Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The joys of line edits

I come to you with bleary eyes, sick of the sound of my own writing. What better time to pontificate in a blog, eh?

On Friday I received an email with a line-edited version of my novel, Hal Spacejock. This is the rewritten version which Freo Arts Press will be publishing later in the year, and the editor has gone through it line by line to find confusing bits, things which could be expressed better and so on.

I printed the revised version and jumped from one change to the next, applying the ol' red pen and approving or reversing each one. It was easy work, since the editor was kind enough to send me a version with all changes tracked.

Next I took the slab of paper and entered all my own changes into the word processor. Then I printed another copy of the book, took it away and read it cover to cover - all 81,767 words of it. There's something addictive about tweaking a fresh slab of text, and I will often find myself stripping 200 commas from one draft only to insert 250 during the next. (For example, the comma in the previous sentence isn't necessary. But if you take it out and re-read it you might find that a comma after 'text' does indeed improve it.) So, after 17 hours straight I had 250+ A4 pages covered with red scribble. I returned to the computer and entered those changes. Sunday I printed another copy and repeated the process, and this time there were only 2 or 3 changes per 6 or 7 pages. Monday I printed another copy and once again repeated the process. This time there were only 2 or 3 changes per 20 pages. Today I'm reading the book with the red pen lying on the floor beside me - with the understanding that I can only pick it up for stuff-ups.

The problem is that I don't know how my editor will react when this little hand-grenade lobs into her inbox. Am I a dedicated professional writer because I did 4 more draft copies to polish this thing to the highest possible standard I'm capable of? Or am I a perfectionist nut who's just created hours more work for an already overworked editor? I feel like the latter to be honest, although I was only striving for the former. She's going to receive this word document evocative of that old joke. (What's black and white and red all over? A draft of Hal Spacejock!) If you've used the 'track changes' mode in a word processor you'll know what I mean - it's possible to switch between the normal black and white mode, and a mode where everything you've deleted shows up in red with a strike-through line right in the middle of the text.

Oh well, tomorrow I'll discover whether I'm Pro or Nut.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)


Sam said...

Hi there,
I read your interview in 'My Shelf', and found it very positive. I'm glad your book is taking off, and wish you all the best! I'm going to look for it when it comes out in 2005 - I hope you'll let me know when it's available.
My first book was published in Australia as well, and when the publisher folded, I got the rights back. Your article has made me start considering self publishing. Best wishes,
Jennifer Macaire

Simon Haynes said...

Hi Jennifer, thanks for your post.

I'm glad you got the rights back - some of those things can tie you up for years.

I had fun writing the Myshelf article, but I've had to explain to a few people that I don't usually look that aggro ;-)

If anyone would like to know when my book comes out, I've set up a release notification page which doubles as a draw for a free copy.

David Forbes said...

Hi Simon,

I'm glad you let me know you were out there. I've bookmarked your site and will read the myshelf article sometime over the weekend. Good luck with your book endeavors. Sounds like things are going well for you.