CompletelyNovel’s good friend Amanda Leduc got in touch with us to share her experiences of the editing process and offer some stirling tips to keep our site users on track and motivated. We have a feeling that her honest and often-amusing account might strike a chord with quite a few writers, so please let us know what you think and if you have any tips to share with the community as well. Don’t forget that if you feel like you need an outside perspective, you can ask people in the CompletelyNovel community to review your work and help them out too!
I loved that! Yes I went through all of that with my book recently – though as it was a “documentary” style report on a season of a football team rather than a “timeless” novel, I also had a limited time to get it out to the world to ensure it was relevant. Once the new season starts not too many people will be interested in the last one. I do agree that trying to get every last error out of the manuscript is vital – virtually any book you pick up these days will have dozens of errors in it and it drives me mad. Even with my own a good friend has just sent me a note with a couple of problems (a name spelled two ways on the same page ,AAAHH! and a missed capital) and I really need to re publish again.
This is the work section…revising, editing, whatever terminology is applied, this is where the whole thing takes shape, when the walls are set plumb and windows levelled up…damn good thing builders don’t work this way! Architects do have the luxury of a little leeway in this regard but when work starts on site they have to be near as damn-it correct or the stairs wont work or a roof pitch will be wrong…
Yes, the concept is written out, the creation process complete and the document looks good…a satisfying situation… Then comes the decision to re read what has been written. Leave it at the very least for a month, a year is better, you need forget the details of the work if you can, see it afresh as a new reader.
You thought that spellcheck worked well did you not. Their are occasional problems with spellcheck however and what about grammar? punctuation? and we have not thought about content as yet! With a fresh eye one tends to reed what is on the page and not read what is in one’s mind.
As with other crafts writing is a skill that has to be learned and honed via practise, there is no other way. Plotting and characterisation can be explained in a mechanistic fashion but the feel for writing comes from within, unless one is writing a technical guide then emotion needs come through the writing, emotion to suit the scene…is this apparent in your work?
One can write much of this questioning nature but the truth is that editing is the making of a book, the initial draft is a rough of the work and no more, a vague outline that has yet to have the fine details blended into place. This applies even to technical writing.
A site such as CN is of great benefit in that works can be updated, I have done this to my two books a number of times and even now I find I have to update again. My works however are in part technical and new discoveries and developments need be included occasionally and of course errors corrected such as a statement about a three quarter moon that should have been a quarter moon, so easy to miss things of this nature and only intimate association with the content and context reveal such flaws; but of course without that all important reading with a fresh mind after a lengthy period such little but all important errors remain unnoticed.
So while a work may appear complete, it is rarely ever finished in the eyes of the competent author, there are always improvements to be made. Where to draw the line with improvements is problem then.
Practise makes perfect it is said but in writing perfect should be replaced with acceptable…so how much more practise is required to reach brilliant? A great deal but even then there is still the requirement for editing.
So I am afraid Oli that updates will occur, not only with my works but with others…it is the name of the game I am afraid. Mind, the books could not have been too bad initially or I would not have obtained an agent!
Agree with all this stuff entirely! I’ve been doing a fair bit of this recently with my latest completed manuscript, ‘The Assembly Room’. It ultimately pays off in the end though so my advice would certainly be to ensure you don’t rush the book out to both agents and publishers or the reading public if you are self publishing. My recently released book ‘OTOLI’ has had very good reviews and not one bad comment about grammar, spelling, structure, etc. It’s as good as it ever could be thanks to the time I spent polishing and checking everything, with some help too from CN readers I may add. My publisher had very little to do other than type-set the book in the end to be fair along with some cover related things.
Love the suggestions about revision – I think you can apply them to lots of the writing that you do.
This is my favourite:
“6) Most importantly, think of revising not as a process of correcting your story, but as a process of discovering the best story you can pen.”
Puts a very positive spin on things!
I like the point about fighting for the scenes that you like – I think that’s the best thing about self-publishing, ultimately, the author gets to decide what stays and what goes. The idea of someone telling me to cut my favourite scene or favourite bit of dialogue is not a good one!
As the author of a first book (Just One Year) my initial feeling about editing was one of protection of all those wonderful words I managed to put on paper! When I decided to give myself a stern warning followed by ‘time out’ I realised that I had objectivity issues. It allowed me to take that red pen and be a bit ruthless. I pick up my book now and at any page I can choose paragraphs that I know off by heart! Writing the book was, of course, the easy part.
Read this with interest. Yes, I agree, revising is an essential part of the ‘honing’ of a book. Forget how many times I read and re-read my books before putting them out there. My last one – in the process of editing now before publishing on CN – went on far too long. I cut chapter after chapter but I think it reads all the better for it. But another view is, you can edit the ‘life’ out of a piece. I think it’s a fine line between the two.
Yes…definitely a fine line to tread. And important to keep having fun while you prepare your book!