Warning – editor at work

I would show you a real page from my manuscript, but there would be way too much red ink (source: writerwin.com)

I would show you a real page from my manuscript, but there would be way too much red ink (source: writerwin.com)

I’ve not blogged recently as I’ve been on holiday for the past couple of weeks. This will amuse a number of my friends who are convinced that I’m always on holiday; that my days are spent with my feet up, watching two perfectly behaved boys entertain each other, or effortlessly churning out reams of text whilst sunning myself on a hammock. What a charmed life us stay at home Dads / struggling writers lead.

Anyway, before we left for the wonderful coast of North Wales , I had finished the latest edits of my manuscript based on alpha reader feedback. I was really pleased with the changes I’d made (I’d had excellent, no holds barred feedback), and was convinced that the book wasn’t too far away from being publishable. In a last-minute moment of inspiration, I saved the book onto my iPad to read while I was away.

This was a mistake.

The first evening, tired after our seven hour drive, I went to bed early looking forward to reading my book. After 15 minutes I felt like throwing my iPad out of the window. It was terrible. The story was good but the prose was clunky. There were also many grammatical errors (for example,  I’d started the second chapter in present tense, only to move back to past tense half way through). Rather than being an enjoyable read, my manuscript was an instrument of torture. I couldn’t understand it. How had I been so pleased with this disaster?

The answer was simple. I’d not given my manuscript the respect it deserved. I’d not read it as a whole for months. I’d been too busy concentrating on individual plot points, accentuating themes and drawing out character traits that I’d lost focus on the prose and the flow. With each edit, I’d increased errors and introduced jarring inconsistencies of style. What was worse, I couldn’t do anything about it. I stopped reading for my sanity’s sake.

Keep the meat and remove the dross - how to edit in the kitchen (source: blogs.kqed.org)

Keep the meat and remove the dross – how to edit in the kitchen (source: blogs.kqed.org)

As soon as I got home, I printed my manuscript out and – pen in hand – started reading it through. I’ve been reading each sentence out loud, to hear any inconsistencies before honing and tightening like a dervish. Then, at the end of each chapter, I’ll read it out again as a whole. Finally, as I type the changes into Scrivener, I’ll have a third chance to improve on the original. My trusty pen has been paring and filleting like a Michelin starred Chef. This time I’ve not settled for good enough, and the process is taking some time, but 100 pages in I’m very happy with how it’s going (only another 350 to go).

What this does mean, is that I’ll be cutting back on the blogging until I finish. I’ll try to commit to one blog a week, but no promises. I hope you all understand, but if you don’t, well, so be it. However, if you do decide not to return, you’ll never get to hear the tale of how I was outsmarted by a fly….

Disclaimer: Any grammar or spelling mistakes in this blog are deliberate. It’s called irony.*

* I may be lying

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2 thoughts on “Warning – editor at work

  1. Reading out loud from a paper copy is definitely very helpful, I find – you can then wield the red pen to your heart’s content and go back to a re-write later. Writing is a hard slog. Good luck. 🙂

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