This is how you can make your book better

Edit. It’s that simple. And if you’re lucky enough to work with a professional editor in the process of writing your book, then treasure that experience. I know I’ve written about this before. But having just emerged from the edit of my second book, If I Should Lose You, then I can’t help but talk about it again.

Editing makes your book better. You can self-edit your book up to a point, but if you really want it to be the best it can be, then you have to trust somebody else to do an edit. My publisher organised a different editor to work with me on this book because, although it has some similarities to What is Left Over, After, it also has some big differences. A good publisher does that – they pick the editor best suited to your book.

My editor was based in Sydney and of course with email and phone calls, this worked just fine. She started with a structural edit, which is all about looking at the big picture of the book – what am I trying to achieve as a writer – and then pointing out areas where I wasn’t achieiving what I wanted to.

In this structural editing report, there was one small sentence, ‘Camille’s (my main character) narrative arc isn’t as strong as Alix’s (another main character). She needs to have more going on in her day to day life.’ Not especially profound you might think but it was that one sentence that changed a large part of my novel quite dramatically. Because as a writer, you start to wonder – well, what else could Camille have going on in her life (she already has a marriage on the rocks, a very ill child and no parents to speak of). Surely that’s dramatic enough? But no it isn’t. That’s all the big stuff in life; Camille needed something more ordinary, more daily, to carry the weight of her narrative. And once you ask that question – what esle could she do? – you begin to have ideas.

One idea jumped out at me staight away and the minute I had it, I knew it was perfect. The idea completely altered my novel and tied all the separate strands up into such a beautiful bundle. But it never would have happened without that one insightful comment in a structural edit report.

So I hope I’ve inspired all my fellow writers to go out and find someone to edit their work. And for those of you who aren’t writers, I hoped I’ve inspired you all to look forward to August this year when If I Should Lose you hits the shelves.

7 comments

  1. Christy

    Hi Natasha

    This post grabbed me as it was something I hadn’t thought about before – narrative arc rather than structural editing that is! Can you possibly give me an example of the ordinary thing you are talking about Camille needed to have going on in her life (not necessarily the one you used just an example of what one could be). Do you mean like a grumpy boss for example – not a major impact but enough to effect her days?

    My protagonist also has a lot of major events occuring so I am just wondering if I am also missing the ordinary everyday events…

    Thanks and I’ve looking forward to reading If I Should Lose.

    Christy

    • Hi Christy

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, you’re right, something like a grumpy boss is what I mean. It needs to be something that isn’t just a one-off incident, but something that can be another story-thread in your book, something that causes your character to make decisions about ordinary, every day events, rather than the big, life-changing stuff.

      In my book, it was having my main character be invited to curate an art exhibition. The book has a bit of an art theme and the exhibition was already a storyline in the book, with a loose connection to the main character. Having her curate the exhibition gave me another vehicle for Camille to discover things about herself, and to interact with people outside of her home and work environment.

      I hope that helps and good luck with your writing!

      Natasha

  2. Christy

    Thanks Natasha

    That’s definitely given me something to think about – will mull over the possible ordinary events that might work for me!

    Christy

  3. marlish glorie

    Hi Natasha, good to hear that the editing of your forthcoming novel went so well. It’s a very special and important relationship the one between the writer and editor. If you can afford it, there are some excellent freelance editors here in Perth.
    Professional editors may seem costly but they’re worth every cent, and you do learn so much from them. And looking forward to reading you novel If I Should Lose You – it sounds like a terrific read.

  4. Hi Natasha
    Besides from entering your Facebook competition https://www.facebook.com/NatashaLesterAuthor?sk=app_228910107186452&app_data – I’d like to say that this is a great tip. How much could one expect to pay for an editor to assist, per hour? x

    • HI Dianne
      Nicola O’Shea is the editor I had for If I Should Lose You. Here is a link to her website: http://www.nicolaoshea.com
      She has a fees section on there which outlines her fees. I assume hers would be fairly representative of the industry as she is a member of all the relevant editing associations. Otherwise it’s hard for me to say because the publishers always pay for the editing, rather than me, so luckily I’ve never had to bear the cost. The editor I had for What is Left Over After was Janet Blagg and she is based here in Perth. I don’t think it matters so much where the editor is based, it’s about finding someone who fits with you and if you can find out about the books they have edited, and if they are the kind of books you like, then you should be okay. I hope that helps.
      Natasha

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