Swoon Author Devon Taylor's Editing Update: Don't Forget to Leave the Lights On
By now, most of you Swooners probably have a pretty good idea of what it takes to publish a book. The Swoon blog is a phenomenal resource for writers who may only have a slight understanding of how the publishing process works. Hell, I still feel like I only have a slight understanding of how it works, and I’ve had two books published. It’s a vast, complicated mechanism that we as writers can sometimes feel lost in. Posts like this one hopefully help clear that fog a little bit.
None of that had anything to do with editing The Ghost Seekers—I just feel incredibly lucky to be here, writing this post not long after the major edits for TGS have been put to bed. Which is maybe why editing is such a carefree process for me. Or rather, revising is a carefree process. My fantastic editor, Emily Settle, is the one who does the editing. She finds those things that I may have been too close to notice and points them out, nudges me in the right direction when I’m teetering between two different ideas, and boosts my confidence by being a fan as well as an integral part of bringing the book to life. I look forward to every new edit letter and every set of line edits. Mostly because I’m still blown away that I get to write books and have them published at all, but also because I know that those notes are going to shape the book into something that I alone couldn’t have created.
Editing a book is a group effort, a house that every member takes up temporary residence in, and you have to remember to leave the lights on for all of them. What I mean by that is you as a writer have to be open to criticism. So long as it’s constructive and not intentionally harmful, that critique is going to benefit you in the long run. You can’t shut yourself out to those ideas that might contradict your original concept, or to those gentle urges to cut something that you’re deeply attached to. This was probably the hardest thing for me to learn when I was first sharing my writing with teachers or close friends in middle school and high school. Most of that stuff was poetry and short stories that I had poured my heart into, stuff that I couldn’t fathom changing. It’s a difficult thing to learn, giving up what you think of as your baby and letting someone else participate in nurturing it.
In my case, I was so lucky with the way the edits went with The Soul Keepers that I was genuinely excited about jumping into them with this second book. The concept for The Ghost Seekers was one that I had figured out even before I set out to write TSK. It was a story that split cleanly in half, into two books, and I knew exactly how I wanted it to end. Well, almost exactly. I knew the major plot points, but I still needed to fill in those gaps. That left room for me to surprise myself, which I love. If I can’t still find those parts of the story that were hiding even from me, then there’s really no point in writing it at all. With TGS, I discovered my favorite scene in the entire series, a character who turned out to be super kick-ass, and some things about the mythology of The Soul Keepers that I hadn’t quite figured out yet. All of these were things that I hadn’t planned on, and yet they ended up becoming some of Emily’s favorite things, too.
Of course, I had a few missteps. What writer doesn’t? That’s the beauty of the first draft—the idea that it still isn’t complete, that there’s room for it to grow and change and be better. And the only way that happens is if I allow it to. There were parts of The Ghost Seekers that I was sure would be beautiful and work perfectly, including one very critical scene toward the end of the book. But it turns out I was wrong. Some of those things came off as too cheesy or too anticlimactic, and I was just too attached to them to realize it. Was I afraid that the changes I’d have to make to those parts make them worse? Of course. And that can sometimes create a paralyzing effect on a writer. If I couldn’t get it right the first time, how could I possibly get it right the second time?
But that’s where the teamwork part of this process comes in. Emily’s guidance helped me to find the best way to rework those things that didn’t quite fit, and ultimately made them better. I had input from my wife, as well. She had some amazing suggestions as always. And if I hadn’t been willing to take those ideas and work with them, then The Ghost Seekers would not be the book that it is, and I would not be nearly as proud to share it with all of you. I left the lights on for everybody, and they all came in to help me out.
I’m so excited for you all to read The Ghost Seekers and to see what you think about how Rhett’s story ends! Thanks for reading!