Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Taking up the scissors

"The work was like peeling an onion. The outer skin came off with difficulty [...] but in no time you'd be down to its innards, tears streaming from your eyes as more and more beautiful reductions became possible."

Edward Blishen 
Thanks to Mac for bringing this quote to my attention!


Today was the beginning of The Bone Season's official makeover. I caught the X90 to London and had a quick coffee in Seven Dials before heading over to Bloomsbury to hear Alexandra and Alexa's thoughts on how to go about editing the novel. I also forgot my umbrella.

I'd like this blog to be helpful to writers, so I'll give you the lowdown on the editorial process as I learn about it. The purpose of an editor is to pick up on inconsistencies, help the author hone their style and generally make the story more readable. Most authors will do some sort of self-edit before they send their work to an agent or publisher, as small errors can send a manuscript straight to the slush pile. There are some really fantastic books to guide your self-edit: my personal favourite is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King, both very experienced editors. It includes some helpful exercises and tips, and is also a very light-hearted read. But don't get too involved in your self-edit. You'll end up in a sort of editorial limbo. This happened to me when I was writing Aurora. I edited the manuscript so much that I ended up editing the love out of it. It sounds corny, but you really can edit something too much. I would strongly advise you not to spend more than a few weeks on your edit, depending on the density of your manuscript. When the editing process starts to get boring or tedious, just stop. If the fundamental idea of your story is good, small errors won't matter too much in the long run. 

That brings me to editors in the publishing house. Typically there will be an editor-in-chief and his or her team. One or more of them will read the manuscript carefully and make comments on it. The comments could be on small things, like grammar and syntax, or on larger elements of your work
a particular character's development, perhaps, or the atmosphere of the story in general. Editing the novel is a collaborative process: you work closely with the editor(s) to make the necessary changes. Today, for example, I met Alexandra and Alexa for sandwiches and coffee in the office, then we had a really long chat about things I could do to make The Bone Season better. Sometimes they just needed me to clarify something. Sometimes it was dodgy grammar (I'd used the word "gotten", for example, which is an Americanism) and sometimes a cliché had wriggled in.    

The editors will often have different opinions, and you may not always agree with them. Alexandra, for example, is very fond of the closing line of the book. Alexa likes it, too, but she thinks it's a bit too abrupt. In this case, we need to spend a bit more time thinking about it. I might try and experiment with a few different ways of ending the novel, and we'll see which one we like best. It's your novel, so you're perfectly within your rights to disagree with an editorial suggestion, but be open to them. The editors are very experienced and they know what works and what doesn't 
that's their job. If they're as passionate about the novel as you are (which they should be, or you've gone with the wrong publishers), they'll be eager to hear what you have to say.     

I've currently got about six pages of notes from Alexandra and Alexa, which I'm going to be working with for the next month. They've asked me to describe the world of Scion in a bit more detail, which I'm really excited about.

In other news, I'm on Australian TV again on Thursday night. This time it's Sunrise Channel 7, which apparently has the highest ratings in Oz for a morning show. I'm on air at 8:10AM on Friday morning Australian time. I wish I could say I was completely confident after Channel 10, but I looked a bit like this when I was told: 



 

24 comments:

  1. Sounds really exciting! Good luck with the edits :)

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  2. Lol, wow. So, I'm moving accounts on deviantART and saw that your own account was deactivated. I decided to try to see if you had a new account - even went through LaLa's and Jade's accounts to try and find you. When I couldn't, I decided a last-ditch-effort move and Google your name.

    And what's this that I found? Miss Shannon has finally been grabbed!

    Congratulations, babe. You have no idea how proud I am that you finally made it. Best wishes and good luck! :D

    -- SDG

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    1. Kristen! Where have you been?! And yes, I left dA a while back. I may come back but with a fresh account, too much old stuff on that one and I'd completely gone off the username.

      Thanks so much for the luck :D

      x

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    2. Well, I've been living on my own, engaged to my man, and in my fifth semester of college, dual majoring as a Web Design and Developer! :D

      I can't wait to read this story of yours! It's just amazing, your fight to get an agent to publish your work . . . and then the one agent that does is the one that published J.K. Rowling! You're immediately at the top with some of the biggest advantages around under just their name, girl!

      So they did it again, picking up someone who everyone else stupidly thought wasn't good enough, so now they're going to be SOL once again. :D

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  3. "The (editing) work was like peeling an onion. The outer skin came off with difficulty... but in no time you'd be down to its innards, tears streaming from your eyes as more and more beautiful reductions became possible."

    Edward Blishen on the subject of editing.

    Mac aka @Moustachology

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    1. Wow. OK, he describes editing much more poetically than I do. He's so right.

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  4. Sunrise? The highest ratings? Please! When the Today show gives you a call, jump right on in. Channel 9 all the way!

    Anyway, can't wait to see you on TV again. Good luck, though I doubt you'll need it.

    P.S. Watch out for Kochie and his questions / jokes; he's not known for being a terrific comedian or journo.

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    1. Haven't been asked by the Today show sadly!

      And thanks for the advice (:

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    2. eh, don't worry about the today show. The market for your book, in my opinion, don't watch tv that early in the morning anyway. If you ever got some say in what shows you want to go on, I'd try for The Project which is on at 6pm now I think. It's a light entertainment news show that a much broader audience watches. But then again, I'm sure you have absolutely nothing to do with interviews. Australia is pretty fascinated by young authors... Even though the majority of our country don't read. It's so sad...
      -heidi

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  5. I will be watching from the warmth of my bed in Melbourne! If this is Thursday night for you ... does this mean Friday in Australia? Just clarifying. Any idea what time you go on? The show is from 6-9am.

    By the way I love reading about what it's like doing the editing, especially with Bloomsbury. Can you tell us more about what happened when you met with them to discuss the edits? I assumed they just sent out a letter with all the editorial changes they were proposing and you were supposed to respond to that and get back to work on fixing up the novel.

    - Heidi

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    1. Hi Heidi,

      I think I'm on at 8.10AM Australian time.

      I've extended the blog so you can learn a bit more about the editing process. They definitely don't just send you a letter - they met me face-to-face to discuss it all. Do ask questions if you want to know more!

      Samantha

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    2. Also I believe Australia is about 10-12 hours ahead of England so yes, it would be Friday.

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    3. awesome thanks!
      I was just asking mostly because although I live in australia, I want to get a UK agent and publisher... my mum lives in Surrey so sometimes I go live with her and I was just wondering how it would work if I ever got a book deal while I was still here. Would they find it easier for me to be closer or do you think they deal with this sort of thing all the time? You may not even know! I'd also love to know ... in the most polite way possible (haha there's no unawkward way to ask) ... when you get a 6 figure advance for 3 books, but they've said they'll do 7... do you get a second advance once you officially sign on for the next 4 books or have you already done that and it's all part of the one advance (which I already know won't be paid out in one lump sum btw). I study editing & publishing here as a graduate and I've never really had anyone to ask about this!

      -heidi

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  6. Hi, Samantha. More I hear about your book, more I am exited. I'm gonna definitely buy it as soon as possible. And question: according to the fact that I'm not comming from UK or English speaking country (regardless the fact that my English is pretty good)I have to ask you if you (and your publishers) are planing to issue book in other languages too :P
    And another thing: I am writer of a book series too (it's also sci-fi but I beleive it's very different from your book) and I'd like to ask some questions about writing and other related stuff and also your opinion about it someday (unfortunately, even my first book from my series is not finished yet and I have a lot work to do before it will be) :(
    Nice to read you :D and best regards from Slovenia

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    1. Hi — yes, we are definitely planning to release 'The Bone Season' in other countries and languages. There are several deals in negotiation at the moment. More news soon!

      And feel free to ask questions on here.

      Samantha

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  7. How do you feel about the last line of your book? If two editors love the line it must have been one that you probably love as well. Was it a conscious effort to make it memorable, or quotable even?

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    1. It wasn't a conscious effort to make it memorable, exactly, but it's fairly cliffhanger-esque. I personally like it, although I might look at a few different ways to come at it.

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  8. Good luck with the editing! It sounds so exciting but daunting!

    How many times do you think one should edit their manuscript before sending it off to agents?

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    1. I think it depends on the density of the manuscript, but generally I'd say no more than twice: once for small grammar/spelling/syntax mistakes, once for character development and larger themes.

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  9. Hi Samantha,

    Just caught you on Australian TV - Sunrise morning show. Your series looks fantastic.I wish you every success with it all. Look forward to reading it. Hope you get down to Oz one day!

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    1. Thanks Lynn, hope you enjoy the series! I'd love to come to Oz.

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  10. Thank you for mentioning this interesting book I'll definately check. Will be your regular blog reader.

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