Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Being Edited

I am currently working through the line edit of my Science Fiction thriller Haunters (blogged about before as ‘The Ghost Effect’ and due to be published by the Chicken House next May). For those who don’t know what a line edit is, it’s the part of the editorial process that involves the most red ink, the part where the text is scrutinised line by line in search of errors, inconsistencies and crapness. My editor has cut 6,000 words. That’s a lot of crapness. Here is some of it:

  1. Purple prose. Of the ‘behold my literary sensibilities’ variety. I don’t know whether to be grateful or embarrassed about this, so I shall be both.
  2. Repetition. Saying it clearly the first time means not having to say it loosely again and again.
  3. Waffle. My book isn’t set in Belgium. And even if it was, characters should never be allowed to sit about in comfy chairs, explaining the plot to each other. At least not in front of the reader.
  4. Un-warranted non-verbal communication and other narrative ticks. Such as staring, gasping, sighing, eye-rolling and arse-scratching. Actually, no-one ever scratched their arse in my book, but if they had, they wouldn’t be doing it now.
  5. Seeming. When things patently are.   
  6. Many instance of the word that. On the whole I think that this is a good thing.
  7. A policeman. Yes, a whole policeman. He was a rubbish policeman anyway. I like to think that he’s now in the next street, scratching his arse.
  8. Repetition. Oh…

I’m told some writers actually go ahead and publish their own e-books without any input from an editor. Don’t do that. 


  1. After going through a similar (but not as strict) process with my technical book, point 6 haunted me time and time again, in addition to the word 'this'.
    In my case the question "what is this 'that' or that 'this' referring to?" was asked (justifiably) far too often.

  2. The editor said that that that that he referred to was a that too many? Right, I get it!

  3. That's right, Eleanor. And that's that.

  4. It's weird how a word loses its meaning when used like perforations. Crumbs, I'm worrying about my writing now.....

  5. Rachel, I don't think you need to worry.

  6. Ha ha ha - I do all of those!! Especially gasping and nodding!

    And it wasn't a policeman I had to delete - it was a dog!


  7. Maybe the dog could become the policeman's best friend, Kate:)

  8. They're probably already together in the special place where all our deleted characters go. :-)

  9. Wonderful post. Made me giggle. x

  10. I'm always uncertain about using 'that'. Usually I end up including it. I shall try not to.

    Anyway hello! Your Mum mentioned your blog on my blog and said you were local to me - Bexhill - so I thought I'd drop in, unannounced I know (forgive me), but well, here I am.

    I'll be back. :)

  11. Thanks, Lynne:)

    Hello, Wendz. Thanks for dropping by. Always fun to meet another seaside blogger.

  12. I chuckled all through the post, and sniggered through the comments! Although now I shall be as self-conscious about using 'that' as I am about 'so', oh dear!

  13. They're certainly beating that poor book of yours into shape - a good one, I hope! Just as long as you don't need to give away a box of elastoplast with every copy...

  14. And how, Nick. In fact, after so many rounds of revision, chasing down inconsistencies is a huge part of this edit. And I've also had to accept -- though I hate to admit it -- that my book was in pretty poor shape whan it went out initially. I'm lucky they took it on.

  15. It's a team game, innit?

    I can't remember the order of events but there came a point with my one where it was gently suggested that it didn't really get going until about a third of the way in. This sounded a bit harsh at first but as my next rereading of it had me yawning in chapter two I was forced to agree and took the hatchet to a lot of it. Quite right too.

    Come to the launch? Jan 5th in Heffers? Wine, nibbles and cake?

  16. Dave, you are so right about it being a team game. And I get really annoyed with people who don't get that, and who think being a WRITOR is all about living on a magic mountain and casting down scrolls of pristine wisdom for immediate publication.

    I'd love to come to your book launch. Thank you. In fact, I'm wondering about coming up to Cambridge to have mine when the time comes. if I have one...

  17. Oh you have to have a launch! I was ambivalent about it beforehand the first time round but it was an absolute blast in the end. You Must Do It!


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