Swoon Author Alex Evansley's Editing Update: Rewriting vs. Revising, and Other Real Talk from the LSTT Editorial Process
There’s nothing quite like the moment you write “The End” on a work in progress.
Whether it’s a short story, a full-length manuscript, a fanfic piece you’re not sure the fandom is ready for… the words “The End” can come with a polarizing mixture of feelings. I finished the first draft of Love Scene, Take Two on December 7, 2015 and, in the words of my protagonist, Bennett Caldwell, I had no idea what to do with myself. I decided to tweet about it. It really captured the whirlwind of my emotions:
In all seriousness, though, finishing my first full-length manuscript was indescribably satisfying. I remember thinking it was the best feeling in the world. Then I got a phone call on a July afternoon in 2016 from Holly and Lauren at Swoon Reads, and I remember thinking okay, this is the best feeling in the world…
REALITY: I wasn't one of those authors who made it through book revisions in a graceful or timely fashion.
REAL TALK: I struggled. A lot. But because LSTT edits brought some of the most challenging months of my life (in a good way), I am now 4000% confident that turning in final copyedits is the best feeling in the world… At least until I see my book in the wild for the first time.
Editing my first manuscript brought an onslaught of realities I had to go head-to-head with at one point or another, but they made sending off my final copyedits that much more rewarding. They also made me a better writer along the way-so when I was asked to pen a blog post about my editorial experience, I knew I wanted to real talk some of them out with y'all before I wrote “The End” on my first editorial experience.
Powered by Giphy
REALITY: Editing a book requires a completely different skillset than writing one. It took me almost a month of attempted revisions to figure this one out, so I’ll say it again loud enough for the people in the back:
EDITING A BOOK REQUIRES A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT SKILLSET THAN WRITING ONE.
It’s hard to put together a storyline with rounded characters, a plot that makes sense, and a fulfilling ending… But it’s even harder to go back into that story to add or remove elements without opening up plot holes or derailing the tone/voice/action/pacing of the narrative. It can be tedious and exhausting and overwhelming to keep up with all the threads you’ve woven into your story, and sometimes the vision you had while writing the original manuscript can blind you to how much pulling at one little thread can unravel an entire scene or chapter.
REAL TALK: I had no idea what I was doing when I started edits. I got lost in the frayed intricacies of my own threads more than a few times, but once I found my way out, I walked away with an entirely new perspective on how stories are held together.
Powered by Giphy
REALITY: There’s going to be a moment when you realize everyone you know will be able to read your book once it’s published.
I struggled the most with this. I spent the past four years of my life anonymously posting stories online because I couldn’t stomach the idea of people I know reading my work… Then I got a publishing deal. And everyone started finding out. And the idea of giving people I know an all-access pass to my work messed with my head during first-round revisions. I started overthinking everything—started panicking about what people would think when they read this scene or that sentence…
REAL TALK: I let that anxiety manifest in my first-round revisions, resulting in a late, over-written LSTT draft that had to go through another round of revisions to excavate parts of it I’d buried underneath my own insecurities. Which sounds ridiculously dramatic, yes, but we’re real talking here. I wish someone would have given me a heads up about it beforehand, so if you’re someone who worries about stuff like this—here’s your head’s up, friend. <3
Powered by Giphy
REALITY: There is a ginormous difference between rewriting and revising.
I have to give my editor, Holly, a huge shout-out for this one, because it really put things in perspective for me during second-round revisions. Remember how I was overthinking everything and all panicked about people reading the story? Well, at the time it didn’t seem like I was doing anything wrong because I was spending all my time rewriting scenes instead of revising them. Two months went by before I realized I’d only rearranged and reworded things instead of actually changing anything.
REAL TALK: Rewriting when you’re supposed to be REVISING is like sitting in a rocking chair—you’re moving, but you’re not actually getting anywhere. And if you have a hard time differentiating the two, remember that if it feels too easy, it’s probably because it is.
Powered by Giphy
And finally, this is more for keeping in mind for your next work in progress, but it was something I couldn’t stop thinking about during revisions:
REALITY: You have no limits while writing a first draft, but whatever story elements you go with can create some hard-set parameters to abide by during the editing process later.
REAL TALK: My new revisions skillset has made me a little more aware of the threads I choose for my current WIP…and I so far it’s been an absolute game-changer.