Monday, 17 September 2012

Absence (Editing Revisited)

If the adage 'absence makes the heart grow fonder' pans out, you should all be pretty fond of me. Sorry, I've had my head buried in a book.

It's funny, when you write one of the damn things, you think you've pretty much got it down pat. When you're 'in the zone' and the prose is flying off your fingertips like flying things, you just know that your elegantly turned phrase is just right, the description of the location breathtaking and your characterisation is so on the money, you could almost cash it.

You finish it and stick it in a drawer for a while, a pause for you to bring your head back down to earth and perhaps even spend some quality time synthesising vitamin D. And then you drag your weary carcase back to the huge pile of words (about 100,000 in the case of Beirut - An Explosive Thriller) and start to sift through them.

This is when you discover your prose is lumpen, your dialogue wooden, your MS is littered with unforgiveable continuity errors and - worst of all - its packed with grammatical errors, repetitive phrases and hordes of adverbs running amok all over the place.

The adverbs have to go. Most of them, at least. Sometimes they look up at you with big brown pleading eyes, like baby seals. But go they must. If it helps, close your eyes as you swing the club.

Editing is never a single pass process, you have to go over it all several times - as much to make sure the story works and every scene is necessary as to spot grammatical errors and typos, what we used to call in publishing, 'literals'. Now you can pack it off to your editor.

If you're self publishing, you MUST hire a professional editor. Budget $1,000-$1,500 for one. And get ready to suck it up because editor's aren't kind. You're not paying them to be. You're paying them to be brutal, callous and hard hearted. Those last few adverbs are likely to find a remorseless enemy in your editor - as are those scenes that do nothing for the story but you couldn't let go because you loved them so much. Your editor will clean the MS up - point out your stylistic weaknesses, tell you to cut dialogue or characters and generally behave like a crack-pumped Attilla in the china shop of your lovingly created prose.

They're worth their weight in gold. Mine is Southern Gentleman Robb Grindstaff and I do heartily recommend him.

So there we have it. The book is edited. Now it is time to focus on the other things we must do in order to make a book happen. So I might be gone a while longer. And then, yes my loves, you can prepare for the inevitable promotional blitzkrieg.


Mich said...

Can't wait to hold "Beirut." And yes, we do miss you. Yalla, come back soon :-)

Robb said...

I've been called worse than a southern gentleman before. Probably by you! Best of success with 'Bay Root.'

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