OFF TO CUZZIE

After more than a month of intensive editing, the book has now gone off to my proofreader for checking. That job belongs to ‘Cuzzie’ my wife’s cousin, who is the only person I know who I can rely on to be ruthless in her assessment. Editing is where so many independent writers fail. Having put all their effort into creating the work, they give it a cursory once-over and leave it at that. That is not the purpose of editing at all. A professional editor would charge around £1000 to edit a book like mine, so it is reasonable to expect that they would do something for their money. It is a demanding and intensive process that does not come naturally to a creative person.

I do my own version of what a professional editor would do. This involves going through the text multiple times, onscreen and on paper, both forwards and backwards. If that sounds tedious, it is, but it is also rewarding because it reveals all the weaknesses to which we are oblivious when writing the book. It is here that a mediocre turn of phrase can be transformed into an inspired one. It was during editing that I discovered that Bruno’s and Alice’s timelines were out of sync. I had to call up the Excel spreadsheet and lay out all the events of each timeline and sort them into the right order. These things happen. In turn, that meant that many passages in the central portion of the book had to be moved around and revised to fit properly. That was quite intensive, I can tell you.

A couple of passages have disappeared altogether. One was a small event that I had believed to be a historical fact. I included it as a bit of background information. When I checked it, however, I found that it was more of an old wives’ tale than a fact, so I deleted it. Another was a snippet of specialised information about Spitfires that I had read about somewhere. It appeared in one of Alice’s passages, however, and, although she knows about Spitfires – and even watches them flying in one scene – she wouldn’t know that. Therefore, I had to ask myself whether mentioning it was essential to the plot or me showing off. I decided that it was the latter and deleted it.

It didn’t end there, though. All this revising had resulted in almost every page in the book being improved – effectively redrafting the entire work, but it was still littered with minute technical errors, many of which were introduced during the editing process. Among these are the occasions where I forgot to include the closing speech marks, or I deleted a sentence but left the full stop inadvertently, or I changed a phrase but forgot to delete a word that was no longer required. To get rid of these, you need a grammar checker, and I use two.

Editor is built into the word processor, Microsoft Word. Grammarly is a stand-alone utility. They do the same job but have different strengths. Each finds weaknesses that the other fails to notice, hence the desirability of running both. All, of this has resulted in the book being more than 10,000 words shorter than it was. Don’t mourn the missing 10,000. They should not have been there in the first place. It now tips the scales at just over 120,000 words.

While it is away with Cuzzie, I will make a Kindle edition and read it on that. Viewing it on a different screen can reveal yet more details that need attention, so I may have dealt with some of her observations before I get the book back. When I do, it is up to me whether to act on her recommendations, but I ignore them at my peril.

All being well, it should be published before the month is out.


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