A note from Kate: In addition to the editorial letter, my editor for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. also sent a line-edited manuscript with questions and suggested changes on almost every page. It’s kind of like when your teacher returns a paper to you, saying, “This is good. But you can do even better!”
Editors and authors make notes on manuscript pages during revisions.
A note from Sara: This is a scene in which (my editor) Cheryl asked me convert excess narration to a more interactive dialogue between Bo and his dad that revealed their relationship. Show, don't tell!
A Note from Kristin: The notes did not photograph well; the note in the left margin reads: "Re: 'all those mountains together': Aren't the balds sprinkled in among forested peaks? This makes it sound as if they're clustered." The note in the right margin says: "The thing about balds is that normally trees would be expected to grow at that elevation in that climate. The peaks aren't bald because the elevation is above the treeline in that area. Pls. rewrite." After receiving those notes, I did a little more research on balds themselves (they are, in fact, mountains with "bald" tops), and was delighted to find that they are a mystery to scientists - no one knows for sure why trees don't grow atop a bald. That fact related well with Autumn Winifred Oliver, the main character who, like the balds, "does things different." I was delighted that the wonderful copy editors pointed that out; I think the final opening scene benefitted from making the setting more mysterious.
A Note from Saundra: Even though I do my best on my first draft, it takes someone from the outside to tell me what I broke. Or what I never created. Or when I said something I totally didn't mean. And sometimes that means cutting out entire paragraphs...pages... chapters... characters! It's not fun, but it's worth it. I'll always like the small revisions best, but the large ones make my book the best it can be.
A Note from Claudia: Don't be fooled and think that manuscripts are published exactly the way the author sent it to the publisher. Most authors, like myself, have to edit the content of their stories several times before they're printed. And that's not even counting the many times you have to correct spelling or punctuation errors along the way! Revising may feel like a lot of work - which it is! - but if you're lucky enough to have someone help you who cares about your story as much as you do, the effort will be worth it, and you'll end up with a shiny piece of writing that you can be proud of.
A note from Maria: The picture here is from my working journal. Most days I begin my writing in a lined notebook, with a good ol' fashioned pen and paper. I write about the characters in my current book as if they're real people; I journal about who they are, what they want, how they feel. Their favorite foods and colors and the music on their iPods. Somewhere along the way I pick up the thread of their story, and that's when I close the notebook and fire up the computer, because my brain starts moving too fast for my hand. Pictured on this page is the first iteration of a scene from Chapter Four in my new book, "Jersey Tomatoes are the Best." At the time this was written, it was titled "Owning Henry." This entry describes a scene where someone drops a bowl of very hot oatmeal, it hits the kitchen floor and spatters so spectacularly that oatmeal flies up to the celing. What I realize from reading this entry, and comparing it to the "final" pages of the book, is that my characters say lots of things early on ... and I edit those comments down later. One of my best writing teachers once said, "There are many words you may need to write that your readers may not need to read."
A Note from Crissa: During the revision process, my editor asked a lot of questions. Do we need this? Already clear? etc. It was more about cutting things out and keeping it clean and mean...not filling up space with words. Very cool!
A note from Kay: This page is from a polishing edit for THE CINDERELLA SOCIETY about midway through the polishing process. The typed comment off to the side is from my final round of structural edits where I note minor scene elements that need improving but don't require a huge scene overhaul. The rest of the polishing is done by hand for all the nitpicky wording choices (it's much easier for me to catch those on a hard copy) and also posing questions to myself to make sure everything makes sense and is well-motivated and justified for the character or situation.
REAL REVISION A Gallery of Marked-up Manuscripts Created by author/teacher Kate Messner In celebration of the National Day on Writing October 20, 2009 http://www.katemessner.com