Deborah Lytton: 2k9


Introduced first in 2007, authors debuting children’s books have formed a cooperative effort to market their novels. Last year, I featured many of the stories of how the 2k8 Novels Were Revised. This is part of the ongoing stories from the Class of 2k9 authors and how they went about revising their novels.

Jane IN Bloom by Deborah Lytton


Deborah Lytton

Final Edit on Novel the Hardest

My revision process was actually fairly smooth–no major structural
changes, really good communication with my editor at Dutton, Julie
Strauss-Gabel, and I was able to meet every deadline without a
hiccup. Until I got to the final line edit, that is. Last April, I
learned that the final line edit is where your editor makes notes on
the manuscript for suggested stylistic changes. I also learned that
the final line edit can be hard for some writers because the editor is
making specific suggestions rather than the more general thematic
suggestions made in edit letters. And sometimes the writer doesn’t
agree with the stylistic changes.

So when I received my line edit from Julie, and saw that the changes were all ones I agreed with, I was so relieved. There were some
suggestions that were substantive, such as considering whether a
passage made sense in the context of a new section and if not, how to make it work, or to cut out a section that was perhaps too long, but all of these made sense to me, and I was in agreement with Julie about the need to revise them. The remainder of the changes were simple, or so it seemed. Italicizing a thought, using initial capitals for Happy Birthday, things like that. I agreed to a two week deadline, because I was sure I could get it done without a problem.

How wrong I was. The substantive changes were not a problem at all. It was the smaller revisions, like changing a lower case “a.m.” to a capital “A.M.”; putting an apostrophe next to “A’s” and “B’s”, or
switching out a word like “silver” because it was duplicated in the
paragraph that took forever to complete. Mostly, I think this was
because there was at least one change like this on each page of the
manuscript. Scrolling through every page, every line and making these small changes was technical, but there were hundreds of them—and I had totally underestimated the amount of time it would take.

I worked every day of the two weeks and still had to pull an all-
nighter to finish the revision by my deadline. In the end, I got it
done, by 8:00 a.m. Pacific Time. I was so proud of myself—I emailed it to Julie right away, and copied my agent (Stacey Glick of Dystel &
Goderich Literary Management) on it as well.

The next morning, Julie sent me an email asking when she would receive the manuscript. Yes, that’s right. She never received it. It seems that Dutton bounced my email. It turned out to be a company-wide problem, and I was not the only one who had this experience. But that didn’t make me, a first-time-author-trying-to-impress-her-editor, feel any better. So, Stacey had to send the manuscript to Julie, and although she knew I had delivered timely, it was a really good lesson for me. I want to share what I learned.

  • Number One: Line edits may look easy, but they aren’t easy at all. Those little changes are very time consuming. Don’t underestimate the power of initial caps.
  • Number Two: When submitting revisions to your editor via email, send a follow up asking for confirmation of receipt.
  • Number Three: Remember to copy your agent or yourself on the email just to be sure it delivers properly.
  • And Number Four: When agreeing to writer’s deadlines, give yourself more time than you think you need. And always expect the unexpected.

  • Fran Cannon Slayton
    March 31, 2009

    Wow – what a great story, Deborah! Words to the wise!!

  • Holly Cupala
    March 31, 2009

    How different I feel about line edits! So concrete, so decisive, so unlike sweeping thematic changes over which I could tear my hair out, strand by strand! :)

  • Bev
    April 1, 2009

    I’m with Holly. I ruminate over those thematic things for ages.
    But I now have a new respect for the line edit changes too! Thanks for the tips:)

  • Sydney Salter
    April 2, 2009

    My copy-edits which I did on paper got lost in the publisher’s mailroom for several days. Guess nothing is safe!

    Thanks for your story, Deborah!