Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Book Diet

My book's on a diet. Not South Beach, Atkins, Mediterranean, Grapefruit . . . or any of those food-related fads. My book is on the EDIT diet . . . and, strangely, the word "edit" even has the same letters as "diet." Very appropriate, since both dieting and book editing have something in common: getting rid of the excess (pounds, inches, or . . . pesky adverbs) to achieve a healthier and more attractive state of being. Whether that culminates in an appreciative glance (as in "Whoa, lookin' good there--been working out?") or an enthusiastic read ("Wow, I couldn't put this book down--when's the next one coming out?"). Of course in a perfect world we'd combine those two: "Great book, and can you believe that someone that attractive can write like this?" But I'm not greedy, just very grateful that my new publisher, Tyndale House, has assigned me an incredibly talented editor: Lorie Popp.

A few posts back, I mentioned my excitement at having been teamed with Lorie--amid great rushes of goose bumps, since she also edits stellar authors such as Karen Kingsbury and Angela Hunt and Susan May Warren. But now, a few days into the "red-line" stage of editing CRITICAL CARE, I'm even more grateful. She's on a mission to make this book shine, for sure. A large part of that involves whacking away at the "fat" in my manuscript, unnecessary or unclear dialogue, repetitive words, lengthy stretches of narrative, "plucking" my characters' tendency toward eyebrow movements, and re-organizing sentence and paragraph order.

She also must fix punctuation, grammar, and spelling (who knew blond didn't have an "e"? Obviously I don't read my L'Oreal boxes). And catch glitches like . . . when a pet a turtle somehow changes into a goldfish 200 pages later.

But perhaps most amazing is Lorie's ability to make substantive suggestions toward improving the overall story impact. In the case of this particular book, she asks that I show even more of an inside glimpse into the action taking place in the ER--letting my readers "scrub in," so to speak, on life and death drama. One such suggestion prompted me to add an additional scene to the opening of CRITICAL CARE. Trust me, by the time a manuscript first reaches an editor the all important opening pages have been written and re-written upwards of a dozen times. Maybe far more. Blood, sweat, tears, angst . . . coffee rings, pizza splotches . . . type-toss-type-delete-groan-moan . . . you get the picture. We get typing tendonitis. That's why most writers are married to their opening scenes by the time they turn them in to the publisher, and hope to never have to tinker with them again. UNLESS:

The red-line suggestions are brilliant . . . as my editor's absolutely are. The new opening paragraphs of CRITICAL CARE pull the reader into the trauma room as fast as you can start CPR. And set up the subsequent scenes for maximum emotional impact. It's like finding that last cardboard bit to the 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle. I've never been happier with a diet.

So here's to the blessing of a talented editor, the benefits of diet . . . and the weirdness of that Google image I've posted above. A comb in a plate of spaghetti? Shouldn't that be a fork?

Trust me, my editor would have caught that glitch. Thanks Lorie!

1 comment:

Kim Gail said...
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