Editing: where the dialogue begins

Yesterday I sent off the finished proof of Sisterwives.  I really loved this bit of the process: homing in on the detail, checking words for spelling accuracy (bodhrán, for example), rewording sentences or paragraphs that needed refining.  Prompted by my editor, I added a couple of last minute extra scenes, too.  I’d been avoiding them, I realised, until now.  But getting them down was easier than I’d thought and there was a satisfying sense of completeness in filling in the gaps.  It made me wonder why.

I think the answer is this: the final stage of editing is the beginning of letting go.  It’s where the dialogue with the reader really begins, where the exchange of meaning that makes up the text comes into play.  I found that responding to the editor’s marginal notes is like having a dialogue with a first reader: ‘who’s speaking here?’ ‘is that quite the right word?’  I might have done the work in the writing, but ‘the work’ has become something fluid now, something personal to each person who reads it.  So the editing is a way of clarifying the reading journey.  It’s decorating that path, so that the reading might be as pleasurable as it can be.

So, readers, in six months’ time: over to you.

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