Editor’s Note: Lessons from Author, Trisha Leaver

author pic 1Y’all remember the cover reveal I did last week for the novel, CREED?  Well, its author Trisha Leaver–and the author of many other awesome novels including BETWEEN SISTERS* from FSG/Macmillan–agreed to be interviewed for Editor’s Note today.

Thank you, Trisha, for being willing to answer some questions for me!

Me: Tell me a little bit about yourself and your book, BETWEEN SISTERS.

Trisha: HA it is going through another title change.  Right now it is: A SISTER’S SECRET*

Okay now the answer:  A little bit about me…I live a pretty boring life.  Three kids ranging, one patient husband, and a rather ill-mannered black lab. I live on Cape Cod—land of sand, sun, and perpetual tourists. I hate the gritty feel of sand between my toes, am not a fan of swimming, and frequently order my groceries on-line to avoid fighting the traffic.  So yeah…not sure why I chose to live in an area known for some of the East Coast’s best beaches.

On the creative side, I write full-time, splitting my creative mojo between solo YA contemporary projects and Co-authored YA psychological horror.  A SISTER’S SECRET is coming Winter of 2015 from FSG/Macmillan.  In essence, it is about the deep emotional connection that exists between siblings and how often, in midst of petty arguments and skewed observations, we lose sight of that bond, the loyalty, the unconditional love that defines sisters. 

Anyhow, that is my take on A SISTER’S SECRET.  Here’s the more formal description:

Ella Lawton spent her entire life living in the shadows of her identical twin sister’s popularity. She always dreamed of having her life, but never once did she actually think it was possible.  

When a freak accident leaves her sister, Maddy, dead, Ella assumes her life.  But her sister’s life is full of secrets…lies that have kept her popularity intact while slowly destroying her from the inside.  With no escape in sight, Ella is faced with two options – confess her ruse and risk the hatred and betrayal of those around her, or continue down the destructive path her sister’s life has mapped out for her.  

I’ve had the opportunity to read A SISTER’S SECRET and it’s dark and gritty and hopeful all at the same time.  In other words, it’s pretty freaking fantastic. 

Me: When you had your initial call with your editor, did she give you an idea of how she wanted the story to change or the vision for the project? 

Trisha: I spoke with my editor at FSG/ Macmillan, Janine O’Malley, at length before accepting the offer of publication.  She laid out her vision for A SISTER’S SECRET, gave me an overview of what she wanted changed as well as what drew her to my manuscript. Not only did our visions match, but speaking with her gave me the focus and direction I needed to take A SISTER’S SECRET to another level.  I would liken the entire conversation to a road map.  There are hundreds of way to get from point A (the first chapter) to point B (the resolution) in your manuscripts, tons detours (threads) you can take along the way. But working with an editor, especially one as experienced as Janine, is like having you own personalized map, one that is interactive and fluid, but in the end highlights the best, the most emotionally powerful route to take.

Me: So when you got your editorial letter, how did you plan your attack?  Was there any special method you used to work through the changes?

My first round of edits came from the above-mentioned phone call.  I had some over-arching changes to make so I attacked those first.  My second round of edits, were more detailed. I knew what threads needed to be enhanced, what character traits weren’t working, and what scenes need more emotional tensions.  The further along in the process we got, the more detailed the notes became, right down to line edits and single word choices.  

As for if I attacked them “global” edits in a certain order…well, no. I learned a long time ago that even the slightest of changes can wreak havoc in a manuscript if simply changed without thought or concern for the scenes that preceded and follow said tweak, causing consistency and voice issues. With that in mind, I read my notes thoroughly let them sit for a day, then read them again  Then I start at page one, make the necessary change, then read through the entire ms adjusting everything from scenes to word choices to make sure the edit is fully ingrained in the ms.  I read the second edit, go back to page one, and do it all over again.  It’s a lengthy process, and by the time I have completed all the revision, I have easily read the ms at least a dozen times, but it works for me.

Me: How has working with an editor changed your writing?

Trisha: I write with a better understanding of the entire editorial process now, avoiding the overuse of certain words and sentence structure from the start.  My ancillary characters get as much attention as my mc and protagonist…their layers, their backstories, the emotional depth of their decisions equally as important and valuable as my mc’s.  I guess, to put it simply, before this editing process I attacked my manuscripts in pieces, scene by scene, character by character.  I know attack it as a whole, realizing that each character, each thread, every single word I write is interconnected. 

Me: What kind of mistakes have you learned to avoid?

Trisha: I have learned that I have a slight addiction to ellipses for one.  I am problem with the word just and a fascination with any and all forms of the word smile. I have come to the sad conclusion that hummed (as is hurled) is a local term that doesn’t translate well across readers. 

Me: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve gained from working with a professional editor?

Trisha: Not to become attached to your title because they change frequently throughout the entire process!  Just kidding….kind of 🙂  Honestly, I would have to say the most valuable thing Janine taught me was  find the heart of my story and subtly bring it to the forefront.  There are a lot of competing threads in A SISTER’S SECRET, undercurrents of sibling rivalry, self-identity, love, and the jockeying for positions of popularity. But in the end, it is truly a story about sister’s and the love and loyalty that binds them even in the darkest of times.  I now identify that central theme in my WIP’s and build my books around that as opposed to the characters.

As always, it’s awesome to work with and learn from such smart, well-read, and well-rounded authors!  I really appreciate your insight!

AND, the next installment of Editor’s Note will include both Trisha and her co-author Lindsay Currie (I call them TEAM CLEAVER)!  Find out about the fascinating process of editing with two authors!


    • BeckyWallace

      Not only has Trisha shared some great tips, but she’s been a fantastic CP for me. She helps me avoid some serious blunders and forces me to stretch my characters! Love it!

  • Jess Lawson

    Ha, Team Cleaver~ perfect for YA horror writers 🙂 Thanks for this interview~ hearing about Trisha’s process was super interesting and I think I may have added a few tricks/steps to my own revision process after reading this post!

  • William Kendall

    Becky, you might want to keep your original blog set to open, and perhaps to private. Spammers have a tendency to hijack closed blog urls and spam endless lines of whatever. I’ve seen it in the last few days with a couple of closed blogs.

    • BeckyWallace

      Thanks! I haven’t closed it yet (just in case there are still people trickling over here), but I think I’ll set it to private once everything is done.

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