My next novel, Into the Black Nowhere, will be published in early 2018. It’s almost ready to go. I spent this week proofreading the “first pass” of the typeset pages.
Editing, like everything else in writing, is a process. It’s a back-and-forth: between me and my ideas; with my agent and editor; with the copyeditor and proofreader; and, finally, with my own judgment that the novel in its entirety — the story, structure, characters, suspense, pacing, voice, and wording of every sentence — is the best I can make it.
Each step in the process comes with its own challenges. And each version of the story I write gets comments. For this novel — the sequel to UNSUB — here’s how the notes and editorial suggestions I’ve received have evolved.
- This novel is a cat-and-mouse thriller in which Caitlin Hendrix pursues a charming, devious killer across the western US. Why do you insert a convoluted subplot about one victim’s greedy grandparents attempting to steal an inheritance?
- The mid-novel murder is dramatic, splashy, and completely predictable. What if you flipped the situation on its head?
(Me: If I do that… hey! A whole fresh, unexpected plot line appears.)
- The pace in the first half is, to put it kindly, leisurely. Okay, it’s slow. Remember the reviews you got for UNSUB, which praised its tautness and drive? Yeah, do that again.
- The ending needs more brains, less brawn. For instance: Why is Caitlin clinging to the roof rack of a careening SUV? Get her off of there. Now.
- So many cops! So many FBI agents! New ones seem to pop up every few pages. They roam the novel in groups, holding constant conversations. Send some of them home.
- Why does one character describe a life-and-death struggle after the fact, through dialogue? You’re missing a chance to show a badass fight. WRITE THE SCENE.
- SO MUCH WEATHER.
- Does this scene take place on Wednesday? (Me: Yes. Obviously.)
- Are you positive this scene takes place on Wednesday? (Me: Completely.)
- Then why is it still Tuesday? (Me: GAH.)
First pass pages:
- Me: Delete “fast.” Insert “quick.”
- Me: Delete “printout.” Insert “documents.”
- Me: Delete “asshole.” Insert: “jackass.”
As I said, it’s a process.
And, if you want to see how I put all these suggestions into practice, you can preorder the novel.