Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Edit where Edit's Due


I've been swapping the odd line with fellow Musa author Wendy Soliman about the joys - or otherwise - of editing. I'm pleased to say that after maybe the fourth draft, I remove the version number from the title and stick to 'edit' or 'edit A' as a naming convention. It's kinder that way and stops me from fretting.

Whether it's contemporary fiction such as Wendy's or thrillers like mine, every author, at some point, throws up their hands in despair and asks, 'When will it end?' I have to confess now that as a writers' meeting I once declared that I only edited to the point where I could get away with it.

The truth though is that it's only over when the agent or editor says so (whether it's indicated by their acceptance of your work or by an email with a smiley face). There are few literary crimes greater than disappointing your readers with a floppy plot, distant characters, lacklustre dialogue or shabby story. Hopefully they'll have invested their money to read your work and if not that then they have certainly invested their time.

With every edit, something more subtle is revealed, just as other material is removed. It's archaeology for manuscripts. And what you're left with, once you finally get there, is something that makes all the hours, all the different approaches and all the hair-pulling session worth it. At least, I hope that's the case!
I know, you're wondering about the image? It's a drain pipe and, as you can clearly see, it's above the water line. Consequently, although it looked fit for purpose to the eye, it doesn't do the job once the rain comes down. And just to reassure you, that's mud.

6 comments:

  1. Don't you find that you're too close to it and suggestions made by your editor seem so obvious that you feel stupid for not coming up with them yourself. Thanks for the mention.

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  2. I know I've got to the end of the editing process when if anyone asks me to change anything else there's a distinct likelihood that I might punch them in the face.

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  3. Wendy, I often feel stupid just reading back my own work after a month or so. And by the way, I recommend Brian's blog on his thoughts on the writing process. As a multi-published author, he knows what he's talking about.

    Brian, you have the soul of a poet, the skill of a comedian and probably the right hook of a weary writer! I still err on the side of 'energy conservation' sometimes when it comes to editing, but I also know that editors and informed friends have the best interests of my work at heart.

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  4. I think the old quote "A poem is never finished, only abandoned." can be applied to any fiction.

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  5. Hi Rosen, I think you're right. Every time I think I've reached the end of the road with a piece of work, especially after some constructive feedback, I find I can take a few more steps.

    By the way, are you connected to Richard Trevithick? If so, I might know one of your relatives.

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  6. Only connected in the sense that I picked a good, solid Cornish pen name, and good old Richard gave Trevithick quite some clout.

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