my apologies for not having posted for so long. The closer we come to the end of the year, the faster time flies! But apart from that I've been flat-out writing a journal article for uni, working on book 6, and also reading the final pages of Silent Fear. That's the last step in what can be a six to twelve month-long process of editing - this year it took ten months. It sounds like a long time but it's not when you (a) consider that this book is just one of possibly hundreds that the publisher and editor work on during that time and (b) break the steps of that process down.
First the editor and publisher read the manuscript I send in, talk it over and write their structural edit report. This focuses on (obviously) the structural problems: whether the clues add up, whether there are timing issues in the plotline, whether there are gaping holes in the story, whether the characters and plot are believable - all those big picture-type things. That takes around four to six weeks, and I get about the same to go over the report and digest the ideas and suggestions, then work over the manuscript, fixing the issues one by one. It can be a big and daunting job, so it's very satisfying to be able to cross each point off the report as I go. Then I send it back in again, the publisher and editor read it once more, and assuming those big problems are fixed they begin their line edit. This looks more closely at the actual writing, hunting down clunky phrasing and awkward sentences, and tightening wherever possible. A third person comes in to help here, a freelance copy-editor, and I'm fortunate to have worked with the same one for a number of books (hi Nicola!). Then the marked-up manuscript comes back to me again, maybe a couple of months later. This year we used track changes and emailed the 460 page document back and forth, which was a little different, as with each previous book it's been done on paper. Apart from the obvious benefit of saving trees, and not having to worry about losing the one and only copy with all our comments on it in the post, I don't know that one way is better than the other: I think whichever method you use, you soon get used to it.
So I go over this next lot of comments and agree or disagree and make my own changes too. By this point the manuscript is so familiar to me I'm sure it's deadly dull and boring, but I know I go through that stage with every book and I just have to keep working. Then back it goes to the publisher again, the changes are made to the text, then it's typeset onto A4 pages. Now we can see what the pages will look like in the book! These are called final pages, and we all read them again, looking now for things that slipped past everyone's eyes: typos, lay-out issues, and so on. From this point it starts to get expensive to change too much, so unless there are major issues (which there shouldn't be, considering all the work everyone's put in) the changes are limited to tweaks and fixing mistakes. Once these little things are done, the manuscript goes to the printer, and that's where Silent Fear went yesterday.
You can see where that time goes - a couple of months here, a couple of months there. But now it's just over two months until the book is on the shelves, and I can tell you that's always a highly anticipated moment for any author! There are plans for a bit of a tour along the East Coast, and when I have details of events I'll be sure to post them here.
But of course between then and now stands book 6! It's coming along really well, and I'm looking forward to the day when I sent it in to my publisher, and the whole process begins once more.
ps - Speaking of editing, I'm teaching Year of the Edit again next year at the QLD Writers Centre. If you're interested, hop on over to my 'Learn with Katherine' page and find out more.