've needed to do - and that on a short story! One's never immune to that mountain of changes that need making!

    But either way, thanks for this guide, Pippa! It's really useful. I hope loads more people find solace and encouragement from it.

  18. @Laurel - thanks for commenting, and it's interesting to get the perspective of an editor on this!

  19. Still LOLing at "the fuzz." But hey, at least she didn't recommend "the pigs." :O

    Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and comments. There's some great insights and feedback here. And thanks again to Pippa for all the helpful and encouraging info.


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