Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The publisher's edit.

I mentioned a week or so ago that I'd had the edit of StarMark through from BInk - I sent it back on Monday last, and thought you might like to know something of the process - and what I found out about myself because of it!

I've edited other people's work before, so I know it takes a lot of time to prepare. All those comment boxes, suggesting different ways to write something or what to add in or whether there's a tic (repeated problem) that needs fixing. I've also been on the receiving end of edits too - Writer's Workshop have some amazing editors whose reports have helped several of my friends to snaffle a publication deal. (As did I, after mine...!)

In that respect, I knew what to expect. I also knew to apply the 'Accept, Amend, Reject' rule, but only after careful consideration - it's too easy to have a knee-jerk reaction if the edit is less than complimentary in certain places. I knew to be as objective as possible to get the most out of it. At the end of the day, there is one goal - to make the story the best it can be.

I started by printing out the MS. All 273 pages of it. Warts and all. Then I read it through, taking note of the changes and scribbling in the margins what I might be able to add or alter. Only when I'd done that did I allow myself to work on the electronic copy, accepting insertions and deletions, deleting comment boxes, improving certain scenes, adding extra scenes... It took a heck of a lot longer than I anticipated.

All 273 pages...and a few post-it notes

Comments, insertions and deletions aplenty...
pleased to say not every page had this many!

I did note some interesting things from this particular edit - and all the following examples are lifted straight from the manuscript. Bear in mind some are out of context, so they might sound a little strange in isolation.

1. Sometimes, I'm a lazy writer. There were a few places where it was suggested I expand the scene, because I'd effectively cheated the reader and written a short summary paragraph to tell what was happening instead of really showing the action through Irvana's eyes. On reading through, I agreed; I'd been very lazy in those places.

2. I use participle phrases. A lot. For example - 'Then she raised her head, gazing through swollen eyes at...' The participle phrase causes simultaneous actions, which isn't a good thing. So the sentence becomes 'Then she raised her head and gazed through swollen eyes at...' Mind you, I found that if I wasn't careful, I ended up with a list of 'ands', so sometimes a little more restructuring was needed to lose a few of them.

3. I use disembodied actions quite frequently. eg 'The whispered name brought her head snapping round'. The head doesn't move on its own - it belongs to Irvana, so it becomes 'Irvana looked quickly at Gramma.' Another example; 'A large handkerchief was pressed into her hand.' By who? Or what? See what I mean?

4. POV slips. On the whole, these were quite subtle - it wasn't a case of 'Jane wondered whether she should wear the red dress. Jack hoped Jane would wear the red dress because it suited her better than the blue one.'  More a case of 'When the woman saw the girl standing beside the track, she dug her elbow into the man's ribs.' How does Irvana, whose POV we are in at that point, know that? It has to change to something like 'The woman must have caught sight of her standing by the track because she dug her elbow into the man's ribs.' It made me realise how utterly important it is to stay in your POV character's head all the time.

5. No-one. I always, always write no-one, hyphenated. Throughout the edit, it had been changed to no one, unhyphenated. I did a bit of a straw poll about it, because I wasn't sure if it was an Americanism re formatting, or if there were two ways of writing it (a bit like organised and organized) or if I was just plain wrong. Turns out I'm wrong. But it may take a while to retrain my fingers to leave the hyphen out.

6. American formatting uses em-dashes with no space either side where in the UK, we'd use an en-dash and spaces. Which I didn't realise until I'd marked them all up. Every. Single. One. And I use en-dashes a lot. I discovered it by accident - was reading something and the long line with no space jumped out of the text at me and I realised the book had been published in the US. Then I ran upstairs to look in Jody-Klaire's book (fellow Binkie and awesome author) and sure enough...

There were a whole range of other, more minor things too, but I won't list them all.

Having gone through everything, the edit is now back with BInk, to see whether I've polished up the smuts enough to pass muster, or whether I have to get the Brasso out and go over it one more time for it to really sparkle.

I feel exhausted, elated, excited - and very apprehensive, as StarMark takes another step closer to publication. That's when a whole new experience begins...


  1. One edit at a time and you'll get there!We use the same editing tool at work for reports, and I find it bamboozles the eye. It's very tempting to hit 'accept' repeatedly to get the job done, which I try not to do. Language and storytelling is so complicated isn't it? Well, storytelling (fiction)is a mystery to me - a subtle art....

  2. And I see I'm lacking some spaces in the last comment. It needed editing!

    1. Love it! You never pick up these things til after you hit send... ;)

      Yep, it's hard on the eye sometimes - especially if the comment is particularly long or there's lots on the page and another box pops up at the bottom to expand. I think that's why I read through first - it stopped me doing the 'hit accept' thing.