One of the joys of being in an editorial seat is watching an article come together. That means reading what the writer initially sends and then going through the revision process with Nicki Leone, Managing Editor. Some pieces take only one pass, others have taken several turns.
Since I am rarely involved in the editorial process until the end I have the opportunity to watch the collaborative development of the pieces. It’s a fabulous learning experience. Nicki tends to, as Lindsay notes below, ask a lot of questions and those questions are invariably insightful. They push the writers to explore areas where a reviewer needs to go or to dig deeper into their own insights to find out why they have written what they have. The process of creating a BiblioBuffet book review is different for each reviewer, but what they have in common is that they have been encouraged to think about the book in ways that stretch their minds and their critical faculties.
I read every book for review with a notebook and pen beside me. I dog-ear any quotations or passages that really inspire me and jot down page numbers of any passages that confuse me. Sometimes, when I go back to these pages, they will make more sense after having finished the book. If they don’t, I will usually mention these issues in my review. If possible, I’ll try to finish the book a day or two before I write the review so I have a chance to reflect on my reading.
Armed with a list of powerful quotations and passages, I sit down at my laptop and write the review. I type very quickly and have a stream-of-consciousness writing style, so I let my fingers fly and try not to think too much during the first draft. Generally, I can write the first draft in one sitting, but if I get stuck I’ll take a break for a few minutes and come back to it. Often, if I can’t think of a specific word I’d like to use, I’ll enter in a few question marks and come back to it in the second draft. I let the first draft sit for a few hours, then I reread it. During my first set of edits, I may rearrange a few paragraphs and mark any clumsy or confusing sentences. Then I’ll read the entire review aloud to my boyfriend, who is a fantastic editor and does a great job pointing out confusing statements and finding simpler ways to write them. Finally, I read the review one last time to check for any typos I may have missed, and pass the article along to Nicki.
Nicki does an excellent job asking questions about the review. It’s great to hear what someone who has not read the book would wonder when reading the review. She also does a wonderful job of tightening up my introductions and conclusions. When I can’t think of a solid button to use for the last sentence, Nicki usually has the perfect idea.
Sometimes I’ll send the article to Nicki in a frenzy, completely stuck and hating what I’ve written. She’s a great sounding board when I’m so frustrated I can’t look at the review anymore. She suggests spot-on solutions for the problem, even if I can only vaguely identify the article as “seeming off.” Usually we’re able to get the review completed with another edit or two, and when we both feel good about it, it’s ready to go up on the website.