Swoon Author Kimberly Karalius: Adventures in Editing
When I first saw Holly’s email containing my edit letter, she warned me not to panic. My internal monologue looked something like this while I stared at the email: You can handle this, Kim. You’ve had seven solid years of workshopping experience from graduate school and college. You ate feedback for breakfast (and midnight snacks) on Figment.com. You’ve got this.
Then I opened the edit letter.
I was actually… fine. More than fine. The further I read through the letter (nine glorious pages), the more excited I felt about my revisions for Love Fortunes and Other Disasters.
Here’s the thing about how having a lot of feedback experience: you learn very quickly what works for you and what doesn’t.
My most memorable revision memories come from workshopping. Whether part of a writing group or taking creative writing courses, my experience with workshopping has been mostly the same: a bunch of aspiring writers get together to dissect each other’s stories in the name of learning.
Like a flock of vultures descending upon a carcass, workshoppers will debate and discuss almost every aspect of your story – and everyone will have different opinions. As the Author of the story, I have to stay silent until the session is over; only then will I get a chance to address what was talked about, and ask for more suggestions for the next revision of my story.
I’ve been part of workshops where my MFA cohorts spent a good twenty minutes waffling over whether the author should rewrite the story in second person or third person POV. Arguing over what genre a story is. Whether or not a certain character should be killed off. Most of this is fun. We learn by studying each other’s stories. But it can also be intense, even for seasoned workshoppers.
Workshopping is supposed to help you build thick skin (you’re going to need it) and how to discern what feedback is helpful from the pile of annotated notes you get at the end of the session. My heart always beat a little faster when I reviewed the notes, untangling the brambly mess of comments to pick out what I knew I needed to improve my writing. Ideally, if I’ve done it right, I feel like this after a session:
Regardless of the peanut gallery.
Fast forward to my editor, Holly West. There was literally nothing to untangle in her edit letter. All the changes were straightforward and blessedly specific. After years of receiving feedback as vague as “your story feels off, but I don’t know why,” Holly’s letter made me feel spoiled! Editing Love Fortunes could never be daunting or scary with edit notes like this. In fact, once I read through it a few times, I couldn’t wait to get started.
As luck would have it, the timing was perfect. I flew to New York that summer to visit family, and was able to stop by Swoon HQ to have my first edit meeting with Holly in person.
Which was about as awesome as you could imagine.
Holly actually wrote about my visit on the Swoon Says blog a while ago (go read it!), so I won’t go into too much detail here. But it helped to be able to talk to Holly (and Christine Barcellona!) about the meatier changes that went into Love Fortunes. Together we brainstormed some alternative solutions and I got to talk about what was going through my head when I was writing certain scenes, and my intentions for the charming town of Grimbaud. Workshopping habits die hard, though, so we used Holly’s edit letter that I had annotated with conversational notes as a guide as we went through it.
Thus began the editing process of Love Fortunes and Other Disasters! I put on some gloves, took out my metaphorical surgical equipment, and got to work. Holly and the Swoon Team listened to the community’s suggestions and feedback on my book, and it was fun to see those threads pop up in Holly’s edit letter.
As we worked through each round of revision – two rounds with Holly, one with the copy editor – the story began to change. Ages dropped, one kiss got lost, and romance novels became beacons of hope. More magic, more whimsy. More mischievous twins.
As I embark on my revision for my second Swoon Reads book, I’m happy to say that the editing process is even better the second time. I’m looking forward to seeing my story transform once again through this unique process.