Monday 3 February 2014

Most writing is rewriting

Working with an editor

I’ve just completed my edits of The House on Schellberg Street. I think it’s pretty tight now. I’ve actually cut it down by about 8,000 words so it’s a respectable 95,000 or so now. Except in the finished copy we’ve found a few orphans. The easiest way to fix them is to rewrite a little.
And so it goes on.
Working with the publisher’s editor comes after my own eighteen edits. You think you’ve got it the best you possibly can – and then you’re asked for more.
That in some ways is precisely why you need to work with an editor. You get blind-spots about your own work. Some things you thought were absolutely working are absolutely not.
Surprisingly, about 70% of what’s suggested I go along with straight away. With much of this I find yes, what the editor has suggested actually does work better. Why didn’t I think of that? Some of it is indifferent. My way was just as good.  But perhaps this editor knows better, so, yes let’s go with that.  
Sometimes you don’t like the new suggestion but it’s true that there is something wrong with that bit of text. You have to find a third way.
Often the editor notices something wrong but makes no suggestion as to how to improve it. Then there’s some real work to be done.
Very occasionally I’ve insisted on keeping the original, but at least even then I’ve weighed up what the editor had to say.
I’m now on my third edit of Clara’s Story. I’ve completed the structural edit and the timescale edit and I’m part the way through the suitability for target reader edit. Although I’m looking for one thing at a time, I do also notice some other things.
So, so far I’ve:
  • Added more of Clara as she reads her son’s diary from the trenches in the Great War
  • Made her husband’s burial Christian rather than Jewish (though she still includes some Jewish rituals)
  • Made Clara a bit more stubborn and measured about some decisions she takes – this has included putting in an extra scene about her life in Berlin   
  • Put more life into Clara’s character
  • Checked some names
  • Changed some chapter titles
  • Added an extra scene about the setting up of the Hilfsklasse in her home
  • Adjusted continuity in the last chapter
I must also completely rewrite one chapter that is not working.
Oh, yes. It goes on and on.

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