I confess. My first two books were not professionally edited (hangs head). Though I will say the friend who was on editing and proof-reading duty for both books had worked as a professional copy-editor back in the day before she got married. And she did challenge me on plot points that were too convenient and wasn’t hesitant in highlighting bouts of lazy writing. That we remained firm friends surely shows the strength of our friendship.
I would, no doubt, have harassed her again for my third book except, unfortunately, she’s been battling illness.
Knowing my limitations, I was not going to put my work out there without someone else looking over it. So, having saved up, I decided to hire a professional editor. And am I glad and hugely grateful I did. The one I finally decided on was Cassandra.
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only writer who has honestly thought the final, finished manuscript a well put together story. Until I read Cassandra’s report of ‘Fight Your Fate’ (the title I’d finally settled on for my ‘Sleeping Beauty’ retelling). I believe it was at that point I thought, I must finally be growing up; I did not throw my toys out the pram and only had a teeny sulk!
She started positively enough, commenting that the story “is a nice read” before pointing out “the main and serious flaw in your story is that a lot of it, more than half, seems to just be a straight retelling of the beloved fable. It’s the same story, just different words.” Ouch.
I had honestly thought I’d made enough changes so it wouldn’t read as a ‘straight retelling’. Obviously, I was wrong. But I would never have been able to see that for myself, being too close to the story. And, dare I say, loving it too much?
Another thing she pointed out, which I had completely missed, there was “little lasting conflict or tension” – if that doesn’t deserve a smacked wrist, I don’t know what does; I was mortified!
The title I was so chuffed with? “The title is okay, but maybe you could come up with something that has a little more zing to it?”
It wasn’t all ‘bad’ though – “I’ve fixed a few tiny, copy things. I know you didn’t contract for it, but there were so few of them that I thought it would be a bonus. Well done on that aspect.” That had me grinning like a fool.
She finished with suggesting I take time to think of what she’d said and not dive straight in to make any changes. I liked that she didn’t assume or expect me to agree with her suggestions; “Even if you don’t agree, it might spark something else that you can change that could make it even better.”
Well, we batted some ideas back and forth and that certainly sparked something for me. I started making notes, slowly realising that I was going to have to do a major rewrite. I’d barely started on said rewrite when ‘life’ got in the way – barely a year after getting divorced, ex-husband ended up in hospital with alcohol-related dementia, spent almost 3 months in hospital, then in care home for respite care. Long story short, after much in-depth discussion and thought involving boys, him and me, he ended up back with us with me as his carer. Life is nothing if not weirdly interesting!
So, it took me almost a year to finish the rewrite. End of April, I sent it back to Cassandra, this time for a ‘reader’s report’ instead of the in-depth structural edit, and…
“I’m pretty much amazed at how much you’ve worked on this and how well it has turned out… I’m so proud of you for doing such a phenomenal rewrite! This is a stronger book. The characters all feel well-rounded and each feels like they have a purpose and role to play. The pace is well-set. The plot feels both familiar and yet you’ve given it new life and made it completely new. Seriously, seriously, well done!”
Woohoo!! Happy dance was done without me tripping over and traumatising the cats!
She did have a few more suggestions, which I duly thought about and changed what needed to be changed. Having thought I’d covered everything, I found I’d still had a couple of ‘what was I thinking?’ moments, like Lilyrose (the princess) mentioning the curse only once in the whole story!
I am now a firm believer in the power of the editor. Even if you’re up-to-speed on the copy side of things, where the plot is concerned, nothing beats a pro.
Oh. About the title – after much-needed help from my sons who aren’t shy about calling some of their mother’s suggestions limp and rubbish (!), we all finally agreed on ‘The Spellbound Spindle’. What do you think?