Three lessons from editing


Editing my manuscript of ON SACRED MOUNTAINS, what have I learned? What has the editor got to teach the writer?

I got a bit breathy sometimes, telling the reader how wonderful something was instead of simply showing it. It's understandable. Epiphanies are hard things to describe and it's common to tell such a story and have it scorned. Insisting on the wonder is a form of self-defence. Even so I've crossed out such moments. They don't work.

For a while I've followed the Barbara Cartland rule of success. She claimed she could improved the sales of any book by rendering it into shorter paragraphs. I do appreciate swatches of blank space on a page, but I found I had overdone it, so rather than creating paragraphs I have combined them.

One other little thing, a piece of advice offered by the poet and film-maker James Broughton after reading a manuscript of mine. Stop saying "There is". He reckoned it was lazy, and that a more exact and compelling way of saying the same thing always existed. I've tried to heed his advice ... and have taken out a lot of "there was" etc in this new draft.

So much for the small stuff. Other changes are structural, to do with the composition and pacing of story. I like how it's going. It's a book of revelation, which some will like and others won't, but at least it will be tidy!

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