Having written the book, restructured and rewritten/redrafted the text, it is time to start the editing.
Having now achieved a book whose ‘shape’ and story you are happy with, it is time to make sure it works for readers. The writing has to flow so that a reader becomes absorbed in the story and not the words. If a piece of writing works, it creates pictures in the readers head, it conveys emotions, the characters come to life and the world inside the story becomes real.
Part of the success of a story is the sentence structure, the grammar and the spelling. Clumsy sentences, spellos and bad grammar break the spell. Once the spell has been broken, the whole of the magic you have worked hard to create dissolves.
Editing requires objectivity. Objectivity is almost impossible because, having created your ‘baby’, you are emotionally connected. When you read back through your work you are subjective, you know exactly what you meant. Your brain reads it as it imagines it is, not as it is. Your bad habits, failings and wrongly learnt language are glossed over. But to a reader these faults stand out.
I have discovered that if I read a piece of my writing over the shoulder of somebody who is reading it, all the faults jump out at me. It is as if I am seeing it through their eyes. Unfortunately, I do not have an editor hidden away in the cupboard to bring out as required so, initially, I have to do it on my own.
Unlike with redrafting, I have to leave the novel for a period of time before starting to edit.
When the time is right I start. I need to summon my full concentration and focus on the work word by word. The task is to analyse each sentence in order to make it flow, to create a variety of length and complexity so that it reads easily and the language has interest for the reader. I have to avoid repetition, correct spelling and grammar and ensure that the correct words have been selected, the ones that contain all the subtlety and nuance required.
A novel is a long piece of writing. Editing can be daunting. It can be tedious and frustrating. When I am editing I will often work eight to ten hours a day. I am focussed on completing the task. I tend to work fast.
I usually edit a book twice. It is amazing how many glaring errors make it through the first time.
Then I send it off to one of my editors. They bring a totally objective eye to bear.
When the document comes back to me I am always surprised by the amount of work that still needs to take place. My editor will have noted lots of repetition (of words and ideas – I have a habit of putting things in twice, often reworking the same idea with different words), grammatical errors, sentences that do not work and the odd spelling mistake. Once these mistakes/improvements have been pointed out they are obvious.
Every writer needs a good editor. Being objective with ones own writing is almost impossible.
Redrafting is looking at the big picture; editing is looking at the minutiae.
When fully edited the book is now ready – but that is not the end of the story!