Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Joy of Editing


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It's been a year since I signed a contract for my new novel Gotcha! (formerly The Gotcha Gods). The manuscript has now been returned to me for editing, in preparation for a spring release.

In one way it's a good thing if a lot of time passes between the writing and the editing. I am not nearly so attached to the story anymore and can see it with fresh eyes.

On the other hand, I have to read the book again to refamiliarize myself with the story before I can even start making the suggested changes. A lot has happened in the past year, and the details of the story are starting to fade from my mind, even though I wouldn't have thought that possible a year ago.

When I'm in the midst of writing a book it feels as though I am actually living it with the characters. My poor friends have to endure my constant rattling on about the people in the story as though they are real, as if what is happening to them really matters and I am the only one who can save them, (which is, of course, true). During the writing I find it hard to separate my own life from my fictional life, but, just as in real life, time has a way of distancing us from what seemed incredibly important only a year ago.

I have been blessed to work with the same editor for each of my books. He is too kind, gentle and wise to use the editing marks shown in this comic strip even through he may secretly wish to. His editing style is to write questions on stickees and stick them to the passage in question. This time the manuscript is completely covered in lime green notes, each with a red-inked question scrawled on it. Katie really dislikes her mom. Can this be softened a bit? What's a double-dutch routine? Is this a little too much? Why did it take 5 weeks to tell her?

As I read these questions my initial knee jerk reaction is to pick up the phone, call the editor and holler, "Didn't you read the book??? I can't soften this because of blah blah blah. This is not too much because of blah blah blah. It took 5 weeks because blah blah blah." But I don't. I force myself to sit on my hands and reflect for a few minutes. Then I remember. If he, the perceptive editor wonders about these things as he's reading the story, won't other readers wonder the same thing? I have learned from experience to trust his instincts. Through careful editing a book always improves. With this one, there are no major rewrites to be done, thank goodness. I will soften Katie's relationship with her Mom even though I think that what's written is quite typical of an angry teenager. I will explain how the game is played more carefully, even though I thought I'd already done that. I will take out the reference to double dutch skipping as it must not be a term younger people (like my editor) are familiar with. Through additional writing, I will answer the questions. In the end, despite my reluctance, it will be a better book.

I know this much to be true.

Shelley

13 comments:

Leslie said...

Oh Shelley, how much I love your stories! Your warmth and kindness are felt with each word. I bet you have reached many young people with your books and the lessons they have taught. I am looking foward to reading "Gotcha" next spring. I know that Buff is looking down on you and he is aware the love and friendship you continue to have for him every day.

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