Tuesday, May 14, 2013

3 Keys to Line Edits #EditingTip #AuthorsLife

Line edits.


I dreaded them, for they are just that - an editor goes through your manuscript and edits each line. Add-ins, deletions, suggested changes, grammar corrections, and the list goes on. 

I received my editor's line edits for Eye of the Soul a couple of weeks ago. Expecting red 'ink' galore, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there were corrections & suggested changes, but NOTHING like I had feared.

It took almost 2 weeks for me to go through them due to life in general, but I wanted to share a little of my experience in the hopes someone may be encouraged / learn a smidge from a newbie like me.


Three Keys to Line Edits

1. Don't take it personal.

That's one of the first things my editor wrote in the email titled, 'Eye of the Soul Line Edits'. 

Seriously? How can we NOT take their slashing and dashing personal??? BUT the next line assured me somewhat.
  "Our goal is to keep your voice, keep your story and ensure readers are taken along in a grand, magical movie in their head without pulling them out of the story or confusing them."
Ok then. We should be fine, right?

I read through the rest of the email that included instructions for changing, saving, and returning the manuscript. Easy peasy. Then I read this closing line:

"Feel free to talk with me if you need to vent or scream. And yes, I will forewarn you, you likely will. That's the editing process."

Gulp again. It took me two days to actually open the attached manuscript my editor had lit into, BUT I took the advice offered to me months earlier by a fellow author ...
2.  Keep an open mind.  

One of the first flash fiction pieces I ever submitted for publication was accepted with the following requirement: Change the ending. Thrilled a publisher was even interested in my story, I jumped in and did a complete rewrite of the story's conclusion, giving it a nice HEA like they wanted. 

My beta readers hated the new ending. They said the new one I had written / publisher's required one changed the point of the whole story. Luckily, the manuscript hadn't been contracted, so I decided to decline the offer of publication. I was lucky enough to find another home for that flash fiction piece. AS IS.

It was Beyond Diljan if anyone is interested in a quickie fantasy read.

That being said - line edits are different. If we've reached this point, the story is already contracted. It belongs to our publishing company. We need to keep an open mind to their nitpicks.

Your editor is NOT you. But then again, neither are your readers. While our manuscripts are our 'babies', we must remember that not everyone thinks as we do. This can lead to a ton of issues for our editors, but I'll focus on one. 

Suggested changes.

Our editor don't know our mind, or our characters' minds the way that we do. While reading, they may come across a line that makes them say, 'huh??'. This could be a form of speech or even foreshadowing we're going for. If they offer a suggested change to make things clearer, consider it. Chances are they know what they're talking about.  ;)

Better yet, consider adding a smidge more of explanation / changing the words they suggested into YOUR OWN WORDS. Your voice. Your character's voice. This leads me to number 3.

3.  Be true to your style and voice.

There were a few instances in EotS where the editor changed the wording in a sentence for clarity. Yes, the line flowed better. Yes, it made more sense, but a few times the wording wasn't true to my character's voice. 

Here's an example taken directly from EotS line edits. The first is my original line, the 2nd my editor's suggested change.

“This one time, I will allow such speech, woman, but if any of you do so again…" 
 “This one time, I will allow such speech, woman, but if any of you are to speak to me so again …"
Yes, the change makes his meaning clearer, but I felt the wording is too proper for a simple soldier. I wrote a comment to my editor stating this exact thing, saying that I would prefer to keep it the way I had written it. 

She agreed.


I honestly expected we would haggle a bit over it. I got lucky - I only had ONE round of line edits. I've heard horror stories of three and four go-rounds, black eyes included. Thank GOD my debut novel didn't require such a fight, for my two youngsters have me pulling out enough hair.

Do you look forward to line edits? Cringe when the email comes? Any horror stories or advice of your own to share?


  1. They don't bother me. I make almost all of the changes suggested without hesitation. There is always a couple that remain intact to preserve my voice and the meaning though.

    1. That's pretty much how I approached my first go-round. Really wasn't that bad. My editor made my story more solid, and for that I'm thankful!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Nice write up. Terri. I'm expecting some to come my way in June. At least now I have an idea of what I'm in for. :-)

    1. Just stay positive, kiddo. You'll sail through no problem. I happen to know the editor you'll be working with - she's a doll. ;)

  3. I wrote a reply on my phone and then my phone said no. So, now I'm back on a computer just so I can say line edits scare the crap out of me. English was always my worst subject in school, oddly enough. I'm waiting for an email from my editor that says, "This looks like it was written by a drop out." To which I will respond, "It was, but I did drop out with honors." :)

  4. This is the second time the internet has deleted my comment. Stupid computers. Long story short, edits got me nervous, yo.

    1. No need to be nervous, Alex. You've got a great editor!!! ;)

  5. A great post, Terri. I've not had a huge amount of experience with this process, so it's great to hear how other writers fair. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by & commenting, Amaleen!