Thanksgiving Essay By Kelly Hashway New Neighbors

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This post has got to be the coolest post EVER for Books Complete Me. Today, we have a guest post from Ruta Rimas, Assistant Editor at Balzar + Bray, outlining the editorial process for Heidi Ayarbe's newest book, Compulsion. If you have any interest whatsoever in what it takes to be an author and how the editing side of things happen, this post is going to be simply amazing for you. Needless to say, I am ECSTATIC we have the honor of posting it. Without further adieu, enjoy! 

P.S. There is an amazing giveaway down below. Be sure to check it out.

P.S.S. Click on the pictures below to get a closer look. It's awesome! 


The editorial process of COMPULSION by Heidi Ayarbe

by Ruta Rimas, Asst. Editor, Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books

It all began one fateful Monday morning…

August 24, 2009

Heidi’s agent sent in the project, then titled THE DOUBTING. I read the submission, which at that stage was a partial manuscript, and fell in love. I knew, just knew, that I needed to buy it, so  I shared the pages with the Balzer + Bray team, and we all agreed—this was a special story by a tremendously talented writer. We wanted Heidi to find a home on the B+B list!

So on…

September 23, 2009

I presented the project to our acquisitions team and they felt the same way—Heidi is a talent and her manuscript is superb. Later that afternoon, I called Heidi’s agent and made a two-book offer. By 7 p.m. the deal was done.

Then came the hard part: For me, it was waiting for the first draft. The hard part for Heidi was finishing a novel.

February 5, 2010

I looked in my inbox and there it was.


I read the draft. And reread. And reread it again. I loved it—Heidi absolutely blew me away with the depth of Jake’s character and how his narrative made me feel like I was so in his head. When I first brought the project in for discussion, I thought it was something really special…and this draft confirmed that it truly was.

I hobbled together my notes, and…

March 18, 2010

My six-page edit letter makes its way to Heidi. It wasn’t too long of a letter (right, Heidi? Right?). But over the course of the next few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about the book! On the 22nd, I sent Heidi some more notes. This time, only two pages.

This first round of notes focused on the larger aspects of the story: the overall flow of the narrative, character development, relationships. Big picture things.  For example, I asked Heidi about the friendship between Jake and Mera:


I’d love to see more interaction between Jake and Mera. They haven’t been friends for so long, so why now is Jake talking to her? Maybe they are paired together on a project at school? Or, because they are neighbors, Mera’s parents ask Jake to take care of something for them?  And this forces them to interact, which leads to the very important question that Mera asks: “Are you okay?”

After I sent the letter, Heidi responded to my notes. And then I responded to her notes with handwritten ones, so that before she embarked on the revision, we ended up with a comprehensive thirteen-page document for Heidi to reference.

Here is Heidi’s response to the excerpt above, with my notes, too.

 May 1, 2010

Draft #2, and now with final title, COMPULSION

If you can believe it, as much as I loved the first draft…I loved the second one even more! In Heidi’s revision, she tightened up and deepened the relationships and reworked some of the plot (which included removing a character named JJ Rosa and one particularly gruesome burial scene). We were able to focus on smaller but important details—mom’s OCD, playing with chapter names/numbers/structure, specific scene adjustments, etc.

For example, I wrote this in my second letter to Heidi:

Mom’s OCD

I am thrilled with the way you’ve developed the relationships within Jake’s family. A stand-out job.

Regarding the mother’s OCD, I think subtly here is key, and so I suggest cutting the part on p.20. I don’t want the mother’s affliction to be overbearing or too extreme and I think that the morgue reference is a bit much. It’s the little things that she does that add up to the loads of frustration that Jake and Kasey feel.

Heidi and corresponded over email with more ideas, suggestions, questions, so there wasn’t a massive document for her reference during the revision, just bits and pieces, here and there.

June 3, 2010

Draft #3

We’re in a good place! This draft is now about the micro. That means line edits! In interest of saving time, I sent thorough electronic line edits using track changes to Heidi. We were almost there!

Here is an example of the first page of line edits:

 If you’ve read COMPULSION or seen the first page, and the opening is slightly different than what I originally suggested to Heidi in my first comment.

This was Heidi’s response to my first comment:

 Heidi and I brainstormed together and agreed—Jake would NEVER open with chapter one. It’s a number that doesn’t make sense to him because it is not a prime number. But opening with chapter two seemed off somehow, so we thought—why not throw the reader right in, get us in Jake’s head by eliminating chapter one, but opening the book with “Wednesday, 6:13 p.m.” on its own page. Then chapter two begins.

June 14, 2010

Three drafts (well, actually four, if you count the initial proposal), I submitted the final manuscript to copyediting.

And then COPYEDITS…but that’s a whole other blog post for another time.

May 3, 2011

COMPULSION is on sale!

Even though my role is integral in this entire process, it’s fascinating to me to look back and examine the evolution from submission to final book.

I’ll leave you with a peek at the opening lines of COMPULSION in each draft:


I open my left eye, count to three, and watch as the blurry numbers take form. Then I open my right eye.

Five-oh-eight. Five plus eight equals thirteen. OK. Five minus eight equals three. OK. Three plus three equals six plus eight equals fourteen plus three equals seventeen. OK. Seventeen plus eight equals twenty-five minus five equals twenty plus eight equals twenty-eight. Fuck. Minus five equals twenty-three. OK.

Draft #1:

My ass hurts.

Nineteen people squirm on wooden benches. Seven people (two men and five women) fan themselves with JJ Rosa’s salmon-colored memorial service program; three (all men) talk in hushed voices; two women lean together, one wrapping her left arm around the right shoulder of the other; three people (two men and one woman) have their heads down, maybe praying, maybe sleeping.

Draft #2:

Tanya Reese’s Tinkerbell tattoo glitters on her pale shoulder with sparkling fairy dust. She shivers. It’s November and she’s wearing an off-the-shoulder shirt. Mom would say, “Not weather appropriate.” I don’t offer her my jacket because I can’t help but wonder how far the fairy dust goes and am thanking the Gods of fashion for this latest look.

Draft #3:

Tanya Reese’s Tinkerbell tattoo glitters on her pale shoulder with sparkling fairy dust. She shivers. It’s November and she’s wearing an off-the-shoulder shirt. Mom would say, “Not weather appropriate.” I don’t offer her my jacket because I’m not a fucking boy scout and would rather stare at the goose-bumped flesh and follow the trail of golden dust, imagining where it might lead me.


Tanya Reese’s Tinkerbell tattoo flits on her pale shoulder, blowing on a dandelion, its fluff spiraling down her back. Tanya shivers. It’s November and she’s wearing an off-the-shoulder shirt. Mom would say, “Not weather appropriate.” I don’t offer her my jacket because I’m not a fucking boy scout and would rather stare at the goose-bumped flesh and imagine where the trail of wispy dandelion seeds might lead me. Blow hard and make a wish.

I can’t believe the change from submission to draft #1 to the final. What a difference!

Thank you so much for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour. Being Heidi’s editor is a terrific honor--I am so humbled by her brilliance—and I am thrilled to have had this opportunity to share the journey that Heidi and I took as we worked on COMPULSION.

For the next week, Heidi and I are excited to answer any questions you may have about the editorial process. Please ask in the comments, and we’ll respond as soon as we can.

Ruta Rimas is an editor for Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. You can follow her on twitter, @RutaRascal.

Heidi Ayarbe grew up in Nevada and has lived all over the world. She now makes her home in Colombia with her husband and daughter. She is also the author Freeze Frame and Compromised. You can visit her online at Follow her on twitter, @HeidiAyarbe.


  • There will be TWO winners: 
    • 1 person will win a signed copy of Compulsion - U.S. & Canada mailing addresses only.
    • 1 person will win a THREE page critique of their book/work in progress by Ruta Rimas - Open Internationally. 
  • Giveaways end Monday, May 2, 2011 at midnight EST.
  • Fill out THIS form to enter.
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