When I first started working with traditional publisher Lake Union Publishing in May, my project editor Miriam Juskowicz explained the steps through which my book, BERLIN CALLING, would proceed on its way to publication. One of those steps, arguably the most crucial, was the developmental process.
Keep in mind that up until this point, I’ve been a self-published author. I would write a story, rewrite it, and repeat. After additional read-throughs and revisions, I would share the book with family and friends and incorporate their suggestions. Then I would consult with my editor, Kathryn Smith, whom I’ve known a long time. Kathryn is an ideal editor for the type of fiction I write because she is herself both a writer and historian. Of course, Lake Union was now driving the pre-publication process for BERLIN CALLING, so they were going to assign an editor known to them—not necessarily to me.
The whole idea of developmental editing was something new to me. Kathryn and I, working with somewhat more limited resources, handled all the editing functions ourselves. Frankly, handing my “baby,” over which I had labored so long and hard, to a complete stranger to be ripped apart and savagely critiqued was a daunting prospect. But, I convinced myself, this is the way things work in the traditional publishing world—if you want to get along, go along.
Miriam was able to contract with David Downing to work on BERLIN CALLING. David, whose company is Maxwellian Editorial Services (https://maxwellianeditorial.wordpress.com), is based in the Seattle area and is a gifted editor. From our first telephone conversation, it was clear that David had invested considerable time with my book. He told me that he really liked the story and the characters, that he had some thoughts about making them better, but that the final decision on whether to change anything was up to me. So far so good, right? A couple of weeks later, David sent me the 424 page manuscript—in which he had written 230 notes! My anxiety meter was peaking—until I started reading his suggestions. Without exception, David’s comments (many of which were complimentary) reflected a sincere desire to improve the depth of the characters and the believability of the plot. Many of his comments were educational, challenging me on some of the more technical aspects of my writing style. Other questions highlighted passages in which I may have known exactly what I meant but in which my meaning wasn’t so clear to readers.
Over the month that followed, David and I exchanged via email five drafts of the manuscript. With each go-round I came to a greater appreciation of David’s skill, tact and insights. No doubt, BERLIN CALLING is far better today due to David’s contributions.
My first experience with Lake Union’s developmental process has been most positive. Our next step is copy-editing. Stay tuned!