After finishing the last chapter of my YA novel BLOOD, INK & FIRE, I sat down with my favorite social media maven Jess Gerrow to chat about the editing process and what goes down after that final chapter is written.
Q: What happens after you pen the final chapter?
Writing the last chapter is a little bit like graduating high school or college. You take a moment to celebrate, appreciate your accomplishment, then realize you still have an insane amount of work to do.
I try to take a bit of time between finishing a manuscript and picking it up again for a re-read, but I’ve never been very good at waiting. It’s like Christmas morning for me. At a certain point you just have to open the box and see what's inside.
Q: How do you approach editing—do you work on a schedule? Do you edit on a computer or by hand?
I’m all about saving trees and using recycled paper whenever possible, but nothing beats the feeling of printing out a copy of your manuscript and seeing that lovely stack of warm pages. I’m traditional that way and love the feeling of sitting down to read with a pen in my hand and physical paper in my lap. That’s how I start editing.
From there, after a good re-read, I take things digital and make new outlines, lists, and schedules to keep myself on track.
Q: Is it hard to let go of plot points or characters during re-writes?
I’ll admit when I first began writing novels, this was a challenge for me. Conceiving a story other than the way I’d written it felt like giving up. Now I understand it's part of the process.
If something isn’t working, you have to draw a line and kill it. You have to trust yourself to make those tough calls. It can be difficult to try to be objective of course, but I almost never miss plot points or characters when they're gone. Everything I write lives on in my head in some form or other, even if it never makes it into the final text.
Readers will never know the many lost scenes and people that once existed in early drafts of Blood, Ink & Fire, but that’s okay. If they like the final product and feel as passionately about it as I do, then I know I’ve made good choices; I can be happy about the plot points I’ve excised and the characters I’ve laid to rest.
Q: Who do you go to for advice during your editing process?
I'm lucky that most of my friends and family members are readers, academics, writers or editors, so good advice is never very far away. If I'm feeling unsure and not yet ready to share something, I'll usually talk about it with my partner or spill my guts to a friend over email and see what they say. Then, of course, there are the amazing groups of writers and readers on Instagram who share my journey and offer daily words of encouragement. One thing is certain: writing is a solitary act, but never a lonely one.
Q: What's next?
So many people have asked me when the book is coming out and how they can get their hands on it that I've almost forgotten one small detail: I don't yet have a publisher! Blood, Ink & Fire is very much an indie labor of love, and one that Jess and I have put a lot of work into to make sure that the book can reach readers everywhere by any means necessary. Which is why we're so excited about The Hundred.
The Hundred is an advanced reader group and the very first opportunity to get Blood, Ink & Fire into readers' hands. We've been fortunate to select passionate bibliophiles from all over the world of all ages and occupations to join in on the fun. A few places are still available for The Hundred, which kicks off in April. We're really excited to hear what they have to say about Blood, Ink & Fire and hope they love it as much as we do.