The copy-editing process is something about which the reader is generally not aware. Think of it this way: You’ve written a term paper for school, and your teacher returns it to you (without a grade) with corrections (such as punctuation, spelling, grammar), suggestions for changes, perhaps pointing out confusions in your writing and narrative logic That is close to what a copy editor does, and which was just done for my new novel, Deception. Copy-editing is hard, slow, and meticulous work, and requires equal attention from me, the writer. When writing The Man Who Was Poe, the CE pointed out that a sailboat my hero was using to flee was (based on my description of events) going around in circles. Less helpful, a CE commented halfway through the editing of Keep Your Eye on Amanda, (a story with talking animals, and interaction between animals and humans) “Could a raccoon really drive a locomotive?” The key function of copy-editing is to make the book that much more readable. It’s a vital step forward. Next step for Deception will be galleys—pre-printings—prior to final publication in August.
Creating a good title for a book is hard. I’ve written some strong ones, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and some weak ones, Shadrach’s Crossing. Just today, I had a discussion with my editor about my soon to be published book. I’ve been calling it Deception. “I’m not sure,” she said, “it’s strong enough. Let’s talk.” A good/weak title can help/hurt a book. During the writing process, titles often change. The working title of True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, was The Seahawk. My first title for Crispin: the Cross of Lead, was No Name. For Poppy, it was The Owl in the Dead Tree. For City of Orphans, The Boy Detective. Nothing but the Truth was Discovery. If you know these books, the discarded titles will explain themselves. Years ago, when searching for a title, I read part of a new book to a class. Once finished, I asked the kids if any one had an idea for a good title. A girl raised her hand and said, “Something Upstairs.” Bingo! This time, not so easy.
I want readers to read my books from page one to . . . the end. I don’t write them that way. The book I’m working on (still no title) is (at the moment) a mystery, a thriller, or something like. That means I go back and forth, making sure everything fits together smoothly. Sometimes, as happened today on page 130, the plot shifts. That required me to return to page 10, and add something to make it work. That it turn brought me to page 43, to make sure another link was adjusted. Another on page 75. Only then, did I go back to page 130, and move forward. That’s my everyday process. Forward and back. Endlessly. Sometimes these changes are big. Sometimes they are small. One of the hard parts of writing a novel is keeping the whole plot—plot, events, characters, places–in my head every moment I’m writing. My hope is to create a seamless tale that readers will enjoy from page one right through to the end . . . assuming I ever get there.
The cover of a novel is usually the first connection between reader and book. Very important. Readers are sometimes puzzled that the writer usually does not control the choice. The truth is, the writer is not always the best judge. I’m not. The writer may write well, but his/her artistic, marketing, design talents and judgments may not be so well developed. (Pictures books are a whole different world.) In the best circumstance, the artist, art director, editor, marketing people and writer come to a joint decision. At the moment, I am having three covers designed 1) my forthcoming book Deception, 2) the paperback of City of Orphans, 3) a reissue of The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I’m happy to say I am involved in all three projects. It’s a complex process. When they are finalized I’ll post them here.
Here’s one of writing’s hazards. I had spent much of the day working out a plot problem on new book. At about 11 PM I thought I solved it. Great, I told myself, write it first thing in the morning. Made a brief note, and went to sleep. Or tried to. Bingo! Eyes opened at 3:30 AM full of that idea. Not much sleep. But problem solved.
I am working on a new book. It’s so new it has no title, and to be honest, I’m not sure what will happen. Certainly no ending is in sight. But it’s different, I think, than anything I have written before, so I’m having a good—if hard—time.