This week I received an editorial report from Penguin for my upcoming novel Brumby’s Run. It looks at the ‘big picture’ stuff, targeting characterisation, pacing and plot, and it requires me to complete a minor redraft. For new writers, the editing process is a mysterious right of passage between submission and publication – secret author’s business, and I’d been eager to discover just what it involves. My wonderful editor feels ‘sure that with a little teasing out of the existing narrative, we’ll discover a new level of richness.’ Considering her intimate knowledge of the story, I’m sure she’s right. Seriously, she understands it better than I do. It was like she’d been sitting over my shoulder … like she’d been there when I was lazy, or in a hurry. She’d picked up on it every time.
The report contained no directions, only questions and suggestions. And there are plenty of those! I began to discover what a complicated and multi layered task lay before me. When you weave a new thread into the beginning of a narrative, it affects things all the way through – like going back in time changes history.
The first day I was paralysed. The next day I wrote an extra two thousand words and then deleted them. But today, after reading the notes a hundred times, and reducing them to their essence in a dot point document … today I wrote a new chapter that I think addresses lots of the very legitimate issues raised. I’m getting a handle on the job ahead. Structural editing is widely considered to be the foundation of quality publishing, and I’m beginning to see why.