Now comes the season of autumn leaves, and morning frosts, and darkening nights. It’s also the season of editorial notes, which means a certain amount of personal anguish; hard choices; difficult decisions regarding the forthcoming book (THE TESTAMENT OF LOKI, out next year), and lots and lots of cutting. I find that a lot of the time I go at my manuscript with a machete, slashing and cutting like a pro, only to find that my word count has actually somehow managed to grow – but editing is essential work, and requires more than just one person to get right. So, here’s a big shout-out to my editor Gillian Redfearn at Gollancz; her assistant Beth, and all the readers who worked behind the scenes to help make this book as good as it could be. Thanks for all your sterling work, and know that when I hate you, that means you’re doing a damn fine job. Anything that still doesn’t work is now my responsibility. Meanwhile, by request, as a follow-on from my popular #TenThings series on Twitter, here are ten things about editing, that all writers, published and unpublished, need to know…
Ten Things About Editing
However much self-editing you do, at some point you’re going to need a competent editor. But before that…
- Allow time – at least 3 months if you can – before editing your work. You need to be as objective as possible.
- Read your work aloud as you go. It’s the most valuable editing tool there is.
- Change the font when starting a final edit – you’ll be amazed at how much more detail you’ll notice.
- Your dialogue will be improved immeasurably if you remove all or most of the adverbs, and many of the dialogue tags.
- Editing is hard work. You only have so much attention-span. Don’t exhaust it by doing too much.
- Listen to your instincts. You’ll know when something doesn’t feel right. And if you notice, so will your readers. Do give it time though. If you finish a draft and immediately set to work again, you may not really be able to see what needs doing.
- Editing isn’t an afterthought. It’s an essential part of the process. And yes, EVERYONE needs it. Even you.
- Most books will need editing a number of times. That’s life. Live with it.
- Identify your bad habits and the words or phrases you tend to overuse. Deal with them before someone else does.
- Finally: there’s a point at which all editing ceases to be useful. This is the point at which we all need to learn to let go. You can’t keep on it forever. It may not ever be perfect; just make it as good as it can be.