Swoon Author Jenny Elliott: My Experience With the Swoon Reads Editing Process
I enjoy editing ALMOST as much as writing. No, really. I do. While I love the creative process — creating characters, envisioning a storyline, and pouring scenes onto paper (or tapping them out on a keyboard) — writing a first draft of a novel is HARD. When I finish a story, no matter how rough the draft, I breathe a deep sigh of relief. I have something to work with. And, in my opinion, that’s the hardest task to accomplish.
So, PHEW! The first draft is done. Next, it’s time to discover what needs fixing and what needs to be added to improve the story. It’s difficult for me to spot the problems and holes in my own work, so I appreciate outside opinions. Swoon Reads is great in this way, because a number of readers and writers read and critique your stories, and leave you lots of points to consider for revision. Swoon Reads community members’ comments are taken into consideration during edits of selected authors’ novels, too. Both Katie Van Ark and I read and critiqued each other’s stories when they were up for review on Swoon Reads. And our suggestions were incorporated into our final, published stories. So don’t doubt that your opinions count!
Selected Swoon Reads authors also benefit from professional editorial assistance. My editor, Holly West, was a perfect fit. Many of us have heard horror stories about editors who don’t “get” a writer’s story and demand changes that the author doesn’t agree with. Holly did grace me with five pages of editorial notes. But she was sweet, and she urged me not to panic. Poor Holly, I kept her on the phone for two hours. Twice. But she was patient and helpful, and our conversations were fruitful. I’m also happy to report that Holly was flexible on a couple of points that were important to me. Most often, though, I felt like smacking myself in the head for not coming up with her wonderful ideas on my own. Holly cheerfully responded to my self-chastisement by reminding me that her job was to help with these editorial ideas. I couldn’t be more thankful for her help!
All that said, after I received Holly’s editorial notes, that annoying doubter who lives in my head taunted me, saying that there was no way I was going to be able to create the extra magic Holly was requesting. So, I beseeched that other, kinder and softer voice in my head, to help me find the gold and gems that were needed to make my story truly shine. I trusted my subconscious to deliver solutions and focused on anything other than my dilemma. Then, as always, when least expected, I was granted with the necessary ideas to satisfy both my story’s needs and my editor’s/publisher’s desires. Holly and I went through three rounds of edits, so things weren’t perfect after my first attempts. I was relieved to hear that this is normal. And through it all, Holly remained helpful and patient.
Finishing the first draft of my first novel gave me confidence that I could do it again. In the same way, I think it took those first, fearful attempts to edit my novel to the satisfaction of professionals to make me confident in my future editing abilities. It’s like they say: “Practice makes perfect.” So practice, practice, practice. Be grateful for the benefits you’ll receive both from receiving critiques from other Swoon Reads members, and from reading and critiquing others’ stories. And if your story is selected for publication, count yourself lucky that you’ll get to work with the kind and professional staff members at Swoon Reads. I will be ever grateful.