Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Pleasures of the Editing Process

I’ve been enjoying recent accounts by BlogLily and BikeProf of the progress of their fiction writing. They’ve left me feeling inspired but, I must admit, also rather envious. BikeProf is just beginning a novel but is giving himself up to a daily compulsion to write and is progressing with astonishing speed. BlogLily is in the final phase of drafting her novel which she evocatively describes as “the great downhill.” Me, I’m fathoms deep in the final edits of the short story manuscript that is due to be published in the Spring. Alas, this endeavour is not provoking any moments of euphoria to parallel those that my fellow writers describe in connection with their drafting processes.

That is not to say that the editing process doesn’t have its own pleasures. Chief among them is that, after working in solitude for months and years, suddenly, in the person of your editor, you have a reader. Not just any reader either, but possibly the most attentive reader you’ll ever have. Your editor is paying close attention to every word, every nuance. If your editor doesn’t get what you’re trying to convey, chances are that no one else will either. Yes, the editor is critical; that’s her job. But she’s critical in the service of your work. She is almost as committed as you are to making your book the best book it can be. Of course, all of this is true only if the editor is a good one. Happily, the editor with whom I am working is a very good one.

I confess that I meet nearly every suggestion for change that she puts to me with a knee-jerk moment of resistance. But I’ve found that once I let that moment pass, I generally come around to the view that the suggestion was warranted. More than once, she has put her finger directly on a line or a passage about which I was already harbouring secret doubts. And addressing those doubts, putting them to rest before sending the book out into the world, is precisely the point of the exercise.

That brings me to the second great pleasure of the editing process: it marks the end, the completion of the book that you have been working on for so long. Your book is on the cusp of being sent out into the world, hopefully to meet many more readers. And once it’s out of your hands? Well, then it’s time to move on to the next one. The prospect awaits of the giddy beginning of a first draft of something new, to be followed eventually by the euphoric downhill ride to the finish…

5 comments:

Stefanie said...

What a wonderful post about editing! I recently had an essay edited for a book and I had that same knee-jerk reaction. I didn't agree with some of her editorial suggestions but we managed to find a happy medium. I can't wait for your big publication! I hope the book will be available in the US!

bloglily said...

Kate, It must be very satisfying to be in this place and to know that after you're finished, you're on to the next thing. I think every part of the writing process offers its own pleasures, not least of which is the pleasure of completion. I'm looking forward to reading those stories! I've so enjoyed the ones you have available online and am glad to hear there are more to come. xo, BL

Dorothy W. said...

Congratulations on being at these finishing stages, Kate. It does sound very satisfying -- and also challenging -- to have an editor pay such close and careful attention.

litlove said...

Stick with it, Kate! I hate the finalising process, but oddly enough I really like cutting my own work. I feel all ruthless and start rushing about in my prose, snipping bits off here and there and pruning anything that looks in the least limp or dead. It's quite invigorating in a way. Then checking the punctuation and (for me at least) referencing and footnoting is like drawing teeth and I detest it. But the end IS in sight!

LK said...

Congratulations! Looking forward to the publication.