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The Fear and Exhilaration of Developmental Editing

Several of my writer friends warned me that the Editorial Letter from my publisher might be brutal. They advised me to retreat to a private room and remove all sharp objects in my general vicinity before reading it. Much to my delight, when I read my Editorial Letter from Inkshares, I was thrilled with their comments and suggestions for improving the novel. I thought their insights were spot on and I couldn't wait to spend some soak time thinking about their recommendations and how to implement them.

What surprised me was the paralyzing fear that settled in my belly when I began editing the manuscript—monkeying with something that took me years to write. It was terrifying to make even the smallest change because everything had tentacles reaching all the way through the novel. I was petrified that with each keystroke I was ruining the story and spoiling the magic. But little by little, the developmental edits began fall into place and open doors for my characters to move in new directions, become more fully realized, and shine even brighter.

For anyone out there who is embarking on a developmental editing journey, here's how my process worked. I received the Editorial Letter at the end of October. I was already planning on participating in NaNoWriMo so that gave me the month of November to focus on writing something new while also processing my publisher's suggestions and dipping my toes into the developmental editing sea of uncertainty. When December arrived, I dove head first into editing mode. Even with the holidays, I kept chugging away, determined to get my revised manuscript back to Inkshares before the end of January.

By the middle of January, I was ready for a couple of trusted readers, who had read the previous draft of the book, to review my changes in light of the suggestions in the Editorial Letter. Armed with their feedback, I tweaked a few more things and at that point, I started to get excited. I hadn't ruined it. Not only was the magic still there, the novel was better.

A key part of finalizing my developmental edits was reading the revised manuscript as an e-book, as if I was reading it for pleasure. To do this, I saved my document to a PDF, emailed it to myself and then opened it on my Ipad in Ibooks. You can do the same thing with the Kindle ap. When I did my "reader" read through, I had a red notebook by my side to write down anything that needed attention—typos, errors, places for clarification, etc. By making those notes on paper, it kept my brain in "reader" mode and prevented me from slipping back into "editor" mode. I found this incredibly helpful. Once I finished my read through, I worked through my handwritten notes to make my final changes and check things off one by one.

All in all, I took three months to implement the changes suggested in my Editorial Letter. While the letter itself was not frightening, the process of making the development edits was super scary, but the end result was worth it. Now, the big question is, will Inkshares think I addressed all of their concerns? If not, I'll get to do this all over again. Stay tuned!

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