May 29, 2017

Featured Author: Janine Southard

    Last month, we started a new type of post here on the Touchstone Editing blog: guest posts by featured authors! We've worked with some amazing authors over the years, so we've invited some of them to provide additional perspective on both the editing process and publishing in general.
    I am probably Janine Southard's biggest fan. She and I first worked together in 2010 when she submitted a short story for a call for submissions I had out for my Circlet Press anthology Masked Pleasures. (Her story, "Heir Apparent," is one I still remember vividly, all these years later.) It's strange, looking back now, to think that hers was a name I once didn't know, that at one time she was just another name in the slush pile. Since then we've worked on a handful of projects together, each one more fun than the last -- I remember, while editing one of her books, when I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard at a tongue-in-cheek comment one of her characters had made. (That book became Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story, which you should definitely check out if you like to laugh.) Not every writer can successfully pull off comedy, but Janine does it, amidst her talents of writing science fiction, fantasy, erotica, and more. 
    I could go on and on talking about how much I love Janine's books -- and I do, frequently, to anyone willing to listen -- but for now I'll let you hear from her in her own words: 

The Editing Process: A Writer’s POV
By Janine A. Southard

Yay! The first draft is finished! For many writers, this is the hardest part. But that draft isn’t ready for general human consumption yet. So: what next?

Everyone has a different editing process (usually rooted in their drafting method), but here’s how it looks for me.
  1. Put the draft away and don’t look at it for a while. (Steven King recommends 6 weeks. Sometimes I’m too impatient—or get too distracted—to make the exact 6 week mark, but I try.)
  2. Re-read it myself and make changes like I would if it were someone else’s. Usually, this is just line editing stuff (i.e., making the words more prettier), but sometimes it turns into a huge plot upheaval.
  3. Send this neatened draft to my critique group... or force my spouse to read it first.
  4. Whichever didn’t happen in step 3.
  5. Make necessary changes and send it off to my developmental editor. What? You don’t have an editor? Have you thought about Touchstone Editing? (Yes, I’m shilling. Because Jen Levine has been a wonderful editor for me. One book she helped me with won a Cygnus Award in 2016.)
  6. Wait impatiently for notes from the editor.
  7. Receive notes from the editor and be too scared to open them because what if it’s horrible and I don’t know what to do?
  8. Actually open the notes. Freak out because I don’t know what to do. (8.5 Get over the freak out and start brainstorming fixes.)
  9. Spend two weeks adding and subtracting scenes. Every song on the radio is about my manuscript. Every moment is thinking about how I could fix things. Every podcast contains some little nugget that would make the book so much better.
  10. Send it back to the editor. Sometimes, it doesn’t need a second developmental look and is ready for line editing. Sometimes, we repeat steps 6-9.
  11. Receive notes to make the words read more smoothly, or where to maybe reorder things. Try to take all the notes, but sometimes they’re just wrong. For instance, I once had an editor who was brilliant at story, but didn’t do science fiction. She didn’t think “Terran” clearly meant “from Earth.” I ignored that note after polling my friends/family/mailing list, but that was the only note I tossed. Most of the time, though, the editor is definitely right. Remember, you picked the one you’re working with for a reason. Take the advice. (Unless it really bothers you. Because, in the end, it’s your manuscript.)
  12. At this point, I’m sick of my book. I’ve read it too many times. Made too many tweaks. Even reading it to my cat has lost appeal. I am relieved when I send it to the copyeditor/proofreader. (This is usually a different person than the developmental editor, who may or may not have been different from the line editor.)
  13. Get the proofed version back. Slog through it in one night. Even if it takes 6 hours to go over every misplaced comma and consistency check. It’s painful to read at this point, so getting it done fastest is best. (Lucky for me, my spouse recognizes this activity and makes me dinner while I moan about how awful this whole book is. Why did I write it in the first place? Waaaaah.)
  14. Finish! At this point, I’m formatting and self-publishing. You may be choosing to send it off to agents and publishing houses. The point is: the manuscript is as ready as it’s going to be. You’re as ready as you’re going to be.
There you go. That’s my whole editing process. Hating the book is actually helpful at the end, by the way, because it helps me accept editorial notes on tiny things that make the piece better. Like, all I want to do is make the manuscript go away, and that’ll happen faster if I don’t fight for obsolete comma rules.
Remember that you trust your editor. Your next book will have different problems after all you’ve learned.


Photo by Jeremy Barton

Janine A. Southard writes speculative fiction from coffee shops in Seattle, WA. All her books so far have been possible because of crowdsourced funds via Kickstarter. She owes great thanks to her many patrons of the arts who love a good science fiction adventure and believe in her ability to make that happen.

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