The Editing Process: An Author's Viewpoint

Have you ever wondered what the editing process looks like? There are several editing phases that all of my books go through, including:

  • Critique partner edits
  • Beta reader edits
  • Plot development edits
  • Copyedits
  • Proof edits

Critique Partner Edits. I usually go through my manuscript at least four times from beginning to end before I send it to my critique partner for her to read and provide her comments. My critique partner focuses on plot development, pointing out major holes in the story or areas where she wanted ‘more’ or felt there could’ve been a greater emotional impact.

Beta Reader Edits. Usually I’ll address her suggested edits before sending the manuscript to several beta readers for comments, but sometimes I’ll send it out simultaneously. With beta readers, I’m only looking for general feedback. Was there anything they hated about the story or characters. Were there parts of the story that were confusing / couldn’t follow? 

Plot Development Edits. This is the first phase where the professional editor comes into play and provides detailed commentary throughout the manuscript of suggested changes for the plot. Is the dialog in line with the theme / tone of the book? Did the plot carry the goals / motivations / conflicts of the characters from beginning to end? And if not, where did it fall apart or need help? Was there good transition from one chapter to the next which made it clear what was at stake? Did every single chapter move the story forward so that the reader learned something new about the GMC? Point out where I’m telling vs. showing.

Copyedits. In this phase, the manuscript is read and edited for grammar and punctuation by a professional editor.

Proof edits. In this phase, the manuscript is formatted exactly as it will appear in the end product (eBook / book) and we’re completing one final read through to ensure there are no errors. 

In my humble opinion, the most important phase of the editing process is the development edits with a professional editor. Below you’ll find the development edits for Chapter One of my soon to be released book River Road [#3 in the Tortured Souls Gothic series]. Underlined text represents what was added and strike-through text was deleted.  

So from an editing perspective, my marching orders from the editor were:

Open with a bang. Get a little gritty like books #1 [Devil’s Cove] and #2 [Blackburn Castle] by ‘showing’ the backstory instead of telling it. [I was hesitant to write a killer opening because River Road deals with the sensitive topic of rape. But my editor wanted the reader to experience the first Civil War memory of my hero to fully understand what drives him. Read at your own risk.]  

Show Hatchet’s annoyance with Maribeth and how this impacts his plans in New Orleans.

Offer a bit more detail on the curse for standalone readers not familiar with books #1 and #2.

Change the name of Hatchet’s family plantation. Mercy’s childhood home in book #2 was Woodland Hall so Woodland Grove is too similar. Ha! Funny the editor picked that up because I didn’t.

Development edits for River Road done! Next we’ll move into the copyediting phase. The initial release date is set for October 23, 2017. Mark your calendars. I hope you enjoyed this look into the editing of book three in my gothic romance series.


WARNING: This scene may be a trigger for some. Read at your own risk.

Chapter One

“We aren’t fucking animals!” Charles Moore hissed.

He hauled his comrade to his feet by the neckline of his shirt where deep scratches marred his skin. Lying on a pile of hay was a weeping woman, her bodice gaping and skirts hiked to her waist. Charles could not hold her gaze, with those wide and frantic eyes, or he would retch. She scrambled to the corner of the barn stall, peering through her tangled mass of hair.

“You’d best leave,” Charles said gently, holding her attacker at bay. “Go on, hurry.”

“Stay out of this!” his comrade growled.

Frederick threw a punch, but Charles leaned back, evading the jab. So this was the way the scene would play out? Fine. Because this shit will not happen on my watch. He nailed his opponent with an upper cut to the gut. Frederick heaved in a sickening gasp, his mouth flapping like a guppy.  

More men around them roused from their sleep, and the woman finally came to her senses. She held her bodice together while running for the exit. Her hiccups fueled Charles’s rage, and he slammed his knee into Frederick’s groin. The disgusting pig fell to his knees, groaning. Soldiers were honor bound to fight and protect.

“Where do you think you’re going?” another soldier asked, snatching hold of the woman’s long tresses. He yanked her back, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He cupped one breast, and nuzzled her ear. “You’re a pretty one. But you started the fun without me? That wasn’t very nice.”

She shrieked and struggled in his grasp, but Warren only chuckled.

Charles stormed toward them, heat blazing through his veins like wildfire. “Let her go. You’re feeling frisky? Then milk your cow yourself.”

“Don’t think so,” Warren said, grinding his hips into her buttocks. “Not when I’ve got a soft pokehole to enjoy. Settle down. No need to fight. We can all enjoy her company.”

Warren had a twisted mind. The woman’s tears were not an invitation to rut between her thighs.

“Would you like to stay,” Charles asked the woman, his voice soft, “or leave?”

“Lea … leave,” she choked out.

Pulling out his knife, Charles held the weapon steady. “You heard the lady. She isn’t interested in playing with you, or anyone else. Release her. We’re soldiers, not a band of mangy mutts.”

Warren snorted, but shook his head. “What say you, Jacob? I know you’re aching to taste her hot cunny. Three against one. I’ll take those odds against a seventeen year old puppy.”

Another man stepped out of the shadows, wielding a five inch Bowie. “Count me in. Take her in the stall. We’ll deal with him,” Jacob said, eyeing Charles as Frederick closed in from the other side.

Oh, hell! Things were about to get ugly. But the woman couldn’t defend herself, and she didn’t deserve to be brutalized. Charles gripped the handle of his knife tighter while assessing the two men. Jacob was the greater threat, experienced and built like a bear. He had to go down first while Charles still had his full strength.

He advanced on the bigger man, but was distracted by a feral growl from behind. What the hell? As he turned toward the threat, Frederick’s head plowed into Charles’s stomach like a battering ram. They fell to the ground in a pile of body parts. All of the wind rushed out of his lungs, and his head smacked against the wood floor.

He saw stars, and shook his head to clear his vision. Searing pain burned a path across his chest and he glanced down. The motherfucker had sliced through his shirt, grazing his skin. A cut meant to warn, not harm. Blood seeped from the gash, the coppery scent flooding his nostrils.

Adrenaline coursed through Charles’s veins, and he got to his hands and knees, willing himself to stand. A booted foot smashed his wrist, and he cried out, falling to the ground once again. His weapon clattered beside him, and Jacob kicked it away with a mean grin, then kneeled on Charles’s back, pressing his chest to the ground. He could scarce draw breath with the man’s full weight crushing him.

The woman lay only feet away in the barn stall, her tear streaked face visible through the doorway. Raw terror flashed in her wide, brown eyes, pleading.

“You’re going to watch, little pup,” Jacob growled in his ear. “Don’t close your eyes, or it’ll go worse for her. Let’s see if your cow moos to be milked when we’re through.”

“Help me,” she whimpered.

Charles couldn’t fight off three men. His focus turned to the bits of hay clinging to her raven hair. The golden strands lengthened and morphed into a halo of blond tresses. What the hell? His gaze flashed to her eyes, but they were no longer brown, rather as blue as the fathomless sea. The deck of his father’s clipper ship emerged from the barn floor as wind whistled in his ears. He shot to his feet, no longer a weak, teenaged boy, but a strong, muscular man. The ship rolled upon the waves, and he lost his bearings, wobbling to the side.

A woman screamed, terrifying cries for mercy, her voice hoarse, almost unrecognizable. Nicolette. With her body tied to the mast of the ship, and flames consuming her gown, his fiancée was helpless.

She howled, and thrashed. “Charles, save me!”

Heat blasted him square in the face, and he instinctively held his forearm out, protecting himself against the blazing fire. He sprang forward, dodging a rolling barrel. But no matter how fast he ran, or how many obstacles he traversed, he couldn’t get closer. Her screams morphed into the deafening blare of a horn, and Charles gaped as a steamer ship crashed into the hull of the ship, splintering the wood.


April 4, 1881

Port of New Orleans, Louisiana

Hatchet sat up in bed, and gripped the sheets as another blast of the horn blared through his head. Nausea roiled in his gut. His heart pounded mercilessly, and his head ached. He scrambled to his feet, staring out the port hole in his quarters. All was quiet again as the first rays of sunlight shimmered over the horizon. So the steamer hadn’t rammed his ship? Another dream, then.

He couldn’t breathe in the confines of his room, needed fresh air. Yanking on breeches, a shirt and his boots, he stormed out into the hallway and up the stairs to the quarterdeck.

Sweat gathered on Hatchet’s brow despite the cool morning breeze. With trembling fingers, he lit a cheroot and puffed hard on the end. He blew out the sweet smoke of his cheroot, obliterating the stench of sewage all around him. With each inhale and exhale, the vestiges of his nightmare faded. He hadn’t dreamt of the Civil War for years, not since his last visit to New Orleans six years ago. Why couldn’t he escape his disturbing memories? past faded.

He hadn’t dreamed of the Civil War or Nicolette’s death since his last visit to New Orleans six years ago. Time might’ve dulled his fiancée’s features in his mind’s eye, but he would never be free of the guilt he bore over her senseless death.

“Another nightmare last night, mate?” Victor asked, walking up from behind.

Nodding, Hatchet rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. They burned from lack of sleep. “Every bloody night for the past week. Coming home is torture. That damned Civil War ruined this place for me.”

Gripping the ship’s rail, Victor sighed. “Talk to me, old friend. You never speak of the war. Get it off your chest.”

Talking would only dredge up more memories. Hatchet turned his attention to the neighboring clipper ship, drawing once more on his cheroot. The meaty smoke doused his lungs and his shoulders relaxed. No, he didn’t want to talk aboutshare the horrors of war, or remember the gruesome scenes. They only reminded him of the vicious fate of his first love, Nicolette. Best he bury that shit deep.

“You don’t want to hear those stories,” he said, flicking the end of his cheroot over the side of the ship. “Pillage. Murder. Rape.”

“You didn’t partake in the torment, Hatchet.”

His friend’s sympathetic tone grated. It was so like Victor to try and ease his conscience. But words could never convince Hatchet of his innocence.

“No, I stood by and watched,” he spat, holding the memories at bay, refusing to succumb to the darkness. He gripped the railing of the ship tighter. “My God, I should’ve done more.”

“You’re too hard on yourself. One man can’t fight an entire squad. You’ve a golden tooth and several scars to prove it.”

“Aye,” Hatchet said with a gruff nod. “But those women deserved a champion. In my dreams, their screams become Nicolette’s when she was raped by the Butcher. Can’t get the damned image out of my head of that beast torturing my girl. Wish to God another man had defended her in my stead.”

Twelve years might’ve dulled his fiancée’s features in his mind’s eye, but time could not erase the guilt and anger he felt at her senseless death. Then, years later, when he found the courage to open his heart to Emma, she drowned because he was a careless clodpoll.

If he lingered on memories of the women he had loved and lost, he might go mad. Burying all thoughts of the pastInstead, Hatchet focused on a gentleman walking up the gangplank of the neighboring ship. On the dock, a sleek black carriage, drawn by two handsome Clydesdales, stood waiting.

“Victor, did you send notice of our early arrival to my family late last night? I did not, and yet that carriage belongs to my father.”

“Certainly not. That’s rather odd. Why hasn’t he boarded our ship?” Victor asked with his gaze narrowed on the conveyance, as though willing the door to open.

“Because he’s bartering with the captain of The Angelica as we speak.”

Victor sought the pair out on the forecastle deck of the neighboring ship, his eyes widening. “That cannot be good. Why is Isaac dealing with a scurvy pirate? Captain Corbin is the worst sort of offal.”

“Why, indeed?”

Hatchet was more than a little curious, butIt’s not fearful forlike his father was in danger. At over six feet, four inches, few men were able or willing to look Isaac Moore dead in the eyes, including Hatchet. Sometimes he wished he were Isaac’s biological son if only to have inherited the man’s height.

In that moment, Captain Corbin held out his palm. Only after Isaac relinquished a fat coin purse, did the captain gesture to his first mate, who handed over a wooden box. After lifting the lid and glancing inside, Isaac gave a curt nod and strode back to his carriage, where he deposited the container inside before boarding The Savior.

“Good morning, Charles,” his father said, drawing Hatchet into a hug while clapping him hard on the back.

Hearing his given name spoken aloud felt odd. No one in his close circle of friends called him Charles anymore. He turned his head side-to-side, cracking his neck to release the tension. But his family would never stoop to calling him Hatchet, so best he adapt.  

His father gave the ship a once over. “You completed the journey in record time, I see. Didn’t expect to find you here this morning.”

“Fair weather shaved weeks off the trip,” Hatchet said. “And with a pregnant lady aboard, the quick hop across the sea was welcome. You remember Victor Blackburn from our last visit? I mentioned in my letter that he’d be joining me with his wife, Mercy.”

“Of course.” Father shook Victor’s hand. “I made accommodations for you at a nearby inn. You’re welcome to stay with us in town at Magnolia House, but Charles thought you’d prefer a bit of privacy. Both lodgings are in the Garden District, so you can drop in whenever you choose.”

 “That’s very kind of you,” Victor said with of tip of his head.

IsaacFather grinned and rubbed his hands together. “Tomorrow is your birthday, son. Haven’t celebrated one with you in ages. Thirty-seven, I believe? Once you’re settled in, I’ll reserve a table at our favorite restaurant.”

Had his father gone daft? Mother lay on her deathbed at the family plantation. “We couldn’t possibly. I must go to Mother immediately at WoodlandHarmon Grove.”

“No need for that,” his father said, hooking his thumbs in his pant pockets. His smile was as jovial as ever. “She’s comfortably situated in town.”

But the plantation was Mother’s childhood home, and she would wish to spend her final days there. With the sugarcane season in full swing, she must be very ill to reside where the doctors were at her beck and call. He was on the verge of voicing his concern when a small form darted across the deck. The lithe shape and loping gait were decidedly familiar.

“Halt, you there,” Hatchet bellowed as he ran to cut off the sailor. “Damnation, Maribeth, is that you?”

The girl barreled into him, wrapping her arms around his middle in a tight hold. “Don’t be angry with me, Hatchet.”

“Angry? Oh, no. I’m furious,” he snarled, marching her to a nearby barrel. “While I tan your hide for sneaking aboard, tell me how you managed to keep hidden the entire voyage.”

She jumped on the barrel and met him eye to eye. Despite his ferocious glare, her face lit up with a saucy smile. “Unlike you, the crew were happy to have me. I tell the best ghost stories.”

“Traitors,” Victor said, though a smile tugged on his lips.

Father joined them and opened his arms wide. “Come here and give an old man a hug and kiss. You’ve grown since the last visit, Poppet.”

She laughed and jumpedleaped into his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck and pecking him on the cheek. “Hello, Isaac. At least one person here is happy to see me.”

A growl rumbled in Hatchet’s chest. “Dominick will have my head when he returns from his honeymoon and you’re not at Devil’s Cove Manor where you belong!”

“Only after he guts you first for lying to him!” she shot back. “You should’ve told him about your trip to New Orleans and the curse before he left.”

Though true, that was entirely beside the point. The girl was too crafty by far, diverting the attention away from herself.

“What nonsense do you speak of?” his father asked with a lift of his brow. “Charles is cursed? By whom?”

“Something about a Voodoo Queenvoodoo queen,” Maribeth replied with a shrug. “I should like to meet her. Do you know her?”

“Certainly not,” his father said with a sniff. “Marie Laveau hasn’t been seen in overmore than a decade. She might be dead for all I know. Do not speak of her, or this Voodoovoodoo nonsense again, unless you’re keen on spending the night in a dank jail cell.” His gaze met Hatchet’s. “That’s what happens these days to those who practice the dark arts.”

“Well, what’re we going to do with this baggage?” Victor asked, ruffling the girl’s hairscowling. “Can’t very well send her back to England unattended.”

Father set her back on her feet. “She’s more than welcome to join us. Charles, your mother will return to the plantation after a short stay in the city. You and Maribeth should accompany her. WoodlandHarmon Grove offers many amusements for a curious young lady.”

With a heavy sigh, Hatchet pulled Maribeth into his embrace and rested his chin atop her head.  Hatchet could not commit to anything until he found a quiet moment to mull over the situation. Dammit! Maribeth accompanying him to New Orleans was problematic, robbing him of hours that would be better served in pursuit of information on the curse.

“Let me think on it after we settle in. The girl is young and fragile, making her vulnerable to disease. ,” he said with a pointed look in her direction.I don’t want her too close to Mother.”

His little charge twisted out of his holdgrowled. “I’m not fragile.”

Father waved his hand. “No worries on that front. Lucetta is already back on her feet and a woman about town. Been at least a week since she recovered. Only last evening she prayed for your early arrival so we might celebrate your birthday. She’ll be delighted when I share the news.”

“Is that so?” Hatchet asked with a long drawl. “Your letter left no doubt as to her condition. ‘Mother lies on her deathbed and begs for your return.’ Those were your exact words.”

Brushing away an imaginary speck on his jacket, his father avoided his gaze. “Yes, a remarkable recovery. Well, I must be off. I’ll send the carriages around before noon. Please, do not dally. Your mother will be intolerable company until you arrive. Perhaps I shall keep your early arrival a secret.”

“Speaking of secrets,” Hatchet said, walking with his father to the gangplank, away from prying little ears. “What business do you have on The Angelica? The captain and crew are untrustworthy, the lot of them. Best not to be seen dealing with him.”

Father folded his arms and puffed out his chest. “You’re advising me? I’m rather more than seven, my dear boy. Did you fail to notice the early morning hour of my visit, or my black attire? The Moore-Lloyd Shipping Co. is the most successful shipping venture this side of the gulfGulf. Believe me when I say I know precisely what I’m doing. But I thank you for your concern.”

A few moments later, Father entered his carriage, and Hatchet let out a sigh as the horses clomped away.

“Yes, Father, I noticed both the early hour and your fine clothing, along with the company crest on your carriage.”

Little had changed in his absence. Mother still manipulated the people who loved her by any means available, and Father knew what was best for them all. Well, with his mother in good health, at least Hatchethe would have plenty of time to investigate the blasted rumors of the blasted curse. His Nicolette and Emma were dead, as well as the spouses of his siblings. With four deaths among them, Hatchet could no longer blame coincidence. He must rid his family of the hex. And then he would get the bloody hell out of New Orleans, again.

As he turned to attend his duties, another carriage rolled to a stop in front of The Angelica. The driver hopped to the ground and assisted a woman out. Unlike Isaac, this woman did nothing to disguise her appearance as she boldly boarded the pirate ship.

Even from a distance, Hatchet discerned her beauty: an exoticallya rich, bronze skin tone, and lustrous black hair. New Orleans had many vices, but the best among them were the Creole women, forbidden as wives, but coveted as lovers. His loins stirred as his gaze roved over her full bosom, to her cinched waist, and the gentle swell of her behind.

“I’ve sent Maribeth to break her fast with Mercy,” Victor said, leaning his hip against the rail. “We’ve a lot to accomplish before noon.”

His gaze followed Hatchet’s to the forecastle deck of The Angelica, and he whistled. “Captain Corbin doesn’t waste time. You should seek out female company while in town. Tomorrow is your birthday, after all. We buried Emma nearly six months ago. You must move on at some point, and a brothel poses no risk. You needn’t concern yourself that the womanYou will not fall in love with you and diea lady of the cursenight.”

Lie with another woman? No, he could not. But as he watched an argument unfold between Captain Corbin and the exotic minx, he couldn’t deny her allure. Both beautiful and bold, she would not surrender her love easily.         

“Maybe,” Hatchet saidamended as the black-haired beauty slapped the captain, then stomped down the gangplank. “I’ve never sought one night of pleasure in the arms of a comely wench. Perhaps I must accept that as my fate.”, because falling in love three times in one lifetime seems against all odds.”

At least he had that going for him.

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