The Editing Process

I recently had some questions about the editing process, what happens, how it felt etc.  So, here’s my thoughts.

Beginning the editing process was scary, stomach wrenching, heart aching stuff.  You have something, i.e. a manuscript, which has been so personally yours, you have owned every decision about it, every character is your lovingly nurtured creation, every jot of description has flown from your mind and onto the page, every word has been pored over by your hand, and then you have to expose it.  Expose your thoughts and mind and feelings.  Terrifying stuff.  Fortunately, my editor has been very sympathetic, knowingly or not, to this expose.

Many changes that were suggested, and suggestion is the word, sometimes very strong suggestion though, I found I wasn’t precious about at all.  A distance from the manuscript helps with this, for Too Much Trouble it was over four months, the gap between finishing the manuscript and beginning the editing process.  The few things that I was precious about, i.e. some of the coincidences and a repeated appearance that happen later in the book, my editor, very graciously allowed me to keep and those suggested changes got swept aside.

The next step of the editing process is a real slog; you thought the marathon of writing that novel is over, sorry, still a mile to go.  I had told myself that the story was finished; I laid Emmanuel and Prince, the two lead characters to rest and moved on.  I had almost lost Emmanuel’s voice, which had been a constant voice in my head for almost a year, but now there was more to write.  Emmanuel had to be resuscitated.  It was back to the manuscript to rip things out and leave them there or replace them with better, richer words.

The major changes that my editor put forward were good and necessary.  More flash backs, a major motif of the book, which built the two brothers’ back stories, were needed.  The sinister Mr Green and, at the time, rather wet Terri, needed more ‘screen’ time to make them into 3d characters, rather than just devices to move the plot along.  And something had to happen to the ending, sorry I can only give you a mysterious ‘something’, you’ll have to wait and see.

Then it’s back to the beginning.  Your raw words laid bare.  Again.  If you’re fortunate, your editor loves every word of the ‘new stuff’ and you’re nearly done.  I was not quite that fortunate.  That pesky ending still needed a little tweak.  So, a tweak it got.  And, phew, my editor agreed that the race was run.

The final stages are the most exciting.  You can finally exorcise those characters and that voice; they can sit on the paper on not in your mind.  Someone creates you a sleeve design.  The type gets set and if you’re lucky you get to see a proof copy.  Now any final changes to punctuation, words that jar, phrases that don’t quite sit right and any other titbits, which you and the editor somehow missed in your many re-reads and re-writes, get the once over.

But now it’s back to absolutely horrifyingly blood-curdlingly scary.  Those words.  The words that took so long to shape.  The words that betray something of your very self.  They are not just in the hands of your loving publishers, but they’re ready to be released.  Soon, anyone, absolutely anyone, will be able to see, like, loath, comment upon, rip apart, construct meaning from and hopefully, enjoy your prose.  Fingers crossed!


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