Would you trust your book to this man ?
Somewhere, deep down, without realizing, I think I thought all editors looked like this!
But of course they don’t.
Back in May, I finished my first middle grade novel. It was done! Woohoo!
I spent the summer getting feedback, editing the whole thing and really felt I was getting to the point where I could think about submitting. But I wasn’t. Why?
Because there was a problem.
I knew there was a problem with the first few chapters. It didn’t get into the action quickly enough – the pace was too slow. And from reader feedback I knew that was where I needed to put in the work.
The simplest solution would be to just cut it. The trouble was, I loved that first chapter! For me it set up the main character perfectly and (I hoped) made the reader care about him.
But I’ve realised it was more than that. This was the first chapter I had ever written. It was where my story began (both on the page and off). And boy, was I connected to it. So how was I going to wield the mighty editing axe myself? How was I going to get to the action quicker but still keep what I loved?
I knew things needed to be cut. That famous quotation from William Faulkner was running through my head – ‘In writing, you must kill all your darlings’. But I was just not seeing how. So with great trepidation I let my Other Half in. And stood back while he slashed and butchered and maimed. (Can you tell how I was feeling yet?!)
I knew I wouldn’t like it but I didn’t realise quite how much I wouldn’t like it. I wanted to wrench him off the computer and throw myself in front of my quaking manuscript.
How could he be so ruthless? So un-feeling? The kitchen was littered with discarded words and hard-won moments and by the end, two chapters had become one. But at what cost, I wondered?
With hindsight, I’m impressed by my restraint. I thanked him (through gritted teeth), advised him that it was probably time he got back to his own work, and then took my own place at the screen.
And when I read it (and I’ll say this very quietly so he doesn’t do The Dance) – it worked. Not just worked, but he’d shown me in about 30 minutes how to solve the problem that had been bugging me for months.
Don’t get me wrong, I had to go in and heal the ragged wounds left by his hacking, and trim away the scattered debris. But basically he had seen what I couldn’t.
I found this the other day:
It sums up what I did when I was writing and editing the book earlier in the year. I’m still figuring out my own writing process so I’m always interested when I come across something that mirrors that process – but is actually a ‘technique’. It means I can be more conscious of it when I’m writing in future.
So I have done editing myself, but it’s a whole different experience when someone else is wading in there.
The good news is I survived, I let go and I ended up with a much tighter start to the book. Thank-you OH!
And it’s probably a good thing because when I do get a real Editor I won’t see them like my lego friend anymore.
Image by Pedro Vezini
A few useful links about editing
Dragon artwork used on this site courtesy of Sara Ogilvie (illustrator) & Nick Stearn (cover design)