Guest Post: My Humble Editing Process
Because I keep lots of journals and idea books, it’s never any trouble for me to find plenty of notes and concepts upon which to base a story arc. After completing said framework, that’s when the hard part begins.
So what do I do?
First I hire a developmental editor who examines the story arc and points out all the weaknesses. As arduous as this stage is, I always do it. This is because I know that the more vigorously I prepare, the easier the rough draft will flow. Sharpen the axe, and the tree cutting won’t be so trying. (I do apologize to all tree lovers for that previous metaphor.)
After writing the rough draft, I’m right back to editing—that is to say, content editing. And for me, content editing is just a highfalutin term for hiring a published writer to read my rough draft and to mark up all the margins noting whatever problems he or she detects. I never skip this crucial stage because every craft element must be right: character, plot, setting, dialogue, movement of time, and tone.
When I get the rough draft back from the content editor, I begin the task of redrafting. This is the stage in which the book really gets written, and because of that, redrafting is always very difficult. I suppose if it were not so, I wouldn’t be doing it right. But I think I redraft properly because for me the process is always exhausting and not a little bit maddening.
At some point, the exhaustion and madness get to be too much. That’s when I give up and send everything off to the line editor. But I never use a mere line editor. For me, it is important to hire a published novelist or fiction writer to do the line editing. This is because he or she can also serve as a kind of second reader who will note any lingering content problems.
Finally we turn to proofreading. This is a luxury for indie authors and can feel really expensive after all the content and line editing. I suppose this is why most indie authors (myself included) opt for repeated obsessive compulsive spell-check examinations of the text in lieu of actually hiring a proofreader. Still any author must be aware of any spell-check software’s limitations. The software will invariably miss certain things. For example, if you’ve inadvertently typed “bold eagle” when you wanted to say “bald eagle,” the spell checker won’t necessarily grasp the problem. It is up to you to read the final draft and to find the little glitches like that.
Sadly it’s impossible to find them all, but so what? I put the thing out anyway. It would be tragic to let editing and proofreading bog me down to the point of paralysis. At a certain point, I must let go. Leonardo said it best: ‘A work of art is never finished. It is abandoned.’
About the Book
Title: Song of the Oceanides
Author: JG Zymbalist
Genre: YA/NA fantasy/steampunk
Song of the Oceanides is a quirky but poignant coming-of-age tale about children, Martians, freaky Martian hummingbird moths, and alluring sea nymphs.
The first thread relates the suspenseful tale of a Martian girl, Emmylou, stranded in Maine where she is relentlessly pursued by the Pinkerton Detective Agency’s Extraterrestrial-Enigma Service. The second thread concerns her favorite Earthling comic-book artist, Giacomo Venable, and all his misadventures and failed romances. The final thread deals with a tragic young lad, Rory Slocum, who, like Emmylou, loves Giacomo’s comic books and sees them as a refuge from the sea nymphs or Oceanides incessantly taunting and tormenting him.
As much as anything, the triple narrative serves to show how art may bring together disparate pariahs and misfits—and give them a fulcrum for friendship and sense of communal belonging in a cruel world
J.G. Źymbalist is the pseudonym of a very reclusive author who grew up in Ohio and West Germany. He began writing Song of the Oceanides as a child when his family summered in Castine, Maine where they rented out Robert Lowell’s house. There, inspired by his own experiences with school bullying and childhood depression, the budding author began to conceive the tale.
For several years, J.G. Źymbalist lived in the Old City of Jerusalem where he night clerked at a series of Palestinian youth hostels. There he wrote the early draft of an as yet unpublished Middle-Eastern NA fantasy. Returning from the Middle East, he completed an M.F.A. in poetry at Sarah Lawrence College.
The author returned to Song of the Oceanides while working for the Martha’s Vineyard Historical Society, May-September, 2005. He completed the full draft in Ellsworth, Maine later that year.
He has only recently decided to self-publish a few of his previous works. Foreword Reviews has called his writing “innovative fiction with depth,” and Kirkus Indie has called his style “a lovely, highly descriptive prose that luxuriates in the details and curios of his setting.”