I am two-thirds of the way through having the manuscript for my hopefully soon to be self-published book, The Bold Ship Phenomenal, edited, and what continues to amaze me is the extent of the changes that I, and now the editor, am making even at this late stage.
I work, in my day job, as a professional writer, so rewriting and rehashing and reimagining are no stranger to me. I actually enjoy them, and have no doubts that they strengthen a piece of writing.
It is the nature and size of these late changes that surprises. The Bold Ship Phenomenal has been through more structural and fine edits than I care to remember. It has been – rewritten, rehashed and reimagined. Yet I find I am revising whole scenes, adding new ones, strengthening connections, embellishing and excising details.
The process feels like tightening a belt, or a net, around the essence of the story, until its clarity is secured.
I guess what I had not appreciated is how creative the external editing process would be, and in this respect, I feel I have struck it lucky with the editor I have chosen, Sue Copsey.
This no credit to me (all credit to Sue). Sue was a senior editor at Dorling Kindersley in London, before coming to New Zealand and freelancing for several publishing houses here. She is an established children’s writer in her own right.
There were no shortage of good options when I was looking for an external editor (one positive side of the current publishing crunch is that there are lots of talented publishing professionals now offering their skills on a freelance basis). But it was important to me that I found someone with experience working with children’s books. Children’s writing is different. It is magic and inspiration and wonder. Done well, it is transportation and transformation. An editor needs to get that. I feel confident that Sue does.
I’m also very grateful that she’s responded positively to my manuscript (thanks Sue). In the absence of a traditional publisher acting as gatekeeper, it can be hard to remain 100 per cent positive about the calibre of your work. Yet, paradoxically, it becomes even more important to maintain that calibre when you self-publish. This is your work, and there is only you to stand by it, so quality – of story, of process, of the finished product – becomes all.
I’ve found it helps to have supportive writer friends (‘Of course you must do it’), and I’ve also found encouragement to go ahead from an unlooked-for quarter – nature.I love to walk (like lots of writer I find it a vital part of the creative process) and on recent walks I have increasingly stumbled upon signs from nature that support my decision to publish my story myself.
Now I don’t mean to sound like a fruitcake. I don’t mean that little birds have flown down and tweeted in my ear (or that whales have smiled at me or miniature pirates waved me on). What I have noticed is things in my environment, the west coast New Zealand environment, that have said to me – yes, this is what we are like, this is worth telling, this is wondrous and amazing, uniquely our own, there is a story in this: give it your best shot Sarah, it is worth writing about.