Swoon Author Nikki Katz's Editing Update: Hard Work and Careful Planning
Once I was done with my copyedits I could look back on The Midnight Dance and say... that was a lot of work. Hard work. Excruciating work. I love drafting a novel. The writing is the creative process for me, the fun part, the playing with characters and watching their story unfold. Editing is work. Editing is killing my babies and questioning every single decision, word, plot point, motivation.
And believe me, I edited this novel a lot!
I actually wrote my first draft five years ago and I am pretty sure if I did a "compare documents" between then and now, there wouldn't be a single thing the same. In my hunt for an agent I did significant revisions of the manuscript at their requests. I changed the story from first to third person to fit more with a fairy tale concept. I scaled back much of the dark themes/scenes of the novel so that it would be appropriate for a younger teen audience. And then, one of the hardest things of all, I changed Penny's journey. I don't want to spoil anything before the novel comes out, but suffice it to say that she originally went on a very different path than the one she does now. It helped with the pacing, but I had to literally slice out some of my darlings. My favorite location. A significant amount of one of my favorite characters.
That version was the one that Swoon Reads accepted. But I knew there would still be further edits. For one thing (and a reason I was surprised to be chosen in the first place!) I knew I would have to increase the romance. There was always a thread of a love story, but The Midnight Dance at its heart was a story about a girl discovering herself. Having already experienced several rewrites, I waited with a sort of dread to see what editor extraordinaire, Kat Brzozowski, would want to change. I opened the editorial letter with bated breath.
I called my critique partner.
That's always my first step! She talked me off the ledge and we worked through the bigger issue problems (the smaller ones I am rarely concerned with). Then, before I locked myself in a room for a month, I went back to Kat and asked for small clarifications and revealed the direction I was going to take, just to make sure before I started the revision.
Next, I put together a plan. I typically tackle my smaller edits first, unless I know that a scene is going to be completely reworked. An edit of "up the romance in this scene" is easily done. An edit like "cut 35 of the first 75 pages"... not so much! Once I edited the smaller items, I worked out a calendar for the larger edits to keep me on task.
Ready to dive in and tackle the issues, I opened my documents. For this manuscript I had four that I used consistently: the manuscript itself, a working document of cut scenes in case I want to repurpose them later, a chapter list (with page number and a brief one sentence synopsis of that chapter), and a spreadsheet that contains the day of the novel and interactions with Master and Cricket. Penny had to have multiple run-ins with both of those characters in order to show motivation for some of the actions on Master's part. Sometimes I would open a previous draft of the novel to compare changes, or I'd pull up my Pinterest board for motivation. And of course there was always creepy instrumental music playing in my noise canceling headphones to tune out the kids. Because you know, revisions don't stop for summer break!
Revision complete, all items checked and double-checked, and I always left time for a complete read-through. This was my time to check for consistency in voice, pacing, and to remove any of those dreaded "double words/phrases" too close together in the manuscript.
I turned the manuscript back into Kat and then waited. Rinse and repeat the entire process two more times (she and Lauren caught a couple of things that needed editing).
Once I was done with the last revision and I got the news that it was moving to copy edits, I felt relief. And a bit of panic. Because... what if it wasn't enough? I want this novel to be perfect. I want every word and detail and description and pacing to be perfect. And I hope it is. I'm thrilled with the end result, the pacing, the smaller threads, the reveals, the... well, the everything! And, I hope you like it! I'm very proud of this piece and love that it is my debut. I hope the journey resonates with teens (and adults)! I hope everyone falls in love with Cricket (and perhaps Master too). I just hope!