Saturday, 13 November 2010


Editing should feel like an old friend, standing by your side telling it like it is. And, just like most old friends, love 'em though we do, we don't want them there 24/7. They should drop in for a coffee and leave again before you have to hint you're busy. Ed's just the same. Although he knows he'll be needed even at the stage where ideas tumble about the brain, nudging each other aside in the hope they’ll get chosen, you honestly don't want him peering over your shoulder until you've got them all down in the raw.
You're scribbling down every thought that comes - filling your notebooks, Word files, diaries, backs of till receipts - it's all pouring out, but there comes a time when you have to chose which of these bits and bods to develope. And there he is, Ed, whispering...‘chose the ones you think will work.’
With any luck, Ed will help you chose a workable idea, but it’s not going to flow out of you, word perfect.  So close the front door on him, or leave him mooching over his beer in the pub and get that first draft finished. Naturally, this draft has a ton of hitches. So when you've got a first draft down, give Ed a call, so that he can appear to give you a hand.
Sometimes I prefer to think of Ed as my friendly roadside breakdown mechanic, checking the brakes and the the plot going in the right direction? Do the characters’ motivations work? Have you got the right point of view? Sometimes – and I promise I’ll drop the analogy after this – you have to hang the expense go for a new model, because Ed is telling you this version is too costly to fix.

Finally, you have a good draft. ‘Don’t think,’ says Ed, ‘that all you have to do now is tinker – cross out adverbs...check for clichés. Dear me no.’
So you ask...should I have more or less dialogue? Should I have more or less scenes? Is there a strong narrative trajectory that pulls the reader along? Is my protagonist likeable – or at least intriguing? Do I use all five senses? Does the beginning jump up and bite? Does the middle sag? Does the end make you sigh?
Ed’s at your shoulder again. He’s reminding you to do that final proofread. Get rid of typos imbedded in the text.
Then he winks. Waves good-bye. Till the next time. Those thoughts are jostling already...