Ghostwriter Diaries 12

NotebookHaving completed phase one of my ghostwriting assignment (the first twelve chapters of the novel), I’m now deep into phase two. However, my timescale is so tight, and my editors so efficient, that I’ve already received a complete set of notes on phase one.

Getting feedback as you go along is a good thing. I’m pleased to say the first chapters were positively received, and that the notes are well-targeted, intelligent and immensely helpful (upon receiving them, I naturally went through the five stages of editorial feedback; every writer does and, if they tell you they don’t, they’re lying). There’s only one instance of moving goalposts: an early passage I need to revisit because of last-minute tweaks to the storyline. That’s a hazard of this kind of project, but nothing too troublesome.

The rest of the edit comprises remarks ranging from “Can you rephrase to avoid repetition?” or “How does [this character] know this? Can you clarify please?” as well as individual word replacements and sentence deletions, the occasional restructuring of a paragraph, adjusting a character’s reaction to a particular event and so on. Standard copy editing stuff. There’s also a heart-warming mix of comments like “Wow!” and “Super!”. I even appear to have brought some of the editors close to tears! I mention these latter not out of any desire for self-aggrandisement, but to illustrate the way a good editorial team will treat the process of copy editing as a complete communication tool. Geography means I’m over a hundred miles distant from these folks yet, reading the edit, I feel like we’re in the same room.

Most important of all, I can use the notes on phase one to inform my writing in phases two and three. One issue that cropped up regularly was a tendency to “tell” – in other words, to use an omniscient authorial voice, thus creating undesirable distance between the reader and the POV character. I think it’s a product of writing a little too fast, and of the time it’s taken to get properly into the characters’ heads. I’ve recorded in these diaries how, early on, I was writing a little mechanically. That went away as I got deeper into the MS, and I reckon it’s gone altogether now; I’m living and breathing the story. That alone should make my “telling habit” go away. If not, at least I’m aware of it now, and that will keep me on my toes.

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