This is both a thrill and a moment of panic for the writer. The waiting is over and we can finally start on the final phase of the book before it is published, but this is also when we discover what our editor really thinks of it. Simon’s email alone was several thousand words long with a breakdown of what he liked and what needed work. It was clear, thorough and very encouraging.
The document itself is marked up with comments throughout. Structurally, the book is in good shape. No major cuts needed, no tone problems, and he identified an issue with the protagonist that has been eluding me since the beginning! This is everything a writer wants from an editor.
Of course, there are problems…
I have a character eating soup from a plate (messy)
I’m vague about the size of two armies in battle
I use the word ‘limestone’ fourteen times! (Who knew?)…
I have a character unable to swim one minute, and then happily treading water the next
And there’s this moment with a scythe…
Simon is great on military and historical accuracy, particularly anything naval. He’s picked me up on how many lashes a character has to endure, and the best way to survive a sinking ship.
Oh, and I have to make a crucial decision about the genitals of merpeople… Y’know, basic fantasy stuff.
Also, the short story I wrote to accompany the novel (available to all newsletter subscribers for free!) made me realise that I needed to change the timescale of a bit of my world’s history, so that will need to be threaded through the novel.
In all, I had about 320 comments and notes from Simon. I’ve spent the first few days triaging the easy stuff. The “delete this”, “trim that” suggestions, and the silly continuity errors and tiny plot holes. Now I have to knuckle down and do some serious character work, but I’m happy to do it because I know it will make the book so much stronger as a result. Also, this is my third novel, so going through the process a couple of times already has reassured me that the book won’t fall to pieces during the edit.
I reckon this will roll on for a couple of weeks and there might be even more revisions after that, and then we need to start thinking about the copy edit. Still a little way to go, but it promises to be fun!
PS. I also got a reader’s report on my middle grade novel Raygun (though that title will almost certainly change) from Karen Ball at Speckled Pen. Much like Simon’s edit notes, they nailed all the book’s issues, but have also inspired me to make some positive changes. I’ll be getting my teeth into that next. If you have a children’s novel that needs detailed and informed feedback, then I highly recommend Speckled Pen!