Editing and Madness

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

I know this quote as being from John Lennon, although if you go looking at these things it soon becomes evident that attribution is never that simple. So with two sentences I have captured what has been going on since I last posted here.

I had intended to blog in detail about the process of editing, but when you work a busy full time job, you have to grab the writing time where you can and I had to be focussed on getting a new draft finished and then getting the proof copy checked.

So what happened? Well after my discussions with my editor Karen I sat down with my edited draft and went through it, making notes on all the comments so I could form a plan.

It became apparent to me that although there was a lot to do, in essence the problem was relatively straight forward. I am carrying around in my head a complex multiverse of interconnected ideas, plans for stories and books, plus completed short stories and novel drafts. My manuscript fitted perfectly well into this multiverse in my head, but after six chapters I had stopped writing a children’s book, and slipped into finishing the draft. As a consequence both the language and the expression of ideas had got away from me a bit. There may come a time in the future where our understanding of sciences advances to the point where a nine year old is familiar with electron shells, but that point is not now.

I also sometimes struggle with how much to reveal or hide in my stories, it’s not that I haven’t thought things through, but I am not always great at knowing how much detail to go into. There’s a balance between explaining everything and dumping your reader in the middle of a new world and expecting them to work it out for themselves. It is very easy to lose track of this until someone else politely asks what did you mean here, and I don’t understand this bit.

However, despite confusing my editor in several places, I was actually comfortable that I didn’t need to do anything radical to the structure or plot of the book, but that I needed to distil the writing down. The workings of the book could stay as complex as I had made them, I just had to present them more cleanly. I am very happy with the results, I got to keep everything I wanted and finished with a much better book. I owe Karen a lot.

Having nervously submitted my new draft and got positive feedback on the new version, I was taken aback by how quickly I got my proof copy back and that was when the madness set in.

I wrote in my last post that I enjoyed the experience of being edited, and I truly do. However, there is a pressure that leads to madness as you set about your manuscript yet again but for the last time. Once submitted it is hard to make any further changes so you really want to nail any final little tweaks and get every typo and bit of punctuation right. Certainly I did. I don’t want a reader to be jarred out of the story by a stray word, and there’s enough of the perfectionist in me that I wanted the book to be as good as possible. I can’t promise the writing itself will be great, but I can at least make sure there are no mistakes.

So I printed off my hard copy and set about with a red pen, which I only had to use sparingly as once again Karen had done an excellent job, but there were still a couple of small tweaks and tiny things to change.

I was told that letting the manuscript go is one of the hard bits, and it has certainly been the case for me. Having sent off final final final draft Friday morning, I swore I would pretend it doesn’t exist for a bit.

This blog is not the best way to do this, but I said I was going to document my publishing process, and understanding the madness is hopefully the best way of putting it to rest.

Roll on the next stages of the project. It is getting dangerously close to resulting in a book, which is both exhilarating and terrifying. I am reliably told that this is the correct formula. I do hope so.

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