Writing is not all moonbeams and unicorn farts, it really isn’t. But it is a damn sight better than digging ditches or working in a cardboard box factory. Though, as I recently discussed with a co-worker, there is something very zen about making cardboard boxes; you can disconnect your mind and get to that part of your soul that has something important to say.
But here’s the reason for this post. Earlier this year, I discovered that the editing job I’d paid money for wasn’t all I’d thought it was, because when I decided to get Vellum to reformat all of the books in my Oliver & Jack series, I realized how many errors that editing job had left behind. I was floored. Yes, I am fully aware that the final edits were up to me, but there was a level of trust there, as well, that I felt had been broken. I decided that along with the Vellum reformatting, I’d give a good clean edit of each book and satisfy myself that all was well.
As coincidence would have it, at the same time I was deciding this, the lovely Lee Welch wrote me to say how much she’d enjoyed Fagin’s Boy, and then added, very kindly, that there were a few….things that were amiss in the story. For example, sometimes I called them “pants” and other times I called them “trousers.” Now, an editor should have caught that, and using Search in Word, could have found all those pesky “pants” and replaced them with the more old-fashioned “trousers.” Or left me a note to tell me to look. That, as I discovered, was just the tip of the iceberg.
With much appreciation for Lee’s candor, I asked her if she would do a beta read for me for Fagin’s Boy. This she gladly did, and I found myself knee-deep in good, old fashioned feedback that went down to the bones of the story. I was full of awe and gratitude, and made a great many changes, reformatted the book, and put Fagin’s Boy on sale for 99 cents. It’s still on sale for that price, actually, as I’ve found readers like to have an opportunity to try out my writing without shelling out the big bucks, which is fair. (The reviews from the re-vamped Fagin’s Boy on Amazon have been amazing.)
Since that went so well, I asked Lee to do a beta read on At Lodgings In Lyme, which, to my horror, had even more errors than Fagin’s Boy. (Again, let me add that mine was the final word on that book, and thus the final responsibility also rests with me.) This Lee also did – and then some. Lyme had continuity issues that I’d not realized, until, and at the same time, some of my lovely readers left kind remarks in their reviews of the book about stuff that repeated, and a sense of confusion, overall.
I started working on Lee’s edits in April, but was overwhelmed, partly because there were so many things wrong, and also because I slowed down and started taking notes on the kinds of things that Lee was finding. For one thing, I have this…issue with using the wrong preposition. “On” should be “at” and “over” should be “by,” and so on. I also had, for some reason, FOUR different scenes where Dr. McMurtry visits Jack in the sick room of Rhode Hill House. Then there was the whole “pants vs trousers” thing, spelling errors, duplicated words – and, worst of all, a lack of logic in the argument at the end of the book. (Which is now fixed, and is quite lovely.)
I was so overwhelmed by my own horror at this state of affairs, not to mention….well, it was just awful. I tried editing a little bit each night, and while that took care of the little things, the larger conceptual issues couldn’t be fixed that way. So I kept putting it off, and off, and off.
Till finally, several of my kind readers messaged me to ask, hey, we were wondering where the updated version of Lyme is that we’d very much like to read. So I made a commitment to deliver on the 24th of June, and by golly, I even took the 23rd of June off work to go through Lee’s edits. I worked two 12 hour days (Friday and Saturday), and then on Sunday, in addition to a lot of other fun things (like chatting to Wendy Rathbone, and testing Skype with Sharon), I read through the whole thing, formatted it in Vellum (yeah!), loaded it up on Amazon, and Kobo, et al, and then sent out a newsletter to let my peeps know, and also an ARC copy to my ARC group….
Whew. By the time I got up from the computer, I was vibrating so hard, I could have pleasured a nun. Which, as you might guess, was the thought that entered my poor, exhausted, giddy brain at that point. But I didn’t want to lead with that in this blog post because it’s sacrilegious to say such things about a nun.
I learned a lot from Lee’s feedback, which was about as thorough as what you might get from an 11th grade English teacher – you know, the one who, when you encounter her, makes you realize how serious this shit can get, and makes you pay attention, and through the gritty homework, and dense essay tests actually teaches you something, and from whom you actually learn.
I can’t ask Lee for any more beta reads because I promised her I wouldn’t, and I really took good notes from her feedback on Lyme and learned a lot, and also because she’s very busy writing an m/m romance series set in the year 1851 – and involves magic and top hats and the Crystal Palace and mad dashes across the moors! But you can follow her on FaceBook, and Twitter, and wait with me in anticipation for her books to come out.