It’s been a long slog, but it’s finally done! My latest novel deals with contentious themes and these proved a source of much discussion between me and my publisher’s editors.
Usually, editing of my work has consisted in minor grammatical, structural and vocabulary changes. Nothing substantial, as the characters have always been accepted as well-rounded and fully created. Those of you familiar with my work will know I don’t shy away from dealing with themes that might raise questions or even some hackles.
Having set out to write a novel deliberately challenging long-held views, I expected opposition. In fact, I worried the book might be rejected by my usually open-minded publisher, such is the nature of the subject matter. Due to my misunderstanding of some comments, I asked for a change of editor after the first couple of sessions! I initially thought there was unconscious bias toward the status quo and accepted norms. Some readers react that way, but it’s unusual to find it in editors, who are renowned for their political and social neutrality in judging the work of writers. In the end, after further discussion and a change of editors, it became clear it was my misinterpretation rather than any bias, and the resulting healthy debate produced a better book, which was the aim for all of us. Both editors were polite, instructive, professional, and helpful throughout.
I sent the book back the day before yesterday with appropriate comments, having made many of the alterations recommended, and added a few more of my own, mostly intended to keep the assertive nature of my young female protagonist intact. I awaited the next return with a mix of trepidation and impatience. Trepidation, because I was concerned my additions might have the opposite effect of my intention to keep to the spirit of the book while making it acceptable to a wide readership. Impatience, because I want the book out there on the shelves as soon as possible.
Oddly, for an editing process, this book has grown in length. The first draft reached 79,079 words; a short book by my usual standards. The first editing session took it to 81,437, the second to 83,000, the third to 86,333, and the last to 93,184. Much of this additional wordage originates from a combination of the editors’ comments and my attempts to fulfil their desires without diluting the nature of my narrator.
You’ll appreciate my delight when I opened the responding email from my publisher yesterday morning and discovered this final comment, which I quote from the editor’s Edit Notes.
‘…thanks to you for your positive responses to suggestions that must initially have seemed hurtful. It’s never pleasant for us to receive “attacks” on a manuscript that means a great deal to us and has cost us much time and effort. But I was so in tune with what you were aiming to do in this novel, and so impressed by the majority of it, that I wanted to ensure that your message (to say nothing of your quality of writing) will be appreciated by the largest possible number of readers. I now believe it will be, and I’m going to recommend that the manuscript goes into production with no further ado.’
And that’s now happening.
I post this in encouragement of writers who’ve had issues with editors, to show they’re usually people whose only real concern is to get your book published in the best possible form it can be. Writers and editors may not always agree on details, but we form part of a team in the publishing process that has the aim of producing a good book. It’s always worth keeping this in mind when in dispute with your editors. They don’t always ‘know best’, but you can be sure a good editor will always be striving to make the very best of your book.
Once this one’s ready for publication, I’ll reveal the title and, shortly afterwards, the cover design, which I hope to be involved in (that’s usual with my publisher). Wish me luck!