And that was only the start of it. Add long, rambling sentences – at least one of which comprised a whole paragraph – and that was the state of my prose before I let an editor get his hands on it. I must be honest, this was not what I was expecting. I don’t suffer from low self-esteem, at least where my writing is concerned, and my main reason for wanting an editor was to advise on issues of characterisation and plot. I fondly imagined that most of my text would come back pretty much as it started, with a few typos identified, maybe the odd spelling mistake here and there, that sort of thing. So it was a bit of a shock to see every page littered with tracked changes and I had to decide what I thought about this.
Should I stick with what I could consider my inimitable style and reject these changes, or should I have a good look at my writing and try to see it from another’s eyes? Fortunately I decided on the latter course of action and now I think my novel, The Butterfly Effect, will be a lot easier to read once it is published.
That left the issues of plot and characterisation and another decision to be made. Was the ending really unsatisfactory? Did the suspense build up effectively right to the climax, only for the whole thing to be resolved far too quickly and easily? Well, yes, that was true too, although I hadn’t seen it myself, and there followed an intense and sometimes painful process in which I suggested a number of alternative endings only for each to fall short. It is to the credit of the editor that he didn’t give up and advise me to go with the least worst of these options, but continued to encourage me to find an ending that would be worthy of the rest of the book. And I found it, eventually, and I think it will have made the novel so much more satisfactory from the reader’s point of view.
So that was my first experience of working with an editor. It will certainly change my writing, and I hope for the better. It will also make me think very hard about the structure of my next novel and whether the ending does its job at least satisfactorily. But does that mean I will not need an editor next time round? The answer to that is an emphatic ‘no’. I am sure that the experience would be different, but equally useful. I only hope that The Butterfly Effect sells well enough for the proceeds to pay for it!
Note: my editor was David Wailing from Storywork and I would recommend him without reservation.
A good editor is a wonderful thing and once you find the right one, working with him/her is a very rewarding two-way experience.
I already had a close relationship with an editor when David started working professionally, otherwise I would be beating his door down.