Edward BlishenThanks 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: