Some writers are cautious about handing their manuscripts over to an editor. They worry that their work will be taken away from them, misunderstood, judged unfairly or otherwise spoiled by meddling fingers. The first time can be hard, and if you don’t know what to expect, you might find yourself overwhelmed. As such, I thought it might be a useful exercise to show you kind of edits I tend to make, and the way in which I communicate them.
If you’ve followed my blog over the past couple of months, you’ll be familiar with Dadi’s Little Helper, a 6-part story that I wrote by the seat of my pants. I was generally pretty happy with it, but there was never any doubt it would need some fairly heavy editing to make the evolving story coalesce, improve the characterisation, and give proper weight to (what turned out to be) the heart of the piece. If I ever sell it, I will have to face my own editor with their own thoughts on how best to improve things, but in the meantime, let’s run through some of it together. It’ll be a good way to demonstrate my method.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tackle the whole darned thing here. Let’s call it the first few pages, eh? *See how it goes…
[Let’s go into the kitchen, eh? Don’t We don’t want to disturb your brother. I’ll put the kettle on.]
So… there we are, then. This encompasses what I think of as a combination edit, taking in structural elements of the whole story, raising problems and possibilities in the copy-edits, down through to the micro elements of prose polishing and punctuation. You’ll notice that some corrections have been made entirely without comment whilst others have brief or fulsome explanations. Weighting it this way gives me space on the page to deal with the subtler nuances of communication. I ask to be trusted on the smaller stuff. Any client is welcome to push back on any observation or alterations made, but I encourage them to do so with proper and constructive reasoning. You know what you want to achieve; help me to understand so I can help you to get there.
That’s it from me for the week. I hope it’s been useful for you. I’ll return next week with a new piece of flash fiction and then I’m going to take a week off. I have some personal matters I need to attend to.
* I had a bit of a wobble going back in, I have to say. Distance from the material is vital for a sharp-eyed, well considered edit. When you’re reworking your own material, that distance should be measured in time – allowing you to forget what you think you’ve said, so you can return to it fresh, seeing only what is actually there on the page. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve given myself long enough with this one yet. I’ll be shelving it until Summer 2023 at least before I try to get it into a saleable state.