On shrubberies, Ugg boots and editing

A couple of days ago I went up to London to meet my editor, Bella Pagan at Tor.

Editing is about to commence.

IMG_1162 Following on from my post about the similarities between plotting a novel and assembling flat-pack furniture, I had considered a follow-up post exploring the parallels between the editing process and my recent attempts to clear five years’ worth of growth from a steep bank at the back of our house. Then I realised that, despite all sorts of potential metaphors
involving pruning and cutting and making way for new growth, the parallels pretty much started and ended with ‘Both things involve extensive chopping’ and ‘Once you’ve started it’s really, really hard to stop.’

This is true. There are now almost no bushes left on the bank. There was some intra-
household debate about whether the bushes were actually holding the bank up, but it hasn’t collapsed so far – okay, ‘so far’ means ‘in the last two weeks’ but I’m feeling pretty confident.

A bit confident.

Well, mildly hopeful.

Anyway, I did come up with a few more rules relating to shrub-reduction, but they turned out to have relatively little application to editing.

For example, ‘Don’t wear ancient Ugg boots while gardening on a really steep bank. One slip and you’re tobogganing down the slope backwards and on your face.

IMG_1158Or ‘If you decide to take a flying leap off a wall and into a garden waste bin to trample down the cut foliage, don’t do it in front of your four-year-old, because when the aforementioned foliage gives way in the manner of a man-trap and lands you in the bottom of the bin, which promptly falls over and spills you out onto the patio, it will be the funniest thing he has ever seen and he will tell everyone on the school-run how ‘mummy was like aaaaaaargh!’ to the accompaniment of a reasonable impression of the panicked arm-waving involved.’

IMG_1970The one about never knowing what you’re going to find when you start hacking extraneous material away probably had some merit in it. Although my novel has a noticeable lack of little red lego astronauts with smiley, happy faces. Maybe I just haven’t done enough editing yet.

So I’ve abandoned my ‘everything I know about editing I learned from gardening on a really steep slope’ post. But it occurred to me the other day that I’m starting the editing process almost exactly a year before publication day – and that it’s almost exactly a year since I started writing the book in the first place. I’ve read a lot of blog posts about the journey to publication, but I still find them fascinating, because the process is otherwise fairly impenetrable. Most writers have a broad idea of the chronology of it all, but I would imagine that it’s only a small minority who have any knowledge about the finer details of the process.

So I’m going to try and keep up a series of ‘a year in the life of a book’ posts, covering the steps along the road to publication day, and also looking at the year that’s gone, including the writing and submission stages. Hopefully it will be useful for people who are submitting or getting close to submitting.

The first post will be coming soon and it will cover the beginning of the formal editing process, and also look back at starting The Space Between the Stars just over a year ago

There might even be some pruning and cutting metaphors.

But probably no shrubberies, lego spacemen or unstable garden waste bins.



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