It’s starting at last. The Night Rainbow is on the move, on its way to becoming a book. And the first step is…edits.
I met my editor, Helen last week to talk through her suggestions for changes to The Night Rainbow before it goes for copy editing and translation.
I’ve never been edited before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well, here is my manuscript, returned to me over lunch and marked up with edits:
The yellow post it notes mark pages where Helen has suggested changes. There aren’t as many as I had expected.
Or should that be ‘feared’? After all this is my baby, my beautiful first novel.
Or should that be ‘hoped’? Because that way, the more edits come from someone other than myself, the more accountability I can pass over to others if people don’t like what they read.
Well, enough of that. You’re all going to love this book, despite the panic in my heart that tries to convince me otherwise.
Helen had told me there wouldn’t be many edits, but as a newbie to all this I didn’t really have an idea of scale. I think I was expecting to be asked to rewrite whole chunks of narrative, delete or move scenes, fill in missing details in a few thousand extra words…and apparently that does happen. It can be the case, but it wasn’t for me. So what were my edits like?
Helen has now read the book three times, and the main thing that she is focusing on is voice. My book has a five year-old narrator. The credibility of the novel rests on her voice being spot on. She doesn’t have to sound like child narrators in other books (and she won’t), but she does have to be believable, allowing the reader to be immersed in her story. To this end, Helen has gone through meticulously and pulled me up on a few words that she feels don’t sit well with the voice of my narrator. And guess what, she’s right.
I have spent the last few days going through these changes, using my eldest daughter as a sounding board – she is now conveniently just turned 6, so is very helpful for vocabulary cross-checks – how would you describe the smell of pastry? What sound does the rain make?
What has been very interesting for me as I do this is that Helen’s suggestions are sparking off ideas in my own mind about how to improve the narrative. The suggestion of one change of word has a cascade effect on the way whole paragraphs are written. The process seems very organic.
I now find myself criticising the entire manuscript yet again (and believe me I did that many times before submitting it to my agent). These words are going to be printed on beautiful paper, bound and covered and marked with my name. I want it to be perfect.
Can it be perfect? I doubt it could ever be, and readers probably are more forgiving than an editor, but we are making it as perfect as we can.
Next step, the copyedits!