I’ve started the New Year as I mean to go on: knee-deep in the edits of The Book of Transformations. It’s raining outside, and dark. So, with the glow of a few lamps and the computer screen, I’ve little else to do but press on with the corrections.
It’s the line-edit stage. Julie, my editor, has gone through and queried all my failings in logic and consistency. Why does character X suddenly have this revealed about their background when there was no mention of it earlier? Why does she inexplicably say this – that’s out of character. There were four people in this room and now there are five. That’s not how you spell that word.
I can’t think of a single writer alive who likes having to work through edits, and if they do, they must be a masochist. I like the feeling at the end, however: knowing that the book is cleaned, tighter and, moreover, that it has become a shared effort. Teamwork. You, the writer, are no longer alone in putting your work in front of people. (Which is why I really feel for editors when people criticise a book for not being tightly edited – how could such critics possibly know what was there to begin with, what has been taken out or changed?)
I find, also, that the more books I write, the less I’m attached to my work. You hear of some authors becoming more of a diva with each book – that they took these suggested corrections at first only because they were freshly minted authors and felt they had to. But for me, perhaps having worked in publishing, I know only too well how editors are there to improve a book, that authors should for the most part just accept that their first drafts are just that – first efforts.
There are probably quite a few of you out there who are writers, though not yet published. I don’t think anything can prepare you for line-edits, yet I don’t think anything – no creative writing class, no writing book – can improve your skills as much as being made to go through one.