My apologies for being so quiet on my blog lately. As most of you would already know, I’ve been doing the structural edits on my novel. They’re notoriously hard—just ask any author—and I had only one month in which to complete them. That month also happened to be February, so I felt a little short-changed—why couldn’t it have been January or March? Those extra three days would have been nice!
For those readers who aren’t novelists, perhaps I should explain what a structural edit actually is. A structural editor looks at the big picture of a novel—the ‘macro’—checking everything to make sure the whole story flows. They review things like the narrative arc, the characters, and the plot, and check for holes or things that aren’t clear or don’t make sense.
My structural editing report was eight pages long. I can now admit that when I first read it, I nearly cried. This text to my husband says it all:
‘Got the edits and I’m panicking. Want to give back the advance and pull out. I can’t do it 😫😫😫😭😭😭’
I felt awful. I thought I’d written the worst story ever, that I was a shit writer, and that I should pull out of the contract and save Allen and Unwin the embarrassment of publishing my manuscript.
Those thoughts didn’t last long, though. I pulled myself together and reminded myself that, firstly, A&U had liked my book enough to buy it, and, secondly, some of the comments in those eight pages were actually nice things about my book.
Thirdly, and perhaps most reassuringly of all, every single point my editor had said was spot on and insightful. She’d understood my book, its characters, and its themes—she’d got it. She was someone whose judgement I could trust, and she was helping me to make it better. That’s what this was about—making my story the best it could be, and to me, that meant everything.
The vision my editor had for my novel was my vision, too, and I so dearly wanted to deliver. But sitting in the pit of my belly was a weighty doubt that I could.
However, because pulling out wasn’t an option, I had no choice but to try. I felt as if I was aiming for the impossible, but I boxed up my self-doubts and anxiety and put them aside, and set to work. I did not cry once during the whole four weeks—I’m actually very proud of that. I felt like it, many times, but, as one does when confronted with anything that seems impossible, I kept my doubts tucked away and slowly worked my way through each sentence and paragraph, page and chapter of my manuscript—bird-by-bird, as Ann Lamott says. Like with anything you plug away at, you eventually reach the end—the insurmountable is never as insurmountable as it seems.
I may not have achieved everything I set out to do, but I’ve certainly made my novel better, and brought it closer to that ‘ideal’ for which I was aiming.
I must say that since submitting it, I’ve sent my editor further revisions. When I sent the Final Final Final Draft, I realised I had to close the file and step away from my computer, or I’d have kept going.
Now I wait to see what my editor thinks. I may have to revise more before I move onto the next stage, the ‘copy edits’. Copy edits examine the ‘micro’ of a manuscript, looking at things like spelling, grammar, punctuation and word choices, and checking that facts and dates are correct.
They’re meant to be much easier—fingers crossed!
My novel will be on the shelves in six months and the excitement in the attic is building! If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, you can do so by clicking here, and be the first to read any news, hear about the title, see the cover, etc.
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