A reader has just asked an interesting question: ‘What percentage of the changes <to the recently submitted novel> are coming from you personally as compared to suggestions from your editing team?’
OK. When I sent the manuscript off to my agent at the beginning of May, I believed I had got it into the best shape I could manage at that point. I’d been wrapped up in it for over a year and it had come to the stage where I couldn’t see it clearly. It’s always a great relief to turn a finished draft over to the professionals for a dispassionate appraisal. Family and friends are generous readers; possibly too generous….
The agent is always the front-line opinion. This time he judged it good enough to send direct to my publishers. There, the commissioning editor and her desk editor each gave it a very thorough reading. And then they came back to me with 5 closely-typed pages of suggestions on to how to improve it, under the headings Narrative arc and climax; Heroine; Hero; Hero and heroine together; Broader cast of characters; Dialling up the tension; Title.
Eeeeek. Sounds alarming? Initially it is, just because of having to engage with it all again, when I’m already brooding on the next one. Once embarked, it’s fine. As I work at it I realise it’s not major – it’s not a rewrite in any sense. More to do with adjustment and amplification. During which process I think, of course, I really should have seen that omission/overstatement for myself. I never react against the editing verdict. Editors are highly skilled, and their goal (a really good novel that will please my readers) is identical to mine.
The answer, therefore, is about ninety per cent. It’s so high because by the end of a complex book one needs a fresh perspective, and unless the book gets shoved into a drawer for a year or so, it’s impossible to provide this oneself. The other ten per cent is small-scale rewriting of clunky paragraphs, and routine removal of half the quota of adverbs. I expect the other half will go in the line edit, which will be the next stage.