Swoon Author Katy Upperman's Editing Update: Polish and Shine
Confession: I don’t enjoy drafting. Like, at all. It’s so difficult for me to spin a story out of nothing. I find blank pages intimidating and the wide-open possibilities that come with a first draft well and truly terrifying. Know what I love, though? Rewriting, revising, and editing early drafts into strong stories that shine.
After Kissing Max Holden sold to Swoon Reads, I knew I’d get to go to work on revisions with editor extraordinaire Holly West, and I was equal parts excited and nervous. I’d never worked with a professional editor before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Turns out, the process was surprisingly streamlined and mostly painless and went something like this…
1. Holly sent me a long edit letter full of critiques and compliments, concerns and suggestions. I read it, freaked out, read it again, then began to formulate a plan of attack.
2. Holly and I chatted on the phone about the proposed changes.
3. I spent a few months tackling a pretty substantial list of edits, which included character subtractions, motivation strengthening, and pacing improvements.
4. After reading my new draft of Kissing Max Holden, Holly and Lauren Scobell sent me in-document line edits, which focused mostly on the story’s details, rather than big-picture changes.
5. We had another phone call to talk solutions and devise a plan, then I got busy.
6. After I completed line edits, Kissing Max Holden was accepted and sent off for copyediting.
My general rule for diving into edits is to start big. For Kissing Max Holden, I moved the whole manuscript from Word to Scrivener, breaking it up into scenes. Then I started to shift things around. I won’t lie—it got ugly. My book became a big mess of scrambled puzzle pieces and I started to wonder if I’d ever be able to put it together in a way that made sense. I chipped away at my editing to-do list, though, taking care of those pacing and motivation problems I mentioned earlier before moving on to smaller issues. Then I spent a few weeks away from the story, letting my critique partners do their worst to it before coming back to make a few last-minute changes and complete a final read-through.
The final read-through just happens to be my favorite part of any editing project. I love polishing a story: choosing exciting verbs, refining dialogue, and perfecting voice. The most challenging part is, as they say, killing my darlings. It’s so hard to cut a beautiful, hard-won bit of prose, even when I know deep down that the story is stronger without it. That’s one of the reasons it’s so nice to work with an editor who offers perspective and savvy advice!
Throughout the editing process, I continued to marvel at how collaborative the experience was. I was never asked to make a change without justification, we never moved forward without conversation, and my ideas were always heard. Though Kissing Max Holden changed during edits, I never once felt that the heart of the story was altered. Holly and Lauren seem to care about my characters as much as I do, which made their suggestions for revision feel inspired and exciting. It was heartening to know that they didn’t want to swoop in and make my book different—they wanted to help me make it better.
Guys, it really is better, and I couldn’t be happier. Once Kissing Max Holden moved to the copy edits phase of the process, I was grateful and relieved and totally excited. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in a dream (honestly, who gets to do the thing they love most as an actual job?), so seeing my debut accepted and sent to the next step was thrilling. It was fun to know that I was closer to cover voting and first pass pages and ARCs, but it was also an awesome reminder that my book is going to be a BOOK!