The Editing Process

It’s not unusual to have a manuscript sent back by the editor, covered in pithy comments designed to improve the finished product. But the prospect of re-visiting a book one has slaved over for almost a year is seldom a joyous one. I’m currently in that phase with Virginia Street, the first draft of which was finished at the beginning of 2016. The comment from my agent was short and to the point. ‘I liked it, but I didn’t love it,’ he said.

That single line of advice has resulted in a major overhaul of the entire manuscript that is still on-going. Indeed it would have been quicker to have abandoned the book and written another one from scratch. But that is to miss the point. Most authors develop an emotional attachment with the characters they have created and could no more throw them awaythan give up writing altogether. We live and breath the stories we write. We know how each character speaks and behaves in any given situation. So, most authors will simply get on with editing what they’ve spent to long crafting.

What makes the process so difficult is making sure that any alteration does not affect what is happening later in the story. Sometimes, of course, the ‘new’ idea is so attractive as to force its way into the narrative. But that’s where the fun starts. I can’t remember how many times I’ve hanged a villain one day and had him walking the streets two days later. Or gone from night to day and back again in the space of a single paragraph.

I’m hoping to complete Virginia Street in the next four to six weeks. Then? Who knows? I might be allowed to get on with the book I started all those months ago and haven’t had an opportunity to look at since.

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