The Edit, Or Being Humbled

I’ve received the first chunk of the edit of Nights of Villjamur from Peter Lavery. It came with a slip saying “Hope it’s not too much of a shock”. I looked at the manuscript. I laughed.

Time to lose the ego.

It’s funny, because I’ve seen interviews where Neal Asher talks about Peter’s scary pencil. I sent a brief message to another Macmillan author, Alan Campbell, whose first response was “I hope Peter hasn’t been too ruthless with his pencil”. So when it came through, what else could I do but chuckle?

This is a bit of an ode to editorial work. When someone reads a book, they might catch a typo or two, and say, ‘Who the hell edited this?’ That’s just the copy-editing (a tough job also, but that’s the next stage). What Peter has done is quite amazing, on a sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph level, making dull areas shine with his sleight of hand. You can think you have a perfect sentence, and he’ll change one word for another and it’s hugely improved. I’ve laughed countless times already at how he’s made something work better, some dialogue sharper. Editors as good as Peter can make the book work much, much with a few suggestions. And he’s worked on other SF and Fantasy greats, including China Miéville and Hal Duncan, so with such a pedigree, who am I to argue?

Books are never completed by just one person. A team is involved, and they rarely get the credit that they deserve. I’m only a short way into working through the edits and comments, and I can already see I’ll be owing much thanks to him.

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About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. Get working, pretty boy!

    You’ve a lomng waye tyo go before yoor prose iss as polished as mine!! A har! I am ze next Hemmmingway!

  2. You been at the stout, young man?

    Ah, I see you’ve opted for the the unusual 3-m spelling of Hemingway.

  3. Yes, I think this was after a fair few, young Mark. Good luck with the editing!! I don’t envy you the work…. oh wait, what’s this on its way? argh, it’s the copy-edit of my next book…..

  4. Get someone like Peter working on your typescript and you hit a steep learning curve you never knew was there.

  5. Hi Neal. Good to hear from you. That’s exactly it. You know you’ve got the deal, you think you’re at a certain standard now, and then you look at those pencil marks…