Friday, 20 May 2011

All About Editing - Lorraine Mace

Do you love editing, or hate it, or somewhere in the middle?

I hate the thought of it, but love the process. Before I get started it always seems as if I have a mountain to climb and I put it off as long as I can. Once I get going I love it and can never understand why I didn’t just get down to it straight away.

I am a serious underwriter, so the editing process allows me to put in all the settings I tend to miss out in my rush to get the story down. That’s also when I fix the dialogue and characterisation. I look on it as a chance to turn dross into gold – that’s the idea, anyway.

I’ve recently rewritten a crime novel and added 7,000 words to the original draft, most of it to the ending because it was too abrupt.

I suppose, for over writers the editing process would allow them to remove the surplus and make the writing leaner. I’ve never had that problem, so can’t be sure. If I tried to trim my work, I’d end up with chapter headings, a synopsis, and not much else.

Do you edit as you go? Or do you start only after the first draft?

I used to edit as I went along, but found I’d get too hung up on making the opening chapters perfect and never actually finish a book. Now I get the first draft down before even thinking about any serious editing. Having said that, what I do is read through whatever was written the day before and fix any glaring errors. Reading only the previous day’s work also helps me get back into the story without being sucked into trying to perfect the writing from page one.

Do you have a definite method for editing? If so, would you like to share something from it?

I print out my ms – always. I find that editing directly on screen means I miss too many errors that leap out at me on the printed page.

Once I’ve got the ms in hard copy, I hide away from everyone, put on some soft music and disconnect the phone. Then I go through the ms with a red pen (literally). I scratch out, add in, and make notes and diagrams all over the place. Then, when I’ve scribbled over the entire ms, I go to the computer and work through the edits page by page. I add in sections, move others, whatever needs to be done, by referring to the hard copy, which sometimes has so much red ink I can barely see the type underneath.

Any tips you've learned from your experience?

Yes, when you think you’ve nailed it, print out another copy and go through the entire process all over again – and again. The first edit is just putting the flesh on the bones – all subsequent edits are the ones that will turn a manuscript into a novel.

Anything else you would like to add - pet peeves, things that make you want to pull your hair out (editing related), joys and wonders of the process?

Yes, I want to tear my hair out when I’ve realised mid-edit that the plot hole I thought I’d be able to get away with has turned into a massive crater. I’ve learned the hard way to listen to the nagging voice in my head that whispers: this won’t work!

Lorraine Mace, a Writers Bureau tutor, is humour columnist for both Writing Magazine (UK) and Connexions (France). She is also deputy editor of Words with JAM and a competition judge for Writers’ Forum. She has written for magazines and newspapers in the UK, the USA, Australia, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Author of the Writers Bureau course, Marketing Your Book and co-author of The Writer’s ABC Checklist (Accent Press), Lorraine is leading a residential course in France.

Lorraine Mace:
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