Monday, October 24, 2022

It'll be alright on the edit

 It's cold and wet here in Scotland, which is nothing unusual but still seeps into the bones like dampness into old walls.

It's the kind of day that makes me yearn for blue skies and golden beaches. For sitting at a table in warm sunlight, sipping a coffee, or a cold beer, and watching the world pass. No need to rush. No hassle. No pressures. Busy doing nothing and working the whole day through.

I'd settle for logs snapping in an open grate and an old movie on the TV. A jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou beside me singing in the wilderness...

Hang on there, Omar Khayyam, before you recite the entire Rubaiyat - you've got an edit to do.

Ah yes.

It is an uncomfortable fact of writing life that we seldom, if ever, get it right the first time. Sometimes even the second time. We might think we have, but we really haven't. As our editors are quick to point out.

Editing is a vital part of publishing. As I tell creative writing students, this authoring game is a collaborative process.

Sure, we sit down in our garret and pound out the deathless prose, because if we didn't then everyone who follows on wouldn't have anything to work with.

But then we can find out that said prose isn't quite as deathless as we think. Sometimes it needs a little elixir of life, courtesy of a good editor.

They can spot plot holes. They can fix grammar. They can even suggest a new chapter that will make sense of something that previously didn't make much sense, even though you thought it did make sense when you sent the manuscript off with a sigh of relief and a deep draught from that jug of wine (see above). 

I'm sure a decent editor would have something to say about that last sentence.

I am currently in editing mode, for the second in my Jonas Flynt historical series. (I am contractually obliged to mention that the first, 'An Honourable Thief', is out now in hardback in-store and on-line and ebook on-line. That ends the word from our sponsor and we now return you to our programme).

Let me make something quite clear - for me, writing is hell. It's not something I particularly enjoy, generally speaking. As Dorothy Parker once said, I don't like writing, I like having written. I have no idea what she thought about the editing process.

Personally, I don't mind it. I do frown a little when Kit, my editor, highlights a sentence or passage and comments that it doesn't sense. I read it myself and, sure enough, it generally doesn't make sense. I try to remember what I was thinking when I wrote it but I often find myself incapable of remembering what I was thinking just a few minutes ago and....

I have no idea where I was taking that sentence.

That is why good editors are vital. We can write something we believe hangs together and they will tell us that it doesn't and the really good ones can tell you why. Kit has done that with me, by the way. They will do it not because they have an axe to grind or because they want to show off or because they want a co-writing credit. They do it because it's their job and everyone - author, editor, publisher - want to produce the best book possible, even if it's a silk purse/sow's ear situation. (For the record, I don't mean that about my book, because it's marvellous. 

(Or will be. 

(At least until the readers see it. 

(It's like Schroedinger's Cat for authors).

So grateful that Kit's eagle eye has highlighted some sections that need work, I must now bend to the task with a smile on my lips and a song in my heart.

Or something.

I have fresh material to write.

Did I mention I hate writing...?

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