Thoughts On Editing My Debut Novel

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt


I am steeped in editing. My eyes and brain are fried by day’s end, which, as writers, you know is a fabulous feeling.  I think the thing that has surprised me most about this time around, is not just the expertise of my editor Brenda Copeland (my agent, Jason Yarn, also has an adept editing hand) but the mindset that goes along with this round of revisions.

This is the final frontier — the changes I make are the ones that will end up on the shelf and in the e-readers. This version of my novel will determine how I am perceived, the first impression that I’ll make on the public as a published author of a debut novel.  It’s daunting, and it should be.  I feel a responsibility to readers to deliver a well-written, engaging, heartwarming and entertaining story.  I feel a responsibility to myself to make the book better than I ever thought I could.  I feel a responsibility to my editor and agent to do them proud because they put themselves on the line — for me.  As overwhelming as it all can be, it’s also exhilarating and I’m just at the forefront of what’s to come. And I am so totally up for every last bit of it.

The chance to publish traditionally has not only allowed me to reach a lifetime goal, but the whole experience has gently pushed me to new goals.

To pull from Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote above, I’ve been in enough hot water in my life to know how strong I am, and that would be — very.  But this hot water of publishing — is different.  It’s soothing.  I’m not being tested against my will or without my consent, the hot water is validating.  That in itself is motivating — and makes me stronger.  A different kind of stronger.

Thanks for sticking around for all the author-goodness here at Women’s Fiction Writers and for sharing my journey so far.

I think I need to go rest my eyes, and have a cup of tea. Oh hell, I don’t like tea. I’m having ice cream.

Amy xo

PS The blog is booked through September 2012 but if you ever want to throw names my way or offer a guest post, just email me!  The more Women’s Fiction Writers in one place, the merrier! 

PPS If you claimed your Mega-Giveaway prize by the deadline, it’s being mailed this week from either me or the author — or both — depending on the prize. They’ve been chosen randomly so no pouting. If you’ve read what you receive, be a mensch* and pass it on. 

*mensch = really good guy/gal


23 thoughts on “Thoughts On Editing My Debut Novel

    • I’m going to go with — moderate! I think the biggest changes involve rearranging some scenes that already exist. Brenda pointed out how they’d be more impactful and effective in different parts of the story. It’s really only twice, but moving scenes is a big deal because it means what happens before and after has to be adjusted as well. But I seem to do this often, even on my own. I write something and realize it goes somewhere else. Funny thing, one of the moved scenes had already moved (twice) closer to where Brenda thinks it should be. So I was on the right track. The other changes involve my writer-tics, I guess you’d call them. Things I seem to always do in when I’m writing that I need to change up. Having something like that pointed out really helps because I fancy myself a quick study — I hope to never make that mistake again. Or if I do, I hope to catch it myself. The biggest “deal” for me was changing my first page. That took me two days. I love the way the book opens now, even more than before. I think it sets a better tone and conveys the subtext of the entire novel. I loved the first pages, but I’ll admit that these are better — a much more fitting entré to The Glass Wives. And that is the benefit of a seasoned, professional editor indeed. She sees past what’s there but still looks inside it. If that makes sense. Thanks for asking, seakiev!

      Amy 🙂


  1. Congrats Amy and I really see myself in the Eleanor Roosevelt quote. How much hot water have we been through before we finally see our first novels published?

    I also spent long tiring days editing last year and never thought I would get to the end of it. There always seemed to be something tiny, something clear, something jagged. I can’t say I enjoyed the process and even felt almost dissatisfied at the end – because I was terrified I/my editor/my publisher had overlooked something!

    But yes it is lovely feeling, knowing this is the version that will be on the shelf. Resounding, daunting stuff.


  2. This is an excellent post, Amy. I can relate to the sense of responsibility on this round of edits. I found myself checking on details which no one had ever questioned, details that my editor hadn’t even questioned. It’s odd to think that after years of struggling, that people were actually reading words I wrote, seeing characters I created in their minds. I owe the reader an entertaining return because (s)he has invested his/her time in my book. I want him/her to be able to laugh/cry/escape/think/reflect. Something.


  3. I love your posts, Amy! And thanks for the added details about what changes you’re making – very interesting to see the process.

    And I had to laugh at the end since my child left for school today wearing a tee-shirt that says “mensch” in Hebrew.


  4. What a wonderful frontier to be exploring! We should all be so lucky. I read with great interest your response to the first comment. Those of us who have not yet been invited to join the club are dying to know the secret handshake. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. Best of editing luck!


    • Densie,
      I’m glad you found it interesting. My intent was to have the post be about the edits themselves, but in all honesty, I was just too tired for that much thinking and typing. But I will compose something about that down the road…maybe it will help others get a bit of the inside scoop on self-editing!



  5. Oh, Amy. I can relate, in just about every possible way. I am just a few months ahead of you in the process–my ARCs are about to go out to reviewers–and I remember the cold sweat I was in, mixed with a feeling of sheer delight, when I sent the FINAL draft of Grace Grows back to Brenda. On Halloween! We had been going through the ms together since late July; and still, it helped a lot to know that I would get another shot at large changes, if necessary, after the copy edit. And I sent back my galleys in February with a ton of tiny, absolutely final tweaks. It was such a thorough process that I feel great about how the book has turned out.

    I hope you had a big bowl of ice cream. You deserve it!


  6. Thanks for sharing, Amy. It’s all so exciting! I think editors are a special brand of brilliant. And may I say, Happy Passover to You!


  7. Great post Amy! I LOVED this:

    “I’m not being tested against my will or without my consent, the hot water is validating. That in itself is motivating — and makes me stronger. A different kind of stronger.”


  8. Thanks for a terrific post, Amy. I read it while taking a break from my own editing. My novel just sold and I received my editor’s annotated notes on Monday. Everything you said resonated with me. I’m absolutely thrilled and more than happy to make the revisions, even feel privileged doing so, if that makes sense. But this time around I’m second-guessing every detail–things that neither my agent or editor mentioned. Because it’s my debut novel, I keep thinking of that old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Daunting, terrifying, humbling, and absolutely exhilarating!

    Best of luck to you. I can’t wait to read The GLASS WIVES.


    • Lori,
      Congratulations!!! How fabulous that you sold your novel. I love that first impression quote too, and you’re so right, it’s daunting. Some days I’m convinced everything I write is going well, and the next day, well, NOT-SO-MUCH!!!

      I’m going to go check out your website. Congrats again!

      Amy 🙂


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