Sunday, August 14, 2011

Grant year, week 32: editing

I decided to take a two-week block of time off my day job to work on the second draft. This hasn't worked out as well as I thought it might, but there's been at least one major breakthrough that has made it worthwhile.

We've been hit by sickness, which has meant that writing days have had to be postponed. So I haven't got as much done as I would have liked to.

The editor and I have been batting emails back and forth. The editing process hasn't been exactly what I was expecting. I've drawn a parallel with what I thought counselling would be like, and how it actually was. Before I went to counselling, I thought I would go in there, tell the counsellor all my problems, and then the counsellor would say, 'You've got to do this, this and this'. In reality, counselling (well, my experience of it anyway) is more about being asked questions, and then talking through it to find your own solutions.

And this is how editing has been. So many questions. There were the questions the editor asked. Things that didn't make sense to her. Some of these I knew the answers to, but many I hadn't even thought about. And then there were the questions that these questions raised. Writing is like making a whole heap of decisions. Each decision takes the novel in a slightly different direction and closes off the other alternatives. You start with a book where pretty much anything can happen. But by the start of the third act, you have to tie up all the loose ends and deliver the pay-off.

At times, I thought the questions would never end. But I reached a point where all the questions related to one particular storyline. And I looked at the storyline and realised it was hardly attached to the rest of the book at all. So... the storyline has got to go! (Although, I may build it into book two).

And this is the other aspect that I've found working with an editor helps. In previous projects, I've found that the tendency is to pretend these problems don't exist. I have talked myself into believing that the gaping hole/elephant in the corner doesn't exist, and that if I could just paper over it enough, no-one would notice. But editors notice. That's their job. And so you admit that the fault is there and get on with fixing it.

I don't know if I'm going to hit all my deadlines this year. I still want to have something structurally sound by October, in case I make the cut for the Hachette thing. But I'm less confident the book is going to be of 'beta reader' quality by that point.

I would still like to have Skin Deep in the hands of beta readers by the end of the year. Some lovely summer reading for them!

Posted via email from garykemble's posterous

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