The Editor Regrets…

Behind every author who has ambitions of success, there is a good editor. In my case, she is also my wife, Juli.

The Butterfly & The Bull is my first novel (indeed, my first significant piece of fiction writing) which means that the whole enterprise, from blank sheet to publication and beyond, was a constant learning experience. From the first glimmer of an idea while walking on the beach by the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, I developed the plot and action of the story in my head over a period of six months.  I shared it with no one but Joe The Dog and the occasional turkey buzzard or seagull that happened along during my meanderings.

It wasn’t until I decided to write the story down that I began to get a sense of the key role of the editor.  I shared the hasty outpourings with her. She was encouraging, but offered advice which proved to be crucial. Things like:  “Donnie is the hero. You just can’t make him behave like a wimp. It spoils his character;” and “The story is really about Donnie trying to get his wife back. And yet you’ve got several chapters here where she isn’t mentioned at all. It won’t work;” and “This section is just boring – you need some action here;” and  “Donnie/O’Malley/Ellie/Lynn would never say something like that. It’s out of character.” And so on.  In amongst comments about grammar and style and typos, there was this flow of advice. I didn’t agree with all of it and we occasionally has some robust discussions, but almost always her sense of what would work was spot on.

Then, I rewrote the whole novel and, in the process, began to find a style and a voice. The author/editor relationship began to change.  I got even more positive feedback, but also harsher criticism when I overwrote or failed the realism test.

And then it was done and we began the long process of checking for inconsistencies, typos and formatting errors. I completely underestimated how hard that was going to be. Adding to the challenge, what I thought was a tight control of document versions proved to be too sloppy and we would occasionally find errors appearing which we knew had been corrected. But after maybe six line-by-line passes, we felt ready for the next stage.

When the interior and cover were finally uploaded to the CreateSpace website, I was fairly confident that the final proof would need very little correcting. I guess it depends what would count as “very little” – it seemed like a lot at the time.

The book has now been on sale for several months. I know that there is a character in it called Willits who has his name spelled Willets at one point. Apart from that, no one has pointed out any typos.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that there are none there…

2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Writing

2 responses to “The Editor Regrets…

  1. Joanne McClintock

    Well, that’s what you get for marrying an English teacher! I’m laughing at the innocence of you……………….thinking that Juli would miss out on the opportunity! I have just (belatedly – I know, I’m sorry) contacted Amazon for a copy of The Butterfly and the Bull. I’m sure I’ll be captivated by it (but I will have my blue pencil handy, just in case.) Best of luck Stuart.

  2. Thanks, Joanne! It’s great to see you commenting on here. Most of the activity related to the blog happens on Twitter and Facebook and other sites where the posts get fired off to each time I write one. I have now officially stopped describing myself as ‘retired’!
    Hope you enjoy the book (and thanks for the support). If your blue pencil makes any strikes, just contact my editor…

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