So, this is a first. By the luck of timing, both The Castle Doctrine (Faust book six) and House of Wolves (Harmony book three) are in editing at the same time. This means that for the next couple of weeks, I get to spend all day, every day, confronting my shortcomings and mistakes, having every single flaw in both manuscripts pointed out by two very skilled editors whose job it is to ensure I deliver the best book I can. Yes, it is every bit as painful and ego-crushing as it sounds. These ladies do not pull their punches, nor would I ever want them to. Much like going to the dentist or working out, it might not be fun, but it's good for you.

I thought it might be interesting to write a little about the process, which is certainly not a way for me to productively procrastinate. Nope, not at all.

The Castle Doctrine is in the final round of edits, getting it ready for the October First release. This is the point where Kira delivers her final verdict on the manuscript, with every page liberally doused in red ink. Much of it is grammar/formatting tweaks; I'm fairly clean when it comes to basic typos, but if there's one thing I've learned at this point, it's that errors always slip through. Always.

Between finishing my first draft and the final, formatted book, I'll read a manuscript around six times from cover to cover. While you might think that means nothing could get past me, the truth is actually the exact opposite: once you're that familiar with a story, it becomes easier and easier to let your eyes glaze over and "see" what you think is there, not what really is. That's one reason it's so vital to have an editor or a proofreader (or both) hit your manuscript with fresh eyes, and catch all the errors that have become invisible to you.

The rest of Kira's annotations are there to catch continuity mistakes, things that stand out as illogical or jarring (or just plain cliched), and things that I take for granted but a reader might need reminding of (like if I bring back a character from four books ago and forget to say who they are). Some errors are easy to make when you're buried in a story but obvious to a reader, like a gun being empty in one scene but loaded in the next, or a character (and this is something that happened in the Harmony manuscript) being bloodied and bruised from a fight, going into a public place, and nobody glancing her way or seeming to notice. The kind of head-slapping mistakes that seem super-duper obvious when your editor calls them out, and make you wonder how you didn't see it before.

This is why writers need editors. Period.

On the Harmony end, Andrea is my developmental editor. The developmental phase isn't as concerned with typos and the nuts and bolts (that's for proofreading, the next step), focusing instead on the structure of the book itself. It's all about story: is this scene tense enough? Can we raise the stakes? What's the theme, the emotional through-line? Do the characters change and grow? Big questions that often come with big rewrites.

I'll give you an example: we're in the second round of rewrites on House of Wolves, and at this point, it's about 3,000 words longer than the original manuscript. It had a major problem in that 1) a major character vanished for half the book, and ended in a totally unfulfilling resolution, emotionally, and 2) the ending was way too easy. Now, it's important to note that telling me what to write isn't Andrea's job: she calls out scenes and elements that she thinks don't work or could be strengthened, and why. Figuring out how to fix it is my job.

Right now, we've got a completely rewritten ending, as well as new scenes throughout the book aimed at keeping the tension high and emotions on edge, and...well, it's better. A lot better. And the changes, which again seem obvious in retrospect, never would have occurred to me if I hadn't had an expert on my side to lend a guiding hand. Believe it: artists may work in solitude, but a good book is a team effort.

And we're 15 days from The Castle Doctrine, so I'd better get back to work.