Kill Your Darlings

I thought I’d write a post about the joys of editing. I like editing. It’s fine-tuning, polishing off. I’m a Virgo and we’re supposed to be pernickety (Mr T may have a different opinion on this when it comes to things like decorating…) but as for my writing, yes I like to dot every t and cross every i, or something like that.

When I decided to embrace self-publishing, I knew it was important that my books were edited professionally. I wanted to create a product that was as good as anything else out there on the market. That meant giving my baby up to someone else for inspection.

When I’ve reached a stage in my writing when I think a novel is good to go – I send it out to a handful of good friends, just to make sure the plot works and they find the story enjoyable. I know they will be kind but I always ask for an honest opinion.  I take their feedback on board and give my manuscript another self-edit, before I send it off to the professional.

The professional I’ve used for all three Eliza Kane books is a lovely lady in the Isle of Wight called Anna, who I originally found on Twitter.  I’ll admit when I received the very comprehensive report she provided on A Crisis at Clifftops, the first book in the series, I had to pick myself up off the floor. I thought my book was finished, I thought it was ready to hit the shelves… But of course it wasn’t.

Anna pointed out a lot of flaws, but also a lot of positives. After a few days of mulling over, I decided I could make some of the changes she suggested, perhaps I hadn’t made the characters’ motivations as clear as I thought, perhaps there were aspects of the plot that didn’t quite work… and so on. I didn’t change everything she suggested, but I do know at the end of what seemed like a very painful process, my novel was a lot better because of her intervention.  

It made sense to continue to use Anna for the second and third books in the series, and I’ve just received her report on Book 3, Trouble on the Tide. Once again it has been a positive experience. There are few minor differences of opinion, which we’ve sorted out, and a few things to tighten up. Writers carry a lot of background knowledge about their characters in their heads, but that doesn’t always transfer to the page.  Anna is very good at pointing bits that are missing – why is Character A behaving like this? Why isn’t Character B reacting? Sometimes I think it’s obvious, but that’s because I know what’s about to happen next. The reader doesn’t.  

It’s very hard to be subjective about your own writing – which is why having an editor who doesn’t know you, who isn’t your best friend or related to you in anyway, is vital!

My old writing tutor used to say every word has to earn its place in a story. I try to keep my writing tight and not wander off on a tangent. Anna did suggest I might like to think about getting rid of some of my secondary characters because there are rather a lot of them. My plots are character driven, and every one of the people in Trouble on the Tide is instrumental in carrying the plot forward (seriously Rosie? Yes! Vital!). However, because I’m reasonable and sensible I’ve taken her comments on board and made some changes to the way some of these folk are mentioned and re-introduced. But kill them off? The sheer horror of a cull…but talking of culling, yes all those VERYs, JUSTs, REALLYs, SMALLs, STILLs, have got to go. Another self-edit should reduce the superfluous word count.

I’m really pleased DELIGHTED with the way the story has worked out – Trouble On The Tide isn’t just a cosy mystery.  It’s a story about families and trust, and Eliza has some big decisions to make. I’m working on the blurb, and the cover has been commissioned.  I’ll keep you posted on pre-order and launch date.

In other news, I’ve got the go ahead to work on my historical romance. This is going to be a whole new challenge, involving research and planning. I want to do the family involved and their story justice. Exciting times ahead!

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