The Copy -Edit Blues

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You’ll grow to love your copy-editor. It may take a little time as you work through the corrections and comments tracked down the side of your manuscript, but eventually you will realise how important they are.

It is rather deflating to open a document and notice a page of red tracking changes on the right hand side. A glaring pointer to misplaced commas, typos that had slipped through and comments pointing out continuity errors and suggestions to improve the understanding or readability of a sentence. And then the joy of discovering a page of pristine black and white text, free of the red errata markers.

I decided to tackle the least daunting task first. Clicking my way through, accepting the punctuation corrections and then going back through to address the comments. (Can you imagine how long this would have taken before the computer??) It certainly started out as a fairly straightforward process, but as I moved through my manuscript, I became quite emotional, and a little defensive. I’d spent so long writing this book. I’d listened to Tess, my main character talking to me, telling me about her life, her feelings and here was a copy-editor changing and commenting on my work? Arrgh! But I wrestled myself back into a box, talked myself down from the tree and spoke to my editor, Anne Reilly.

‘Do I have to accept all the comments and changes?’ I asked nervously.

‘No, of course not. It’s your name on the cover,’ she replied.

‘That’s right.’ I reminded myself. My name on the cover. Arrrgh!! Again. But a different Arrrgh! this time. This was the realisation that yes, this was actually happening. I am having my book published. I’d finally moved from beyond the surreal, is this actually happening to me stage?,  to the wow, this is actually happening, bring on stress-inducing terror of making it as perfect as I could, stage.

So, I moved through the comments, paring back, rewriting where necessary and rejecting what I felt I needed to. Now, with the benefit of some sleep and a few days distance, it wasn’t a huge amount of work, but there was one scene I rewrote completely. Perhaps a few pages doesn’t sound so much, but at this stage it took some courage to take a deep breath, admit I could do better and start it again.

It was a fortnight of stress. Of working through my emotional reactions to the process, of bringing objectivity and new inspiration to a project I’ve been working on for a few years. That’s not so easy. Not for me.

I made my deadline with an A++ for reliability and delivery from my editor. And now I’m back in waiting mode. there’s a lot of waiting in the publishing process. There is other work to do and the pleasure and responsibility of writing my Acknowledgements and an Author’s note.  I haven’t heard any screams of torment reverberating across Sydney Harbour from my publisher’s office – I’ll let you know if I do!

Next up, the copy is sent to the typesetter and my next delivery will be the pages. And then off to the printers.

I’m nearly there. The Wardrobe Girl will be available from the beginning of March in bookstores and as an e-book.

You can also follow me here on Facebook.

There’s more to being published than writing a book.

So, you’ve written a book. You’ve done the editing and the rewriting. It’s in the hands of a publisher. Job done. Right? Wrong.

No, your job is about to take on whole new world. Welcome to marketing and publicity, the business end of the publishing industry. Perhaps in some Publishing Utopia you can just focus on your creativity, your artistic endeavour, but here on Planet Earth, it doesn’t work that way. Not if you do actually want to be published. I’m not going to get involved in self=publishing here, because I know nothing about it, but I suspect it’s no different.

For the last few weeks I have been busy finessing the cover of my novel, The Wardrobe Girl. The artwork and ‘look’ was done in-house by Random Books Australia, briefed by my publisher, Bev Cousins. This included writing the back cover copy, my bio and finding the best filmic image to place the book in its world of a TV soap opera.

The Front Cover was a very pleasant surprise, once I got my head around the pink typeface, I was delighted. If you’ve ever spoken to an author, or listened to an author at a writers’ festival, you may have heard the horror stories about covers they hate being imposed on them. But I loved that the girl in the image has an intelligent, curious, slightly cheeky expression and I loved the film set paraphernalia. It has the visual quality and feel of a film poster, which is perfect. Be ready, for a strange experience here – you will see your name on the cover of the book. It’s the most wonderful feeling of surreal disbelief and butterflies of joy.

The back cover copy is so important too. Once the reader/buyer picks up your book because the cover is so wonderful, this could be their first introduction to your book and once they’re holding it you want them to keep a tight hold of it until they part with their cash and take it home to read. It needs to intrigue, pique the interest and reflect the tone/style of the novel. You don’t want them putting back on the shelf because they’ve decided it sounds to highbrow when a holiday read is what they’re after and vice-versa. This is surprisingly tricky to pull off, so be prepared and practise!

I was lucky that the ‘shoutout line’ on the cover was perfect, so I didn’t need to worry about that. But again, be prepared. Your publisher may send through something you hate, or may need a bit of tweaking.

And of course the most psychologically damaging part of the whole exercise – the author shot. My book is very much a genre novel – chick-lit, to be precise. so my brief was ‘warm and inviting, friendly, big smile. I confess, I pulled out the big guns. I employed a professional photographer, the talented Angela Pelizzari, and make-up artist to the stars of TV, Trinity Raine. It was so worth it. they made the whole experience relaxing and comfortable. Don’t try to scrimp by here – your mugshot will be on the back cover of your book forever! And you don’t want to scare the punters away either.

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I sent off about half a dozen shots for Bev to choose and within a couple of days the finalised cover appeared in my inbox. there on the back cover was my photo! If I was excited seeing my name, it pales in comparison to the overwhelming reality check of me looking out from the back cover of the book. My book. It was about now I became a little teary.

But that’s just the cover. I have created a Facebook Author Page and the hashtag #TheWardrobeGirl on Twitter and I’m helping design the Chapter Openers with my in-house editor, Anne Reilly.

But the writing goes on. By the end of this month the copy edit will arrive and I’ll have a couple of weeks to work through that, before it’s returned for a final copy edit. And then it’s off to the printers by the end of December.

Stay tuned, as they say, the next few months could be pretty hectic!

PS this blog post is also a shameless piece of self-promotion for my book!

Revising The Revisions: Learning How To Edit.

Novellist, Toni Jordan* describes writers as ‘Knitters or Quilters.’ There are the writers, like me who ‘cast on’ their story at Chapter 1 and then knit/write their way to the end, ‘casting off’ only when they have finished the last chapter. Conversely, the ‘quilters’, write/quilt pieces and then sew/write the pieces to form blocks and then piece together again to form a whole. The editing process is mostly a quilting process.

I quite like a bit of nanna technology and can often have a couple of knitting or quilting projects on the go, so this analogy made perfect sense to me. I realised, that for me, the art of editing was going be learning how to quilt as a writer. How to move pieces/passages around the manuscript, creating new pieces and then pulling it all together.

But let’s go back a step. My publisher, Beverley Cousins at Random House, sent me through some very comprehensive notes about the manuscript – some general observations, detailed notes on particular scenes and points that needed clarification. She had also picked up typos, spelling and punctuation errors. This was all on a hard copy of the manuscript, marked up line by line, with an explanation of the squiggles she uses as shorthand.

For the next 6 weeks or so, these documents were my Bible.

I had a road map to follow and follow I did. Although I didn’t take on every suggestion, because there were some things I felt needed to stay. Now I could finally look at my work with fresh eyes. After the long process of writing, then rewriting and revising before I even submitted the manuscript, I’d reached a point where I’d fallen out of love with writing, my writing, my manuscript.  I was re-energised. Yes, I was worried I might ruin the whole story, destroy all that work, but understand this: there is no rational basis for the terror that may descend at this point. all you can do is write through it. I know, it’s not fair.

Some pages look like this.

Some pages look like this.

Other pages look more like this.

Other pages look more like this.

The revisions bring tough decisions. Some ‘darlings’ are killed off. Lines you’d waited for, hunted for, scrawled out, rewritten and fought for, are sent to the editing room floor. Characters must earn their place in the story and if they don’t, so long. Other characters begin to play a role you never anticipated for them, or become more sympathetic. It’s hard to change your characters, even their names (one of my supporting cast had his name changed 3 times). I love all my characters, even the ones I disliked. They all talked to me and gave me ideas, when I was quiet enough to listen.

Of course, some of the revision was ‘mechanical’. Correcting typos, punctuation, etc and that’s where I chose to start. I could do this straight onto the computer and it didn’t require a great deal of creative thought, but it did put me back in touch with the story. It allowed ideas to form and percolate.

Eventually, you have to do the writing! I wish there was a secret formula for that, but I’m still searching. And perhaps this is another example of my love of nanna technology, now I reach for my pen and paper, or my Moleskine books.  I head off to The State Library of NSW and I write.

Writing - Stage 1 the nanna technology

Writing – Stage 1 the nanna technology

And then I rewrite the revisions. But there’s more. The next step is entering it into the computer and there’s always some tweaking and tinkering done there. That’s printed off, and a final edit with pen and paper is done.

Eventually, I make it this far.

Eventually, I make it this far.

It’s not a quick process, but as Michael Crichton** says, ‘Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten’.

There is one final step, the most terrifying. You email your revisions back to your publisher and wait…

Actually, I’m wrong. The most terrifying moment is opening the return email from your publisher. Fortunately, Bev loved my revisions. Now my manuscript is off to the copy-editor. I’ll let you know how that goes.

*Toni Jordan is an Australian author of intelligent, funny, novels that some might call chick-lit. Click here for her Official Website

**Michael Crichton was a best-selling author extaordinaire, Jurassic Park is just one of his many books and creator of one my all time favourite TV shows, ERClick here for his official Website.

When Bridget Jones crash lands on the set of Home and Away…

If you’re reading this, then let me tell you some amazing news. No, no, come closer I want to be sure you hear. Sitting comfortably? Good.

 

My book has been picked up by Beverley Cousins of Random House Australia and is going to published next April!!!

Hitting Your Mark - the first draft

Hitting Your Mark – the first draft

Sorry, I didn’t mean to squeal with delight quite so loudly into your ear. But you did hear, didn’t you?

Unbelievable. It really does happen. All that scratching away in the State Library of NSW, removed from the distractions of Facebook, Twitter,  the internet, the washing, ironing and assorted other household tasks I hate doing but just screamed for attention when I should’ve been writing. The editing, the rewriting, the frustration, the tears, the staring out of windows waiting for the right word, the rewriting, the workshops, writing groups – did I mention the rewriting? And lets not forget the self doubt which was almost paralysing sometimes. It’s all come to fruition.

'Pretty Beach'

‘Pretty Beach’

And unlike you, I wasn’t sitting comfortably, reading my computer screen, oh no. I had spent half a day travelling from Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand and was waiting at Brisbane Domestic Airport for the flight home to Sydney when my 6 year old announced she was desperate for the toilet. I was on the phone to my 23 year old daughter who was accessing my emails for me as I stood in the cubicle wondering if my gorgeous agent, Sheila Drummond had sent The Message. So, I discovered my dream had become a reality standing in a toilet cubicle, with my young daughter demanding that I pass the toilet paper she couldn’t reach! Oh yes, life’s all glamour for us soon-to-be- published authors.

Details? Yes, okay, I’m getting there – I was just basking in the glow of my dream. My book will be published by Random House Australia, next April – 2014, just in time for Mothers Day. It will be found in the Commercial Women’s Fiction section of your local bookstore. At the moment it’s titled ‘Pretty Beach Rescued‘ but that’s bound to change. The elevator pitch for my novel is just the same as this blog post – when Bridget Jones crash lands on the set of Home and Away.

Palm Beach aka Pretty Beach

Palm Beach aka Pretty Beach

Before I had my youngest daughter (I have 3 altogether 25, 23 and 6), I worked in the film and TV industry, including 5½ years on the long-running Australian soap opera, Home and Away and my inspiration for my novel comes from my time at Home and Away.  And as the opening paragraph of my synopsis explains:-

Pretty Beach Rescued has all the elements that make chick-lit ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the media industry novels, such as Bridget Jones Diary and The Devil Wears Prada resonate with the reader: men, gossip, complications, family drama, embarrassing predicaments and, of course, an inside look into the production of the media piece in question – in this case the TV show Pretty Beach Rescue, which is recognisably modelled on Home and Away. The novel is a fun, easy, sink-you-nails-into read with refreshing wit, vivid and aptly filmic descriptions.

"Pretty Beach Again"

“Pretty Beach Again”

But as they say, stay tuned, I’ll be writing about my experiences in the world of publishing and the process from contract to publication, which is still a bit of mystery to me! And I’ll also give you some inside gossip about my characters, particularly the gorgeous, if somewhat clumsy,  Tess Appleby, my heroine.

Scissors, Paper Write

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I was chatting to my uber-talented friend, Felicity Coonan*, Art Director at Animal Logic, about my starting point for writing. ‘That’s just like a Production Designer,’ she commented.

I’d never really thought about it in that way, but I realised she was absolutely correct. As a writer/author, I am also my works’ production designer. I create the world my characters will brreathe life into and roam freely around. Just as Felicity created the world of the owls for her film, The Legend of the Guardians, The Owls of Ga’hoole.

I’d love to be able to say that I developed this technique myself, but I was introduced to this wonderful approach by the equally uber-talented Margo Lanagan**. Margo introduced me to the scrapbook one Sunday, sitting around a table in Petersham with a small group of writers ( I will write about the importance of being part of a writers group, but that’s a whole post in itself!).

On the table were magazines, art journals, papers, scissors, glue and the empty scrapbook I’d been asked to bring along by another uber-talented woman, Jan Cornall*** (are you getting a theme here?) I looked through Margo’s scrapbooks filled with images of seals, kelp forests, water and misty, mystical images. Although none of them ‘spoke’ to me, understandable as I wasn’t writing about selkies, the process did.

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Soon, I was cutting and pasting. Scouring magazines, papers, journals and the free postcard stand at cafe for an image that I related to. I found my characters lurking in Vanity Fair, Who Weekly, Marie Clair and the Sydney Morning herald. I then took it a step further and added fabric swatches, found scents, did numerous location scouts searching for the right house, the right cafe, the right apartment block and photographed them for my scrapbook. I created the world, a visual landscape for my chartacters to breathe life into.

 

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I started other scrapbooks of various images that appealed to me. These books, along with my notebooks and love of the Evernote App, have become as essential to my writing process as my pen/pencil and Moleskine exercise books.

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As I went further along the writing process, I would refer to my scrapbook often. Sometimes just to get the right feel, sometimes for a specific accessory, outfit, or hairstyle. Sometimes when I’m stuck, I’ll flick through it, and visiting the world might kickstart a thought, an idea.

Writing isn’t always about the physical act of writing. The thinking,  the visualisation of your world, your characters’ world, the walks when you let your thoughts roam, are all ‘writing’. It’s about finding what works and using it.

 

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*Felicity Coonan has worked on films as diverse Happy Feet, Three Hundred and most recently, The Great Gatsby

**Margo Lanagan is an Australian writer of YA and Short Stories and a multi-award winner. Her novel , Sea Hearts, was short-listed for this year’s Stella Prize and is about the selkies. It’s beautiful, as are all her novels.

***Jan Cornall is a fabulous mentor, writer, performance artist. Her website is – Writers’ Journey

Second Album Syndrome or Writing Book Two

 

Killcare Beach

Killcare Beach

You’d like to think that after writing a book that’s picked up by a literary agent, the writing of book number 2 would come easily, wouldn’t you? But second album syndrome is alive and well in my creative neck of the woods.

Having been told to start writing book two IMMEDIATELY, by my agent (pause for a moment while I let the words ‘my agent’ sink in), I did what any self-respecting writer would do; I had a creative meltdown.

It sounded a little like this.

Start a whole new book? How can I start a whole new book when I’m creatively exhausted from writing the first book?  Find all those new words? Again? How can I do that when I have (practically) no idea what the second book is actually about.? Haven’t I done enough? I don’t want to do this again, it’s way too confronting. What if it’s terrible?

Cue – the sequel.

That seemed like an easy straw to grasp, but even that proved to be very slippery to hang on to. But it was something. So, with no idea where it might take me, I wrote a Chapter One, hoping that some miraculous epiphany would occur. It didn’t. But at least I had a chapter.

In a state of mounting panic, which has yet to fully subside, I went away for 4 days at great cost to the family I left behind. My husband, who paid the bill, my 23 yo daughter who became the live-in nanny for my 6 yo daughter and of course the 6yo daughter who doesn’t think her mother should go anywhere without her.

I made the 1½ hour trip up to Killcare on NSW’s Central Coast and made myself at home in a 2 bedroom cottage with a wonderful deck overlooking the ocean. and for 4 days I thought about Book Number Two. Away from the everyday clutter and distractions of my life, I could let my thoughts roam. If I was  being filmed by a fly-on-a-wall documentary team, this is what those 4 days would like.

Me having a leisurely breakfast of yoghurt and fresh fruit on the deck with the view. Then, after a second cup of tea, a walk down to the beach for a trudge along the sand and a swim and a bit more trudging.Tthe trudging would lead me to the local cafe for a coffee and a catch up on all things internet, emails, Twitter, Facebook, the odd phone call. All necessary, no procrastinating here. Then back up to the cottage for a light lunch and some scrawling, or looking through magazines for visual prompts. It was pretty taxing, so I’d have a little nap before some more afternoon scrawling and scribbling. By which time, I was thirsty and needing a glass of wine. Then dinner at the local club and of course uninterrupted TV viewing and book reading.

It might not sound like work, but by the end of those 4 days, I had worked out a roadmap for the story and had the bones of the first 2 chapters on which to hang the flesh of a story. I can’t go away every week, or conduct my normal life like this, but removing yourself from the distractions, giving yourself permission to think, to let ideas form, to listen to your characters is invaluable. And that’s how my first book was written. In the moments when I shut my brain off and let the ideas percolate, brew and take shape. It was written in the writing myself into the story and not dictating from above, basically, by getting out of my way.

How many of the words or ideas will actually make it into the final draft of book 2, I have no idea, but it’s not important now. I have made a start and that is what matters.

From Dream to Reality

 

Yesterday I took a step closer to becoming a published author. I signed an Author’s Agreement with Literary Agent, Sheila Drummond. It’s really all rather surreal. After years of scrawling notes in my Moleskine notebboks, cheap supermarket exercise books, scraps of paper, the back of theatre programmes and finally typing away at my laptop, I’m starting to reap the rewards.

It’s exciting, daunting, overwhelming and absolutely nerve-wracking. But there’s no time for sitting back and basking in the moment. I have to immediately start book two.

It’s no longer enough to have one good book in you, there has to be at least 2, preferably 3 and can you write a book a year? That was a wake-up call!

All this time of nurturing my dream, writing, rewriting, rewriting the rewriting all to create one book and now, today with book number one barely out of my system, I have to start creating a new world to inhabit for the next year. New characters to fall in love with, care about, dislike, wonder about their lives before I met them.

And how to begin? For me it’s with an empty page and a pencil, a thought and then start scrawling and see if ti leads me anywhere. Then I’ll take another blank page and start covering it in visual images, pictures from newspapers, magazines, real estate catalogues, images I’ve Googled and build a representation of the world and characters.

But at the end of the day, it will be all about the writing. Will it be easier this time? I don’t know. Now I’m out of my comfort zone. It’s no longer a closely guarded dream, it’s a reality. Now I have an agent to answer to, not just a monthly writing group. There will be publishers wondering if I’m worth their investment in time and money. At the end of the day, whether you publish with a traditional publishing house or self-publish, you have to confront the reality of the business that allows our work to be read, and that is what we want isn’t it?

And now the empty pages beckon, time to start work.

Back in the Saddle

It has been, as they say, a long time between drinks.

So long, in fact, I’ve gone beyond parched and am rapidly approaching shrivelled, dried and the merest touch could see me crumble away. But now I’m just being melodramatic.

I don’t really know why I stopped blogging regularly. Life happened. I followed other creative pursuits, like knitting my husband a sweater and there was, of course, the small matter of the manuscript. The rewriting, the editing, the coming to grips with the rewriting and the editing. The realisation that as hard and challenging as the first draft was, it was nowhere near as hard as the rewriting and editing.

The first draft was like the drawing of young child. Free, liberated, unconstrained – except by my own doubts – it could flow where it wanted to and I was happy to follow it. Now my wonderfully free-spirited child has to be disciplined to suit the genre, the publishable, the marketable qualities that are needed to move my manuscript from being a long held, quietly nurtured dream, into a fully formed reality.

It’s not easy.

My first edit which was meant to see about 20,000 words cut from the 105, 612 I’d written, resulted in about 3,000 words hitting the cutting room floor. And I realised just how brutal I was going to need to be. All those words I’d fought for, gazed out of windows searching for, got up in the middle night to jot down before I forgot them, they needed to go.  Anyone who’s ever been to a writing workshop will be familiar with the term ‘killing your darlings’, and that is what it feels like  and for me it is accompanied with a fear that these may be the only words I ever had. That new words won’t form, find me on the ferry, seek me out in the hushed quiet of the sleeping house or flow from my pen at the State Library. The fear is not so much that I only have one good book in me, but, that maybe, I only have one good draft.

But cutting 20,000 words isn’t enough. I need to lose more because there will be new words to add, characters to flesh out, new scenarios to create. Then there will be the  seamless weaving in of the new with the old. At least that’s the goal.

I’m currently on draft number four. How many more I’ll need to work through I have no idea. But I remember the words of author Pamela Freeman – ‘You will only ever be as good a writer as the number of drafts you are prepared to do.’ And I think I am only now beginning to fully appreciate just what she was trying to tell the wide-eyed group of writers, hanging on her words at one of those writing workshops.