The Secret Dreamworld of an Aspiring Author by Anna Bell - The Joy of Line Editing
When I finished my second edit of my new novel I was delighted. I thought I had a pretty good book on my hands. I then sent it to the line editor, and only when I got the results back did I realise I had still been in draft mode.
I was ridiculously nervous when I sent my new novel off to an editor. Even though I was paying an editor to edit, therefore I was the client, I was petrified the editor would be reading thinking what an earth is this girl doing? No one would buy this!
I also wasn’t too sure what would come back from the process because I wasn’t 100% sure what a line editor was. I imagined that the editor might rewrite or comment on items of the book I didn’t want to change. But I needn't have worried. My manuscript came back in one piece, with a lot of comments in the margins.
So what did the line editor do?
The editor did the equivalent of continuity editing in a film. Imagine the rogue coffee cup that appears in the right then the left hand of an actor. These are mistakes that can be distracting to the audience. Because my novel is set in two sides of a parallel universe this was particularly needed. There were comments about ‘how does that character know that, that happened in the other’s universe,’ and ‘they’re drinking a latte here, and then a mocha later on in the paragraph.’ All things that me as the writer might not have noticed.
In the end I got quite into the continuity element, I even started clearing up items that could be seen as wrong. One of my characters was supposed to have met her husband at an American Football game, but later I mention they got together in the April which is way out of Football season. Which meant I had to rewrite my how they met story. I’m sure the most people wouldn’t have put two and two together, but someone might have and therefore it was worth changing it.
The next important thing the line editor did was to get into the heads of characters. Little notes appeared in the margins, ‘do you think they’d be feeling this then?’, ‘Surely they’d be missing their husband here?’. These were perhaps the hardest bits to re-edit. It was almost like getting an essay back from teachers saying ‘elaborate here’. I had to then re-think and rewrite elements in order to make areas more believable and convincing. There was a lot of head scratching and brain ache at this stage. Especially when anything I did write, I had to make sure it fitted with the rest of the book (to keep the continuity).
Since getting the edit back, I’ve re-edited it twice more. Once to make the changes based on the line editor’s comments. I read the novel on my kindle making notes with good old fashioned pen and paper. Then I read the novel again on my kindle and edited the manuscript. And then I decided it was ready for copy editing.
I guess the way that I would think of it as the editor isn’t there to rewrite or change my book, but instead tease out the best of my writing, making me go to that brain ache stage. Fingers crossed it worked and the book is now the best of my ability. Although I'm still secretly worried the editor will get it back and think I've made it worse!