Today I finished the first edits of book four in my Oceanographer Mara Tusconi mystery series. So it’s time to kick back and celebrate with a glass of wine, right? Alas, not at all. As any author knows very well, this might be the beginning of the end, but it’s certainly not the actual dénouement.

My nearly-a-year-in-the-making draft now goes to the editor. When I finally get it back I’ll need that glass of wine for an entirely different reason.

It’s not that the editor dislikes my writing. Not at all. She’s very supportive. But an editor’s job is to “correct errors and ensure clarity and accuracy”—and she does. “You said this there and now you say this here”, she tells me, and “This doesn’t make sense”.

And I thought, given my scientific training, that logic and “making sense” would come pretty easily. Note to self from Canadian author Robin Sharma: “Mastery begins with humility”.

The editor also ferrets out my occasional misuse of punctuation. For example, I remain confused about the Oxford comma. Is it correct to say “My favorite sports are kayaking, skiing, and running” or “My favorite sports are kayaking, skiing and running,”? (I think you just need to be consistent).

After the last editing event, I bought a grammar guide I’d recommend: “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” by June Casagrade. Gotta love a grammar book with a sense of humor.

In addition to the text, there’s the cover. Happily, the designer understands my work and comes up with great visuals. But I’ve learned that I overlook obvious mistakes in images—like omission of the apostrophe in my name—so I ask a graphic artist friend to review the draft cover.

Finally, there are what editors call “praise” but the rest of us know as endorsements or maybe blurbs. Watch someone pick up a new book, and you’ll realize that the back cover is at least as important as the front. Most people study the front for a moment and then turn the book over and scan the endorsements. Good ones are written by well-known, relevant authors and give readers a sense of the book.

One very busy Maine Crime Writer wrote an endorsement for my last book (thank you Barbara Ross), and I will approach another for the new one (hope you have time, Darcy Scott!).


About Charlene DAvanzo

I'm a marine ecology/college professor who never, ever thought I'd write fiction. That assumption changed in an instant as I listened to another scientist - a climatologist named Ray Bradley at UMass, Amherst - describe being harassed by climate change deniers. The idea to write mysteries with climate change understories to help readers understand what's happening to our climate in the context of a fast-paced exciting story came to me out of nowhere. That's what I do in my "Maine Oceanographer Mara Tusconi" series.
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4 Responses to An Author’s Life: Editing

  1. Edward Hunt says:

    Hi, Charlene. Can identify with what you posted. My first full length novel, Penance, is going through its final editing with the publisher right now and scheduled to be released in February. The editor to date has been very supportive and even though I had an independent editor edit it before I submitted it I still worry about any changes he may suggest. I am trying to keep an open mind but after four years plus of working on this I am somewhat protective. Ed

  2. Charlene DAvanzo says:

    Ed – Yes, it’s so very hard. We put our heart, soul, and an ungodly amount of time into every scene, chapter, even some sentences. “Penance” is a great title. Best of luck with it!

  3. Darcy Scott says:

    Of course I have time…anything for you!!

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