The post-partum delights of editing

NB. Scroll down after ‘Editing’ to read  ‘Changing Lives’

‘It is very salutary to address someone else’s deep edit of your work,’ so said my professional proofreader Clive Johnson. I sent my baby away, sure that it would give him  an easy job of proofreading. I have been flattered before when he used the magic phrase ‘this is pretty clean’. Inevitably, after I sent the manuscript away I bit my nails with a degree of uncertainty. Later, reading the returned, proofed manuscript, I felt a slight reproof when he commented that was harder work than usual.

This might be down to the global changes I made when the novel was just about finished.  (I changed the names of two main characters towards the end.  I felt they were begging me to do this.) To do this I applied the useful instruction find and replace.  The old names were found and replaced with the new or modified names.

editing alice best (2)_LI

However,  in the final copy some of the new names were bizarrely buried in surrounding text and had to be disentangled. I thought I had caught all the anomalies in my final run through. But Clive knew better.  I hadn’t caught all of these. But by then I was probably a little bit word-blind. Like any mother, I was blind to even the minor faults in my beloved offspring.

Undaunted,  I settled down to go through Clive’s proofed copy line by line . Alongside my computer I have the notes from   my other first-readers who may or may not altogether agree with the file as it is now. I felt it would be useful us to compare them.

But Clive’s proofing was as near flawless as any piece of work can be.

All these concerns and approaches deepen and extend  the organic process of taking a novel to its final stage -of Making the Book*  the best it can be.

In some ways this has not been  unlike the process I experienced when I used to write for a large publisher. This process has been  equally meticulous but not quite so corporate* where departments as well as individuals combine to do the job

One principle of the processes of editing and proofreading is that the emerging text fully reflects the writer’s intention. It should not reflect the taste or predilection of the editor or proof-reader. One problem here in the more corporate method is that it can reflect the predilection of the market director regarding the taste of the readers.* I have always had rather more confidence than this in the intelligence and the perception of my readers and their ability to encounter and enjoy my story.

I am now looking so forward very soon to Making the Book called Becoming Alice 


*Footnote 1. To find out more about my process hit the Private Publishing tab in the header.
*Footnote 2. I did try to resist my publisher’s proposal to include the comparison of my work with that of Catherine Cookson on the cover.  I resisted this strongly  despite the fact that I honour and revere the astonishing ability of this writer to communicate stories across area and national boundaries. As writers we were as alike as trees and mountains. My resistance, because of my lack of power in that corporate situation, was ignored. The case is different now..


Changing Lives…

Note from Wendy R. I was talking to my friend H about the impact and function of reading groups and I thought of  the life-changing experience of visiting some reading groups  in Boston USA in 2000 when I was Writer in Residence at a women’s prison here in the UK. This radical experience confirmed my conviction that literature changes lives both in and out of prison.

Extract from Our Report.

‘The face-to-face interaction between the two groups – professionals and offenders, judges and judged – throughout the programme, was the key to its success. It centred on group discussions of literature chosen for its significance for the task at hand. All members of the group read the texts and participate on an equal, mutually respectful footing. The underlying proposition was that such discussion, under such circumstances, evokes such a level of participation, identification of motive and objectification of behaviour, that the lives of all the participants are changed.

I thought you might be interested in  the full report. If so click on the tab above entitled Changing Lives Through Literature.

I wondered if you had  a book or books that changed your life?


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