Swoon Author Danika Stone’s Editing Update: Collaborative Magic
When you write a novel, there are certain expectations about the process. The plot starts with characters A and B. You add a dose of C (conflict) and the resulting chemistry propels you to Z. Easy enough, right?
Editing is a completely different process.
When I wrote All the Feels it was the book I’d imagined… but that didn’t mean it was the story that needed to be told. This strange truth is one every author faces. Unlike plotting, editing isn’t chemistry. It’s collaborative magic!
Imagine the house or apartment you grew up in. You can see it, right? You know where the spare key is kept and how you have to duck your head before you open the cabinet in the main floor bathroom. First drafts are like that.
I knew, for instance, that Liv had nightmares about her father’s death, and in the first draft of All the Feels I’d included some scenes down in that dark and spooky basement of my story. Having an editor go through your work is like taking a stranger on a tour of your childhood home. What you find intriguing isn’t necessarily what they do. The first round of a novel’s edits involve figuring out which NEW rooms need to be explored.
Out of the basement and up to the attic we went!
The Swoon editing process started with a four-way phone call to create a plan of attack. I nervously waited, pen and paper in hand, hoping there wouldn’t be too many slash-and-burn revisions. I was relieved to discover that the Swoon team had an entirely positive approach! During our conversation, Holly, Lauren and Emily described what worked and what didn’t in All the Feels. The amazing thing was, the points they keyed in on were elements I’d known needed work, but hadn’t been able to figure out why.
Edits can be overwhelming, but knowing that your editors are in love with your story make them far easier to handle. The suggested revisions for All the Feels included “new rooms” to explore: More from Xander. (Yay!) A few expanded sub-plots. (Cool!) And a whole new twist to the ending. (WHOA!!! I did NOT see that coming!)
Have you ever had one of those dreams where you discover you have a room in your house you never knew about? That’s exactly what the first round of editing felt like! The team had uncovered a hidden passage which made the story so much bigger. Other changes were subtle, but they made the plot click into place.
No spoilers on what NEW shenanigans were written for Dragon Con *cough* the Steampunk Ball *cough* but I will say I loved writing these new scenes! 😉 I wrote, and revised, and wrote some more, building a suite of swoonworthy moments for Liv and Xander. A few weeks of revision later, I had a second draft. I chewed my nails and hit send.
The “house-plan” of my story had changed – new spiffy details, like shiny appliances – filled what had once been overlooked rooms. The basement door was closed, but a whole treasure trove of other passages had emerged. It was about this time I started telling everyone “wait for the edited version!” That’s the thing about edits; they really do make a novel better!
The second set of revisions were more of an inspector’s list of things that weren’t up to code: stairs going up to a now-closed ceiling, pesky doors hung the wrong way, and the like. I polished and tweaked, excited to see how much clearer my story had become. Liv and Xander’s love story crackled with intensity, while Liv’s dating fiascos had my hubby cracking up as I read them aloud.
Yes, it was still the same book I’d written in the first draft, but the new scenes were my favorites!
The day before I sent off the second round, I reread the entire novel. The newly polished plot caught me off-guard the way well-designed stories always do! Even though I knew how it worked out in the end, I found myself reading faster and faster, excited for all those NEW romantic moments I’d written to come into play. The adjusted ending *cough* Starveil VI soundstage *cough* brought the plot together without the extraneous loose ends of the original. I finished the story and grinned as I hit send. This book was definitely ready!
A first draft is like falling in love. It’s fast and exciting, but it’s also nerve-wracking. The real magic appears later on. By inviting people into the story you’ve built, by sharing it with editors who love your characters as much as you do, and by trusting them to build on the foundation you’ve created, the long-term romance can begin. Because a second, third, fourth run-through does more than just clean up your writing, it shapes the book in ways that even the writer could never imagine.
And that’s a story worth telling!