Time To Edit

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I haven’t been as ‘present’ as usual in blogland this past week or so. That’s because I’m deep in the pre-edit on my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys. My pre-edit basically consists of a full read through, tidying up the prose and making sure the structure works before sending it to Lucy, my editor. I’ve compared it before to cleaning the house before the cleaner comes over, but I do think there’s more to it than that. I’m paying Lucy for her time, and I don’t want to waste it by sending her a document that still needs work.

As I worked through the edit, it occurred to me that it has been just about a year since I sent my first book, Oak and Mist, to Lucy for editing. At the time it felt like a leap of faith – even though Lucy was highly recommended and had lots of experience in my genre, I had no idea what to expect. I’d heard people describe having a professional edit done as being like a kick in the guts, their work being ripped apart. What if Lucy wanted me to get rid of a favourite character? Or, even worse, if she thought the whole story didn’t work and I needed to start again.

Then the edit came back. It was thorough, professional and included a page of notes about the structure. And, even though it was hard to take, Lucy was spot on. I was very lucky in that she ‘got’ the story right away, and her suggestions made it even better. I wrote a blog post about the experience at the time, and thought it might be fun to revisit my thoughts, one year on…

I’m currently working with an editor on the first book in my Ambeth series, Oak and Mist, getting it ready for publication. It’s the first book I’m going to publish so I want it to be as strong as possible, which is why I’ve chosen to invest in a professional edit. And I’m so pleased with the result – her suggestions are spot on and she’s also picking up on the extra spaces and commas and quotation marks throughout my work.

But…

No. There is no but. This edit is just what I needed. The editor has also given me a page of editorial notes about the structure of the story and, well, I’ve had to suck it up and agree. Because she’s absolutely right about the points she makes, and has actually cleared up a few niggling issues I hadn’t been able to resolve.

But….

It’s just how you feel, as a writer, when someone critiques your work. Your automatic response to someone not agreeing with everything you’ve written is ‘But….’ Said in sort of a whiny tone. (I think the great Stephen King touches on this in his book, On Writing). Because your book is so personal, so precious, it’s hard to take at first when it feels like someone just doesn’t get it.

But…

I’ve thought about it and the changes she’s suggesting will make for an even better story, an even stronger book. She does get it. And that’s why you work with an editor – to get a fresh, professional viewpoint of your work, from someone who does it for a living.

And you can’t ask for more than that.

So, as I get ready to send my third book out for editing, I remind myself why. I’m looking forward to the process because it means I can offer you, the reader, the best possible book I can write. And hopefully I won’t have to kill off any characters in the process…

13 thoughts on “Time To Edit

  1. This is a really interesting post. As an editor myself, I do always think about how the writer feels and it’s great to see this from the writer’s viewpoint. Good luck with your latest book!

  2. Ambeth is fab and I can’t wait for the third one! I feel the same about my work. I almost never want a writing job so no one can tell me what to do but then I do want a writing job because it’s all I want to do! I’m a ham.

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