Some writers take years upon years for a single project, and some writers produce a library in just a few rotations around the sun. Lee Savino falls into the latter category. She released seven books in 2017 and expects to release about ten novels in 2018, not to mention a few novellas.
Successful writers like this amaze me, not just for their impressive output but in their editing processes as well. All writers know that editing is an essential piece of the publishing process, but when you’re publishing so frequently, efficiency is essential.
How does she do it? The following Authors on Editing interview was set up just so I could find out!
As for Lee’s bio, I’m going to go ahead and quote her directly:
“Raised by wizards on the glorious peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro, Lee grew up sword fighting shadows and befriending sherpas until she flew to the Ivory Coast to study sharkfighting.
She writes fiction full time.
After graduating Hollins University with a degree in creative writing, her first manuscript won the Hollins Fiction Prize. She’s now published over fifteen books and coaches writers to help them become full time authors. Visit http://leesavino.com/author-advice/ to sign up for her fabulous and fun author advice.
Q & A with USA Today Bestselling Author of “Smexy Romance” Lee Savino
Kris: What does the word “editing” mean to you?
Lee: I think of editing in several stages or levels. One is very high level—plot and structure, nailing genre/subgenre conventions and character arc. I use beta readers and my own studies of story craft (or, in rare cases, a developmental editor) to build that architecture. Content and copy-editing come next, right before the final proof or polish. I hire people for those editing passes. In the very early stages of a book, I go back and “play” with what I’ve written. It’s editing on a cellular level. I love wordcraft soooo much; it’s play to me!
Kris: Now when you talk about these different stages, especially the first concerning plot, structure, character, and genre conventions, do you edit as you write, only after you finish, or a little bit of both?
Lee: A little bit of both. I usually get stuck around 60-80% of the way through a book, so I go back and prettify everything I have up to that point. Turning the first half of the book into a solid, polished draft gives me a feeling of accomplishment that allows me to push through the rest of the book.
Kris: Prettify. Nice. Everything needs to be prettified sometimes, doesn’t it? And we do need to look for those small wins to keep us motivated. What is your favorite part of the revision process?
Lee: Playing with the words.
Kris: You have my heart with that one. What is your least favorite part of the editing process?
Lee: Working through my editor’s comments. I usually just “accept all changes” and do the least amount of work possible to address her concerns. Sad, but true.
Kris: Right, editors can hand a lot of commentary back to writers, suggested tweaks of everything from punctuation to word choice, from recommending reworkings of ideas to cutting entire scenes. With an editor you trust and the deadlines you give yourself, I understand that decision. Now, turning from grammar to sex…perhaps my favorite transition ever (one that might need some editing, perhaps, but let’s just let the irony of that be)… sexual tension is a specialty of yours in your writing. How do you edit scenes to tap into that emotional angst?
Lee: Heh. My word count per hour skyrockets when I write sex scenes—so I write a lot of them! I get very in the zone. One of the biggest things about writing romance, and genre fiction in general, is you have to unplug from all the bad habits you picked up in a traditional degree or MFA program. Be totally raw. Write what turns you on, what you love in romance and what you know readers will love. Don’t hold back. Tap into your own fantasies. Put plenty of dialogue in the sex scene description and always be thinking of the emotional character arc and how the intimacy of sex blows the relationship between these two (or more) people wide open. Feel the feelings. You can’t do this if you think romance and sex scenes are plebian prose—or if you do, you have to just let go and wallow in it. Don’t try to impress your lit professors. Fuck your lit professors. They don’t publish anything anyone reads anyway. Harsh but true.
Kris: Harsh indeed, but as with everything when it comes to writing, to each their own. It’s all about finding that path that works for you, your genre, and your goals. There’s no one way to do this. Do you have any advice for writers on how to writing bravely, tapping into your their emotions and vulnerabilities?
Lee: Read everything, but most of all read what you love to read and write what you love to read. If you don’t love it, don’t write it. Don’t write to impress your lit professors, your mom, your dog, or your fucking creative writing group full of unpublished poets. Unless you want to be an unpublished poet. Don’t read one-star reviews. Don’t read critics reviews. Do read all the time. Read good books. Read bad books and think “I can do better.” Find writers/readers in your genre and subgenre and have THEM give you feedback. Have a nice person hold your hand for your first few scenes and manuscript. Make a “Kick ass” file full of every good thing anyone has ever said about your writing, and read that often. And keep writing and reading what you love.
Kris: You’re brutal. And blunt. And in this conversation alone I can absolutely see where your following has come from. Okay, let’s keep going. How do you ensure that your characters are alive on the page? Is there anything you keep an eye on in your later writing stages to ensure everyone is as real and fleshed out as they can be?
Lee: I follow a lot of screenwriters’ ideas on craft. I make sure my characters have an inner emotional arc. Even better is if it taps into something I’m learning—my own emotional arc in real life.
Kris: That’s great advice, writing what you know on an emotional level. Here’s my last question for you: how do you know when you are done?
Lee: You’re never done. If you wrote the book for the rest of your life, you could always make it better. Get stuck; get a beta reader or two. Take their advice; push through to the end; then pass it off to editors. And move on. You have new stories to write!
Okay, so I’ll fully admit that I am the opposite of Lee in most of my own projects. I’ve spent years tweaking my scenes, finding my characters, and cajoling my language, but there’s something so liberating about thinking of story like she does. We all do have so many stories to tell. If we delay too much, we’ll never have a chance to tell them all. That’s an intriguing thought.
Of course, no matter what you write, no matter your process or how fast you write it, keep at it, writers. There is something so true about a well-told story. I can’t wait to hear about yours.
Thank you for your time, Lee Savino, and happy writing, folks!
Join 650+ subscribers and sign-up for my monthly email newsletter for more interviews like this.