Warriors of The Word – New Beginnings
As we begin the new year of 2016, our focus turns to new beginnings where we endeavour to channel our energies into the likes of health and personal development that will see us grasping the thorny vine of projects that may have slipped from our control over the past year or so. For many, especially writers, that will mean getting out and about to lose a few unwanted pounds. Writers, spending many hours of each day harnessed to a chair, working through the warrens of a fictional world, often find themselves piling on the weight.
But not just physical weight. No. Though committed to working their projects through, regularly to the detriment of family and social life, scribes can find themselves overwhelmed by issues such as the immensity of story; the barbed hurdles of grammar and dialogue; trying to capture an elusive voice; pinning down the hoary specifics of point-of-view, or grasping the complexities of active voice, to name just a few. The struggle to overcome the technical aspects of such projects can prove so discouraging that, even though several drafts may have been completed, the writer often finds herself cast adrift, without the energy to make it to the solid ground that will see the work brought to its next stage where real progression is seen and appreciated.
I’ve provided constructive feedback to writers for twenty years or more and know how beneficial a considered opinion can be, especially during a challenging phase when the wrong response – a wayward comment – could see a project, and the desire to continue, destroyed. Writers need to know how things stand, and while they welcome honesty, they don’t want to be battered with the hard edge of reality. There has to be hope – light that provides access to the next step.
That’s what I do. Writers send me a chapter from their work-in-progress and I return a sample line-edit where everything is reviewed, from each word to style and structure – anything really that needs looking at, I get in there and tackle it until the writer knows exactly what the options are that will see issues worked through and those dark clouds parted so the broader perspective can be appreciated. The main thing is that the writer has a much stronger idea where he or she stands in relation to the problems at hand.
The writer can then decide if they want to go the rest of the journey alone – applying lessons learnt from the sample edit to the rest of the work, or join in a collaborative affair by commissioning me as their editor. A first edit is a two-week journey to begin with, where everything is laid bare. Everything. With the writer’s vision taken into account, voice and style retained, I wade in and leave nothing unturned. When the manuscript is returned, it resembles a battlefield with the mass of notes and suggested edits. ‘Battlefield’ is apt because if the war is to be won by the author, the enemies of progression must be annihilated. One of my clients recently said that she felt like a warrior of the word when tackling my first edit. She was correct, all writers are warriors of the word. When it comes to the editing process, the author is the soldier on a quest to fight and defeat the monster that is the undeveloped manuscript, while I am the Special Forces mentor, there to advise and guide, and between us we ensure that our side comes out of the fight in the best condition possible, ready to step into the light on release to the world at large.
The author, now seeing that light, applies my editing suggestions as they see fit and returns the manuscript to me for a second edit that will bring the work, once applied, to its proofing stage. It’s all part of my package. I know the story – I know the author – I’m in a perfect position to recognise where things still aren’t quite right, or where they’re just perfect. Two edits and a proofread will see the writer out of those horrid doldrums and into the heady glare of pre-publication.
I haven’t met an author yet who hasn’t appreciated the benefits of a solid line-edit. It’s not easy seeing your work put under the microscope, with every element reviewed, but bringing your novel to a ready-to-go level, with the aid of your editor, is one of the most progressive things you can do as a writer. If you’re in a position where you’ve brought your work-in-progress to a point where it requires professional help to bring it to the next stage and beyond, all I can do is recommend that you choose a chapter, preferably from the middle of your novel, and send it to me for a free sample edit. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll get back to you asap.
Good luck with all your endeavours in 2016.