Friday, 6 November 2009

Editing in Action

My most recent novel came back from the editor with the request that I 'looked again' at the opening scene. It's a big party scene, with two plot-important conversations (A and B) interspersed with an inconsequential - but I hoped, funny - interchange (X). So the scene went, intro, X A X B. The editor wanted for the X scenes to be joined, or cut, or moved, or in some way changed as she felt the flow wasn't right.

I started a long email explaining why I'd chosen that configuration. There needed to be a run up to conversation A, and you couldn't have A and B right next to each other, so X A X B was the absolutely perfect order. As I wrote my justification, I thought as a concession I'd try XAB, but that obviously didn't work. I tried A B - no, it definitely needed the X in-between. AXB was on the surface the straightforward choice, but that would mean rewriting the intro, rewriting the X interchange, writing a completely new run up to the A conversation. As I wrote explaining why my first choice had been the right one, I could feel this new scene in action, how it would flow.

I looked at my long, long email full of self-justification and realised: I didn't want to change the order simply because it meant more work. After a short bout of internal wrestling I deleted the email and wrote another, shorter one. You're quite right, I wrote to my editor. I'll do it.

And I did. And it was better.


liz fenwick said...

Well done and a fascinating insight into how a writer's mind works and mulls things over and eventually 'sees' what the editor can see to make the work stronger.

Sarah Duncan said...

The wonders of good editing! A good editor should be treasured by all writers.

Nancy Naigle said...

I bet it will be worth the extra work ... high 5s to you for taking the time to really think it through before shooting back a response, and ultimately finding the right adjustments.

We, as writers, have the creativity but editors have the 50k view that seems to make the stars all align just right.

Good day for you!

Sarah Duncan said...

Thanks Nancy - love your line about editors making the stars align just right. Spot on.