Here is another post on working with a developmental editor – this time, the focus is on more of the changes he suggested I make.
In addition to helping with the tension and pacing of the first chapter, the editor suggested I add a chapter (chapter two) that covered all the rules of the world I’d created. Specifically, what are vampires in ‘my world’ like? How do they become vampires? Where do they get their sustenance, and does someone have to die in the process? Do others know vampires exist? Inquiring minds…
In my draft, I tried to present this kind of information throughout the story – on a need-to-know basis. While I thought that was the best way to weave details throughout the story, the editor said readers needed to know right off the bat (no pun intended). Readers would have questions right away, and deserved answers. O.k. – I could see his point. And while I prefer stories that tease you with information, clearly my readers need to know some essentials for the story to make sense. With so many vampire books out there, it was important to establish how my world was different.
I was really nervous about devoting an entire chapter to world-building. I thought it would stop the fast pace of the opening (made better by the editor’s suggestions) and would be too – well, too boring. But I gave it a try. The first go around, I hated it. I mean, I liked some of the writing…but it seemed like another book, another voice. It wasn’t Joe talking (my book is in 1st person), it was me talking. And that wasn’t going to fly. So I gave it another go and found a way to present the rules of the world in his voice. And I liked it. So did the editor.
My goal was to begin to present to readers my vision of a world where vampires existed. In this world, vampires remain relatively hidden – so this is not a book where humans know about vampires (w/ a few exceptions). Or a world where vampires have taken over – at least not in an obvious way. And because there are so many vampire books out there, I had to be clear about the basics – how vampires are created, how they can be destroyed, common myths as to shapeshifting…that sort of thing.
This is an example of trying something I never would have considered. So score one for the editor (well, two given the changes he suggested I make to the opening). And given some of the feedback I received on my first chapter, the added chapter will help readers better understand the story.
Another change – getting rid of baggage, anything or anyone that did not contribute to the story. At first I thought this would be really tough – especially getting rid of characters. Turns out, it was rather painless. In my heart, I sort of knew I had way too many characters…what I needed help with was knowing which ones should go. The editor and I talked about this a bit, but most of the decisions were mine. I eliminated three characters right away – none were missed. Two others were more important – part of a subplot (which the editor said was a tangent that did not contribute to the larger plot). So, one was deleted…the other, I killed off later in the book. Heh heh, that was sort of fun in a perverse, all-powerful sort of way. Very cathartic.
He also pointed out a few scenes that were going nowhere, or ‘nothing happening here’ as he was wont to write in his comments. I shaved off about five thousand words by getting rid of those scenes. We did banter about the autopsy scenes (my character is a medical examiner), which ended up staying with minor revisions. I don’t think the editor likes to read those types of scenes, but hey – my guy’s an ME, so there’s gotta be an autopsy somewhere – right? And they are not too graphic, not as bad as CSI.
Through all these changes, I felt pretty good about the revision work and the process of working with a developmental editor. Now, when we started discussing aspects of my characters’ personalities, that became….heated. And the experience not as pleasant – but that’s the topic for my next post!