What's In An Editorial Letter?

Before selling The Mark, I imagined an editor would check for inconsistencies, typos and punctuation, have me make those changes, then send the book off to press.  I guess I'd never thought to look into what really happens or figured I'd just find out when and if the time came.  Of course, when it did, I learned that there's a LOT more to it.  The Mark was not a rough draft when it sold and still went through four rounds of post-aquisition edits.  The check-for-typos-and-punctuation kind was only the last of these, the copyedits. 

I just got my first editorial letter for The Vision so while I'm letting it brew, thought I'd share how the process works, knowing that it's probably at least a little different with every editor/book/publishing house.  

For both books, my editor gave the first, biggest picture round of edits verbally, at acquisition.  These are the set the story in Georgia instead of New Jersey, eliminate Character X and make the main character five years older type of changes (all hypothetical).   

Once those are done and I've read, re-read, had beta readers read and made corrections, it goes back to her.  The next round of edits comes with an editorial letter - that's where I am now. 

The editorial letter sitting on my desk is four single-spaced pages long, detailing the things still not working.  I was a little freaked when I got my first one for The Mark...omg, how could there be four pages of more changes???  After I just spent four months re-writing this thing???  But what takes up a lot of space in the letter are the specific examples and thoughts about ways I might fix each of the things not working.  These details and suggestions are super-helpful in my seeing the problems objectively and formulating solutions that feel natural and like they belong in the story.   

For example, there's a character in The Vision - let's call him/her Sam - who's too one dimensional now.  My editor points out several spots where I've used Sam to deliver information or as a place-holder rather than letting him/her develop.  Then she suggestions new situations that might arise with Sam or conversations that Cassie (the MC) has with others that she could have with Sam instead to flesh him/her out. 

I don't know if every editor does it this way, but mine is so insightful and so good at communicating her thoughts that by the time I'm done reading there are already ideas churning in my brain and I'm excited to get back in and re-work stuff. 

All in, there are about seven or eight things to address in The Vision, all of them about character development or pacing and all of which I agree with.  To fix them, I'll probably write two new scenes, cut and paste a few other things around, edit some redundancies and tweak the emotional finer points of two of the relationships by taking a close look at how I've written the body language and internal dialogue.  None of it strikes me as particularly major (so I breathed a big sigh of relief when I finished reading the letter!). 

With The Mark, we had one more round of edits like these.  We're anticipating this'll be the only round for The Vision before copyedits.

And The Vision now has a (mostly) official release date:  September 27, 2011.