Monday, 10 April 2017
The joy of editing.
I find the process of writing immensely interesting, as it takes two very different sides of my brain. The first stage allows my freewheeling creative side begin the process of telling the story. The second uses my analytical objective side as I begin to edit the words that I have written. I know some people who do this painstakingly sentence by sentence as they go along, so that their first drafts are almost perfect. But I am not like that at all. I am too impatient to get the story out; I just splurge any old rubbish until I get to the end. Then I have to step back and with a forensic eye, tear it to pieces, so I can eliminate the weaknesses.
But...there is only so much objectivity I can muster about my own work, which is why it is so important to get feedback from others. I'm immensely grateful to all the people who've looked at various drafts of Echo Hall and given me really sound critique. They have really helped me get to a place where I felt happy to submit the manuscript. However, after 8 or 9 edits, I knew I had got as far as I could. I knew there were some sections that weren't quite up to scratch but couldn't see how to improve them. So I've been looking forward to being edited by an expert. I'm very lucky that expert is Scott Pack.
In my last post, I mentioned that I'd received excellent editorial notes from Scott and I was looking forward to my Skype chat with him. It proved a really helpful conversation which has really given me a huge boost and provided me with plenty of good ideas about how to make the book better. Scott zoned in on all the parts of the text that weren't working and had great insights on how they could be improved. I particularly appreciated his comments on the central section which tells Rachel's story and takes us from 1911 to 1923. I originally wrote this as a third person narrative, related by Rachel's son, Daniel, but decided on the fourth or fifth edit, that they would work better as letters from Rachel to a friend. I knew that was the right choice, but I was also aware that the transition was imperfect, and I hadn't quite pulled off I am quite good at getting rid of 'my darlings' but the change meant losing a long passage I was really proud of; whilst the new format meant losing Joseph's perspective. I kicked against losing anything else, and besides, I couldn't quite see what to keep and what to get rid of. So I left the section with all its imperfections, hoping Scott would show me a way out.
And, of course, being the great editor he is, he did. He pointed out the letters are too long. They have too much dialogue, and they don't really read like letters half the time. He reminded me that my favourite author, David Mitchell, frequently writes letters from his characters to himself, and suggested I try it as an exercise. What's good enough for David Mitchell is definitely good enough for me. So, for the last fortnight, I have been scribbling to myself at every available opportunity. The content is a bit dire at times, but the process has certainly loosened me up, and showed me what I need to do to amend the current section and ensure the letters are properly lettery.
Now all I have to do, is take the essence of this to amend Rachels's letters, sort out some of the melodrama in Ruth's story and some minor issues with Elsie's. It's going to be tough. There are bits of writing I'm really pleased with that will have to be deleted in the process, and that will hurt. But, I'll have a better book when I'm finished, so track changes here we come...
See you on the other side.