The long and winding road

July 31, 2009 – Friday 

It has been a long, long, long road!

The first steps were to get the nitty gritty sorted out – formatting, consistency with things like “ok”, numbers (to spell or not to spell), punctuation (to double quote or single quote), and so on. This took HOURS and many read throughs! I learned a lot about the benefits and pitfalls of the “find and replace” tool in word, especially when it came to the task of changing names.

You would think it would be a fairly safe global to change a name from “Amber” to “Jess”, but as it turned out, the result left children clJessing for a better view of the Olympic Torch and thoughts clJessing for space in my mind. Beware the easy option!

After the nitty gritty phase came some re-writing and re-shuffling of parts that were still self-indulgent drivvel, sarcastic, soppy, angry or cynical. And that took another five or so drafts. Each time I though I was finished, that it worked well enough to get by, my fabulous editor would send the manuscript back with a gentle note that refused to let me cut corners. The end result – the absolute best that I could produce. Thank you, Lauren!

I cannot stress enough the importance of a good critical reader (or three). Each person sees things that you, as the author, cannot possbily get the emotional distance to see. There are many stories about writers who argue with their editors about their suggestions, but the way I see it, they are the fresh perspective you need to really test how a reader will respond. If they say it’s sentimental, it’s probably sentimental; if they say it’s confusing, they’re probably right. As a sports-person, there was a lot that I took for granted, but when I had people who were not that in tune with swim-speak have a look at the manuscript, they pulled out a whole lot of instances where I though it was perfectly obvious what was going on, but where, if I were really honest, it was confusing.

So, my advice would be to LISTEN. Not every bit of feedback will be “right”, but every bit of feedback is worth listening to, testing out, cross-referencing with others and then making an honest decision about. And remember: You want to sell your book, not just keep it to please yourself; you want “the public” to love it, not just your mum, so listen to the people who are the public and who sell books for a living. They are the experts. You don’t go to your best friend when you have a toothache… unless your best friend is a dentist!

So the editing is done and my baby has left home for the typesetters. Printers, here we come…


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