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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charlaine Harris shares her editing process

Charlaine Harris wrote on her blog this week of her writing process and the group of readers who provide her the necessary feedback to give her books the continuity and accuracies one needs in a series. Here's a bit of that post:

"As I was slogging through my first readers’ suggested changes for DEAD IN THE FAMILY, I reflected on how lucky I am to have trusted people to do this thankless job for me. For most of my writing history, only I and my editor (and a copy editor) read my books before they were published. But that’s changed in the past couple of years, and I think my books are the better for it."

"For those of you who aren’t deeply into the writing world, a first reader is someone who plunges into your book before anyone else. What is the purpose of a first reader? To tell you what you’ve done wrong and what you can do to make it better. So a first reader is someone you trust to tell you the truth, not someone you know will tell you comforting lies. An ideal first reader is intelligent, consistent, conversant with your other books and with the laws of the language, and diligent. When I say “diligent,” I mean someone who’ll drop everything to plow through your book if you say, “This was supposed to be on my editor’s desk three days ago.”

"Fortunately for me, I have two great first readers, my friends Dana Cameron and Toni L.P. Kelner, who may gently tell me that fifty pages do not belong in the middle of the book (Dana) and that I’ve totally forgotten to bring an important plot point back into the book after I raise it (Toni). Thanks, ladies. I also have continuity readers who know the material in the past books as well as they know their kids, and these two wonderful people are always ready to tell me that I’ve gotten a character’s name wrong yet again, or that a street had a different name in the previous book."

"Now, by the time my overworked editor sees the book, I think it’s in much better shape. This saves time and worry – at least for me! And I think the reader comes out ahead, too."

"Of course, I still take the blame for errors and continuity glitches in my work. Though I can’t carry the whole series in my head and refer to it all the time, I ought to be able to, I tell myself; and it’s very upsetting for me when I make a mistake. It’s not from lack of caring; it’s from lack of brain room. My memory is so full after my long career (at least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it) that I don’t have room for more facts, especially now that I’m sure other people are going to help me do it. My two continuity experts, who shall remain nameless, have helped me iron out quite a few little issues in past books, so the reprints are much more error-free."

Read more over on CharlaineHarris.com

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