I’m coming, I think, to the end of my editing process with book one (The Fall). We even have a cover, to be unveiled soon (I love it). What has surprised me about editing is just how long it all takes. I’ve been editing since March and we still aren’t finished. I think writing a book is like clicking through different lenses on a microscope. The way that I write, getting the words down on paper is the most enjoyable part. I don’t worry at this stage how the plot holds together, or consistency of character, or adjectival agreement. It can be a joyful, free-wheeling time, as I think creativity should be. This means I am fast, and can write a book in a matter of months.
However, it also means editing is a gigantic pain in the derriere. With one click of the lens, I have to abandon creative joy and start thinking about the big issues – does this plot in fact make any sense? (no) If I do some research, will it all fall apart? (yes, frequently) Does this character need extra scenes to develop them? (yes you eejit, get writing)Then what do I do when it grows 10,000 words too many? (cry) What kind of book is this and does it achieve what it sets out to?
Once the really big editing questions are answered, you have to worry about level two – the character’s hair changes colour halfway through. That bus route doesn’t pass by the church as you’ve said it does in chapter four. Then, level three, which I am (hopefully) scraping to the end of. Spelling. Grammar. Is it blond or blonde? That particular conundrum necessitated four different phone calls to my editor last week. Italics? Speech marks? As the microscope focusses in, the minute defects are endless. But, of course, it has to end, because the book is due out. Meanwhile behind the scenes I know it’s taken months to come up with a cover. Producing a book is a whole lot of work.
All of which is why I would hate to self-publish. It’s a profound relief to know that you can unplug yourself from the white-noise that is writing your book alone for months, and ask someone else what works and what doesn’t. That other people will work out what should go on the cover, and what the blurb should read, and check it for mistakes. Because I really can’t do all that myself. That’s why you have an editor.
It’s been a long slog, but with the appearance of the cover I feel it’s not long till I can call myself a properly published author. Now it’s time to attack book two, a plot-addled behemoth of a thriller. I have no idea what to do over some issues. Working on the second book is very different, removed from the blithe ignorance of the first-timer who just writes and hopes. I find myself noticing minor inconsistencies, like wanting to change the spelling of ‘strobing’, when at this stage I should be wondering if the whole thing in fact makes any sense at all. Today all I did on the book was delete a paragraph, worry about it for several hours, then put it back in again. I’m too close to the work, as people are beginning to tell me, with tact.
This is why I think, to write a book, you have to go through the four stages. When you’re writing it, don’t think about spelling or editing or any of that: just finish it. Don’t let anything unplug you from your creative charge. But now the book is pretty much finished, it’s time to be moving into stage two. My least favourite bit – does the book make sense? (probably not) Is it any good? (haven’t the faintest idea at this point) But at least I’m not on my own, as I take a deep breath and peer down the lens at the grain of this book.