Saturday, October 26, 2013

The book editing process: Toughen up, princess...

Yesterday I received the telephone call that I had been both longing for and dreading over the last three months – the one from my publisher revealing her thoughts about my second novel, The President’s Lunch.

Delivering the manuscript for this book was difficult. For the year it had taken me to complete the manuscript I had immersed myself in the world of 1930s and 1940s Washington DC. I had travelled to the USA and traced the footsteps of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his family and colleagues.

Farewelling the characters I had grown to admire and love was trying, but I believed the completed package was fantastic. So I waited in nervous anticipation to hear the opinion of my publisher. She will love it, I told myself. It is perfect!

When the call finally came at 2.10pm yesterday I was deflated. As she outlined the few points that troubled her about the novel, elements that needed some work, my heart sank and tears welled in my eyes.

“Can’t you see that is the only way to end the story?” I howled internally.

“Why do I need to work on that character? She is brilliant as she is,” I thought.

Once my publisher had summarised the negatives she went on to say that the book was stunning and that she had adored reading it, that what I had achieved was amazing. But of course I didn’t hear this. My inner wails of protest drowned out her words of praise.

Now I have had time to sleep on her comments and have perused the structural edit I realise many of the points are truly valuable and I’ll take them on board. Similarly, many of the cuts that have been suggested are ones I will probably go through with, however harrowing this might be.

This is the editing process, I suppose, and it's a team effort. It is no reflection on me as a writer. Publishers and editors are attempting to balance my work with what readers want and with what will actually sell.

But as an author this is a very challenging part of the process, when people that have created amazing books for decades tell you what is wrong with your own. It’s not easy, but hopefully my skin will grow thicker over time.

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