When I found out that I would be editing my first manuscript, I felt a mixture of nervous excitement. On one hand, it was my chance to finally gain a better understanding of the process of editing. On the other, it was my first experience in dealing with another person’s work; someone else’s thought patterns and style on a page. Luckily, the manuscript I was asked to help with was a great piece as well as an enjoyable project.
Queen’s Ransom by Jim Ring follows the aftermath of an alternative history in which Germany won WWII. The book is framed as a British war General's historical memoir, edited by the author. It tells the story of a kidnapping of the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.
Having never editing a manuscript before, the process started quite laboriously. I did a full read-through first to familiarise myself with Jim Ring’s writing style and the ‘voice’ of the manuscript. My second read-through was filled with handwritten notes of things to check and guidelines for myself as I went through and proofread the manuscript. The most laborious task was to double check the spelling and addition of diaereses above certain letters, ensuring their accuracy. However, Jim’s expertise in this area meant that a lot of the checks were just that, I didn’t have to add or change that much in the actual body of the text.
My final task with the text was to format the document in accordance with the Style Guide. Having come across style guides before in university, I was somewhat aware of the layout of a book. Wet Zebra have produced their own style guide that reflects their brand, so I followed the guide to ensure the text was uniform with correct spacing, indentation and font.
I got the chance to sit in with Martin during one of his editing sessions, which gave me a better understanding of the methods and process. The Queen’s Ransom manuscript was finely tuned before I was given it for proofreading, so I could see his methods of assessing details that may not be needed in a text. Something I’ve learned as a writer is that you shouldn’t over-write a creative piece, no matter how much you want to litter your work with the most flowery of descriptive passages. Sometimes you can unconsciously repeat yourself, especially when it comes to character thought patterns and descriptions. Sometimes they can be unnecessary as you can already have a grasp of that character’s motivations and an editor has, at times, to be ruthless with a text.
All in all, I did enjoy the process of editing. I realised that I do have some of the skills required to be an editor, particularly the ability to focus on the finer details of the text. The ability to skate between immersion in the story and detachment is quite a difficult skill to hone, as I found an almost automatic tendency to approach as a reader, and my natural inclination to get engrossed tried to take over. I also realised how methodical I can be when it comes to checking grammatical and spelling. I worked to the mantra ‘if in doubt, double check’.
Most importantly though, it always helps to have an editorial assistant on hand - luckily, I had the lovely Lola to help me!