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Tuesday, April 10th 2007 : "On editing"
It's been a long time since I last posted an entry. Tim's been to the South Atlantic and today will be flying back from Cape Verde - I hope. Communication's a bit patchy to the ship and emails don't always get through. The six weeks of his absence have been frantically busy. There's been lots of domestic stuff going on - minding grand children and builders in the house again - but mostly I've been revising the script of the new Shetland book. This is detailed, brain-aching work, and hugely time-consuming.
This is the first book in which my new editor, Julie, had any creative input. I loved my old editor. Sarah was intelligent, calm, organised and very, very supportive. It was a huge blow when I heard she was leaving PanMac. I didn't believe anyone else could match up to her.
But then I received the editorial comments on WHITE NIGHTS and realised I needn't have worried. I think a good editor needs first of all to be a passionate reader. Julie is obviously an enthusiast.
She's also a fine editor. It's very easy to criticise a book. We've all had comments like - 'I don't think your central character comes over sufficiently strongly.' It's much harder to suggest how these problems might be addressed. Julie did that in great detail, marking the page where an extra few lines might add to character, clarity of plot or atmosphere. This made revising the script if not a doddle then a thousand times easier than it might have been. Now it's finished and ready to go!
Sometimes friends send me bits of work in progress for comment. I lack the tact and objectivity to be a good editor, I think. It's very hard to set aside personal preference and I forget that people might take my opinion seriously. Very easy to be witty at someone else's expense. Maybe I should learn from Julie - keep my reservations to myself until I have a constructive suggestion for making the book better.
Next week it's London Book Fair. My first visit and a chance to meet publishers and agents from all over the world. I'll let you know how it goes.
Posted by Ann at 09:10 AM GMT