words about words

Right now my most excellent Empress of Editing Marti McKenna is deep in the weeds of a second pass on my upcoming book Griefed, getting ready to hand off what we believe is final copy to Proofreader Princess Stacie Magelssen. This is our third book together, and we’ve definitely got a system that works for us. Will it work for you or any other writer/editor/proofreader team? I couldn’t say.

The first time Team Lexy convened was for Schooled, Lexy’s debut crime novel. I emailed the Word doc to Marti and she shared it via Google Docs. Marti never rewrites my words. She’ll add or subtract commas, but always points out where she did it. She may suggest a way to rephrase something that has passive voice or awkward rhthym, but she never just goes into the doc and messes around. I love this because she’s respecting my role as the author and when I read the book on release I don’t have any weird guilty pangs like “Oh, Marti wrote that bit.”

Sometimes we would go back and forth in the comments, not really arguing but debating a point. We also joked around quite a bit. When Stacie took her turn with the book, the same sort of thing went on. I wrote a post about the things I learned from Stacie here.

The great thing about this way of working was that I got to know Marti and Stacie. The not-so-great thing was version control. I would make the edits and rewrites Marti and Stacie suggested in the Google Doc and then replicate it in my “Master” Word doc. It was tedious and through no one’s fault but mine, a small date mistake made it into the final version that is now out there in the world.

So, for the next two books we did it another way. Here’s the system broken down into steps:

  1. Hand off of “manuscript” to editor. I email Marti the Word doc.
  2. Editor returns first round edits in chapter chunks (3 or 4 chapters at a time).
  3. I return revised chapter chunks, copying and pasting from the Master doc into a new doc called something like “Griefed 7-10 – back to Marti”
  4. Editor goes through revised chapter chunks for a second editorial pass. Reviewing my changes plus anything missed in the first round. (There are always a few things. Nothing is perfect after one edit pass.)
  5. I revise the second round of chapter chunks, and create separate Word doc for any new additions or major rewrites since the last round.
  6. Editor reviews the “New Additions” content.
  7. Hand off the Editor-approved document to Stacie for proofreading.
  8. Proofreader returns “manuscript” by chapter.
  9. I make corrections to master Word doc

It’s a lot of docs to keep track of, so I use a folder system that looks like this:

Editing folder

An example of something I would return for a third round of editing is seen here:

Marti Addition Screenshot

Team Lexy also uses shared Google docs. Our Style Guide that Marti put together and updates for each new title, and the kind of massive and constantly growing Character List that I wrote about here.

One other thing worth mentioning: the Master doc is a clean copy. I do not track changes in it. When I send off a chapter chunk of rewrites, it is also a clean copy-and -paste into a new Word doc. When Marti receives it, she’s comparing it with the first version to see what’s changed. A pain in the ass for her, but that’s the benefit of paying a professional instead of begging favors from a friend or family member.

Griefed is coming next month. I expect to announce a release date next week!

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