Tag Archives: editing a book

In The Hallway

I recently read an article from an author who described the feeling of being ‘between novels’ as being ‘in the hallway‘ – the door to one book has closed, and the door to her next one hasn’t quite opened up yet. I know how she feels, sort of.

I finished the first pass of edits on ‘Emmeline’ (or whatever it’ll end up being called!) on Friday of last week. Soon, I want to begin a second pass. I have a ‘deadline’ (I’m mentally making it seem a lot tougher than, in reality, it actually is) of mid-October to get it back to my agent, and then we’ll see whether I’ve done enough to get the story ready for its first foray into the big bad world of publishing.

I’m in the hallway, except it’s between edits, not books.

Feels much the same, though.

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs via Compfight cc

I really want to get started now – mid-October isn’t all that far away, after all. I feel like I’ve done so much work on the book over the past few weeks that surely this second pass of edits will be easy (but that’s a dangerous way to think, which is why I know I’m not ready to get stuck in yet). My mind is still full of Emmeline and her world, the people she meets and the places she sees and the battles she fights – and that’s another reason I know it’s too soon to go over her story. I need to be away from it for a little while, just long enough for it not to seem gloopy when I go back to it.

Gloopy? What’s that, then?

Well, it’s like this. When I try to edit something I’ve written before I’m ready, it’s a bit like trying to walk across quicksand. I get panicky. I start making frankly stupid changes and getting caught up in them and their ramifications and (quite possibly) I allow myself to ignore what really needs to be done instead of what strikes me, straight off, as a superficial problem – which, of course, simply makes things massively worse, even more gloopy, and then I eventually sink. Because the first pass of edits were largely (though not all) fixing things like stupid sentences or getting rid of needless paragraphs or tightening up on description, what I’m left with now are some of the bigger issues, which have been mulling in my mind for the past few weeks as I worked. There aren’t very many big issues with the book – and none of them are unfixable – but I do need to take my time and do them right. Anxiety and panic and ‘oh my God I need to do something and get away from this!’ will not help.

Hence, the hallway. I’m strolling down it, peeking out the windows, stopping to smell the flowers (okay, so maybe it’s more like a cloister than a hallway. Fair enough), having a good old think. I have already fixed some of the foundations of the bigger problems – character motivations, removing an entire person from the story (which was so sickeningly easy, it should have been obvious to me that, like Phoebe in that Friends episode, he ‘just lifted right out’), and overall making things clearer to the reader. It seems stuff that I thought was explained perfectly clearly… wasn’t. This is the problem with writing, I guess – you get so inside your own head that you forget everyone doesn’t live there.

So, now I have a few decisions to make and some clarification to do (and I promise not to use the words ‘snap’, ‘snapped’, ‘just’, ‘then’, ‘massive’, ‘huge’ or ‘gigantic’, or the phrases ‘before she had time to think,’ ‘without thinking,’ ‘without giving herself time to think’ ever again). However, before I get there, I’ve got to ungloop myself.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have a hallway to amble down. Catch you at the other end.


Brain like a Triangle, Heart like a Wheel

Today, dear reader, my brain feels like a triangle.

Bzzzt! Photo Credit: YanivG via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: YanivG via Compfight cc

Yep. One of those ones, the type that spell ‘danger!’ This is a natural consequence of dividing my attention between three things, simultaneously: my almost-finished first draft of Eldritch, which, until last Friday, had been going well; the notes and ideas I’ve been getting for the book codenamed ‘Web’, which have been flooding my mind ever since I stopped working on it, and the fact that sometime early this week – perhaps even today or tomorrow – I’ll be getting back a bunch of edits on Emmeline from my agent.

There is much work to do on Emmeline. This I know. I’m preparing for the absolute worst – i.e. an editorial letter which tells me that my agent is sorry she ever signed me to begin with, and that she must have been crazy to think she could slap this sorry excuse for a book into some sort of shape – in the hope that it won’t seem as bad as that when it actually happens.

I’ve also been practising my deep, cleansing breaths.

(I may also have purchased a bottle of whiskey to have handy while reading the edits, but that’s our secret).

I’ve been busy while waiting for these edits to arrive, of course – I’ve added over seven thousand words to Eldritch since last week, which I think is pretty good progress. There’s still a way to go with it, however, and I won’t be finished before I start working on Emmeline again. What this means is I’ll be knee-deep in edits while my brain is screaming about stuff that I should be doing to the other books, and so I’ll probably be doing a lot of gentle gibbering and rocking in corners alongside the actual work.

Straightforward? Pshaw. Who cares about straightforward?

I do feel rather in a spin today, though, all truth being told. I have asked (nay, begged) one of my extremely kind writery-type friends for help, a person who has been through the whole ‘agent edits your book’ scenario before (she managed to survive mostly intact), and she gave me some useful tips. Boiled down, these are:

It’s never as bad as you think – to which I say ‘Don’t tempt fate’;

Everyone needs a lot of help the first time – to which I say ‘There go my dreams of being a middle-aged child prodigy’;

Take your time with the edits, and read them all through at least once before you start changing your MS – to which I say ‘Sounds quite sensible, actually,’ and

Remember that the point of editing is to make the book better– to which I say ‘Yes, I know. When I’m editing other people’s work, I always do it in order to help, and to make their good ideas clearer – but it’s dang hard to remember that when it’s your own work on the chopping block.’

Muuuaahahahahahaaa! Photo Credit: Erindxl via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Erindxl via Compfight cc

So. Bear with me over the next few days if the blogging schedule goes a bit awry. It’s not that I’ve forgotten you – it’s just that I’ll be sitting in a darkened room singing old Linda Ronstadt songs and wondering where my life went wrong, and contemplating a new and glittering career as a sheep-herder in the steppes.

That’s all.

Nothing to worry about.

And maybe my friend is right, and the edits won’t be as horrendous as I feared, and I’ll be back here in a few days with a bounce in my step.

But just in case, here’s some Linda Ronstadt.


**Edit: Before someone jumps in and corrects me, yes I know ‘Heart Like a Wheel’ is an Anna McGarrigle song. I just can’t pass Linda Ronstadt’s version, though. Adieu!**