By Ian Acheson
It was finally finished. I’d just typed “The End.” Now what do I do?
September 2003. Yes all those years ago. I’d set out on a mission to write that novel that I was always going to write. The previous December I’d read Stephen King’s “On Writing” (it’s excellent BTW – part memoir, part lessons on writing). One of the key takeaways for me was King wrote 2,000 words a day, rain, hail or shine. Being new to all this I best follow the master’s advice.
Surprisingly, I managed to do this on my writing days. I’d offered myself up in a company-wide redundancy program and my amazing wife encouraged me to take a sabbatical to “write that novel I’d been talking to her about all those years.”
I started with two words: “It’s time!” and a story about angels and demons. Then I wrote and wrote. Wrote some more. Didn’t really spend any time studying the craft as I took the view that I wanted to see if I had a story in me.
Lessons in Writing
And there I was. A manuscript. 250,000 words and 707 pages. Can you believe it?
Hey, I was a newbie. Didn’t know what to leave out. Makes me laugh now.
I then re-read it. Made a lot of changes but only reduced the pages by about 100.
I didn’t know any Christian authors and only had limited understanding of the American Christian market. But I knew I needed to find myself an editor. That’s the next step isn’t it? Write it, and then get it edited.
Yes, I’m in awe of those authors who write one draft, hand it to their editor and before long it’s on the bookshelves. Maybe that’ll be one day, maybe not.
So I googled and discovered Clare on the south coast who edited Christian novels. Before too long I’d sent the entire manuscript to Clare (snail mail) and she did an “Editorial Review” for me.
And then Clare taught me to write.
Editing and more editing
Years passed. Angelguard had been re-written, put in the bottom drawer for five years, and then one of those God-moments occurred when it was clear it was time to dust it off and see how time had improved my storytelling and craft.
So I pulled out Clare’s notes (that I still refer to today) and rewrote Angelguard.
Lion Fiction took a chance on me. Thank you Tony Collins. Tony introduced me to Jan who overlaid even more editorial wisdom to the manuscript. Once we handed it back to Tony who did his own edit to arrive at the final publishable MS: 110,000 words and 323 pages.
Phew. I believe over five or six significant re-writes I wrote more than 500,000 words. But the final version still started where it did all those years ago with “It’s time!”
On Angelguard being published I looked up Clare to thank her for all she did in setting me up. Clare had passed away and I was fortunate to be able to locate her son who lives in England. I sent him a copy acknowledging the significant role his mum played. He hadn’t known much about his mum’s editing work and appreciated receiving the acknowledgment.
Last week I received some feedback from an editor friend who had generously offered to read some of my latest WIP. Besides the fact I was blown away by her encouragement and detailed response, she provided me with confirmation of a number of areas I was concerned about.
Once again, I received a lesson in how to craft a great story. Further, as often happens, she proposed to kill off a scene that I would consider a darling. Yes, I squirmed at that but sometimes we need to let that scene or character go especially when it will improve the end product.
It gave me such a pickmeup even though I have more work to do.
So here’s to all the editors out there. Yes, I know you get well acknowledged in every book you edit and no doubt your authors love you to death.
To any newbie authors who perhaps have a ready manuscript and/or are in the publishing cycle, love your editor. Don’t be surprised if they suggest you kill some of your darlings, some of those scenes or characters that you’ve agonized over. Hey, there’ll be other manuscripts where you may find those darlings slot in just perfectly. But after your editor has finished with your MS, you’ll be a better author.
What’s a story you can recall of a particular time your editor helped you improve your manuscript. Was there a darling involved?
Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Sydney, Australia. Ian’s first novel, Angelguard, is available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard won the 2014 Selah Award for Best Speculative Fiction. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian’s website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter.