I’m eighty-eight pages into the second draft, which means it’s time to put down my laptop for a moment and check in with you, oh loyal reader of these rambling and soon-to-be-concluded ghostwriter diaries. Why pause for breath on this particular page? Read on and you’ll find out.
This might be the second draft, but it’s actually the fifth time I’ve I plunged into this fantasy world to share the lives of these fictional characters (whom I have, incidentally, grown to love). The first time was when I got the outline: the skeleton on which it’s my job to put the flesh. The second time was when I wrote the first draft, and the third time was when I reviewed it prior to submission.
The fourth time came last week, when I worked through the copy changes that have been made by the editorial team. The vast majority of these were smart, snappy and irrefutably correct, so the process was largely a matter of speed-reading to each edit point, considering the change and accepting it.
So what’s this fifth pass all about? Well, as well as making the changes I mentioned above, the team has also peppered the manuscript with comments, picking out all the places where a character’s motivation needs adjustment or clarification, or where the tension needs ramping up, or where tweaks to their ongoing storyline (this is the first book of a trilogy) necessitate some or other alteration. They’ve also targeted all the spots where my first-draft prose just doesn’t quite cut the mustard. And yes, there are a few of those.
Pass Number Five is by far the most important part of the editing process. When it’s done – and if there’s any gas left in the tank – I intend to tackle the manuscript one more time.
By the time I start this sixth and final pass, my eyes will be far from fresh. By the time I finish, they may very well be bleeding. That’s why I’m planning to do this last-chance edit from the driving seat of a stainless steel deLorean, speeding along at – you guessed it – eighty-eight miles per hour. Because the only conceivable way to shed all the baggage I’ve accrued during the creation of this book is to travel back in time, back to the moment where I’m both first-draft writer and first-time reader. The time when anything is still possible.
Well, it worked for Marty McFly.