The Editing Process

June 4th, 2012 · No Comments »

I’m in the process of doing a structural edit of Bad Grammar. For those interested in the editing process, I’d thought I’d share some insights. For those uninterested, shoo! No insights for you.

Once a manuscript has been accepted by a publishing house an editor provides the author with a structural edit report. This is usually big picture type stuff – any bits of the plot that are not working, character work that needs to be done etc. It is not an edit for spelling, grammar or word choice. That comes later.

Editors are wonderful people. They make authors look good, a bit like graphic artists do when using photoshop on celebrities. There is also a huge skill in delivering notes to an author – you have to inject compliments and stroke the ego now and then to avoid an author biting, or sobbing. My new editor is great and I didn’t bite or sob once.

With Bad Grammar, one of the big notes I received is to add more description in my writing. Because my background is in writing scripts I am often very bad at describing what is happening in a scene (scripts solely consist of what is happening and what people say – the rest is up to directors, cinematographers and art directors). I might give a brief description at the start of a scene, but no description of what is happening while people are talking and the general result is that you don’t get a good sense of place. So that has been a big thing I’ve had to change.

Another major note I often receive with my writing is to ensure we fully understand and have empathy for the main character – as in Chicken Stu, the main character in Bad Grammar is not always likeable. I like to write about characters who are flawed so there is room for them to grow as people BUT it does mean I need to be careful to still make them likeable enough or at least explain why they do things that are not always nice.

I’m fortunate that I didn’t have any changes to the overall plot. Still all the changes I have so far made have added nearly 8,000 words to the manuscript, which is huge! It’s an extra 17% of the book. I’m pretty sure with the edit for Chicken Stu I ended up losing words in the final edit. I still haven’t finished, so that number may increase or decrease when I do a final pass.

The final thing I will say about it is that I LOVE the structural edit phase. I love working with an editor who makes my work better and I love working on a project when you have something specific to work on. The hardest part of writing is always staring at the blank screen or page.

So, what happens next?

There may be another stage of structural notes, depending on how I go with this first lot and then, at Walker Books, a different editor with fresh eyes will do the copy edit. A copy edit is when spelling, grammar, punctuation and individual words are all assessed. As many people know these things weren’t taught extremely well at Australian schools (well not when I attended school in the 80s and 90s) so I’m always fascinated to receive a marked up manuscript with all my mistakes – I learn so much!

Then comes typesetting and cover design … it is a long process and the reason why an author might sign a book contract and not see the book come out in stores for a year or more. The good news is that I am very excited about Bad Grammar – I hadn’t read it since I finished the last draft in September of last year and I found myself really caught up in the story, so that’s a good sign.

I can’t wait for it to come out so I can share it with you all.

Categories: Books , Writing
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