Book Editing: Not For Wimps


As I type this, I’ve just completed the third edit of my new book – and yes, it now has a title – This London Love. It’s not strictly a sequel to my debut London Calling because it doesn’t focus on Jess (although she features!). This time around, the spotlight falls on Kate and the people in her life, and it was a lot of fun picking up the setting, some of the characters and running with them again. For this blog, I’m inviting you into the editing process. Step this way…

Let’s talk about This London Love, which is due out this summer. I started writing it last September, while my previous book, The Long Weekend, was away with my beta readers. I had a month to kill while I waited for feedback on that, so I got to work and completed 25,000 words of book three. Not a bad start at all. But then October, November and December were taken up with editing and launching The Long Weekend, and suddenly, 2015 was here!

My goal in January was to have two books out this year, and I’m on course. I spent January and February completing This London Love, and then March doing my first and second edits. My wife then read it and gave me solid feedback – I edited again, then sent it out to four beta readers for their comments. I was told (among other things) to stop over-describing people’s coffee habits and clothing (duly noted); don’t be scared to use commas (I am comma-averse); and to learn when to capitalise Mum and Dad, and when not to. I understand it now finally, you’ll be pleased to know.

The thing is, I’ve got experience in writing and editing. I worked for 15 years as a journalist before jumping to novel-writing, so I understand words. What’s more, I edited magazines and websites during that time, so I know grammar, spelling and punctuation. But no matter how good you think you are, you won’t see all the mistakes in your own writing – especially writing in novel form.

In journalism, each article is usually started and finished the same day, so you remember what you’ve written and don’t repeat words and phrases. With novels, you’re writing over long periods of time, so you’re bound to repeat certain phrases again and again. What’s more, you’ll miss out words, spell stuff incorrectly and just get some other stuff plain wrong. It happens. You simply cannot police your own writing.

With The Long Weekend, my beta readers brought up the fact I kept using the word ‘arse’, and had all the characters slapping each other’s bums every other scene – so I changed it. In This London Love, my beta readers told me people kept cocking their heads, putting their hands on their hips and turning on their heels every five minutes – all terribly camp and dramatic, I’m sure you’ll agree. I always laugh when I get my first feedback and see what I’ve over-egged – and I always listen. I don’t act on everything my beta readers say, but I think about it, then decide. I probably act on around 70% of their comments, especially if they’re all in agreement. You ignore such strong all-round feedback at your peril.

I’ve now enacted all the changes I think are necessary in my third edit, and this included putting the book through The Writer’s Diet test, to see if the writing was lean or flabby. Making sure the writing was fat-free took a few days, but now I have the right amount of nouns, prepositions and verbs in place. And the word ‘that’ has been deleted about 10,000 times, approx.

The next stage is to print the third edit and read the book aloud – this will take another week. Once I’ve made any other changes, the book will then go out to a couple more beta readers for opinion. And then, when I get their feedback and make any changes, the book goes to my editor to ensure it gleams. Once it’s back from her, I put in any changes, read through the final proofs one last time, and then it’s ready to go.

I’m halfway through the editing process and can see the book taking shape now – my beta readers have been stupidly helpful and I’ve enjoyed ripping the book apart and massaging it back to life over the past week. There’s still some way to go in the process, but while the book’s away with beta readers and my copy editor, I’ll be busy finalising the cover, writing the blurb and acknowlegements, doing a book trailer and all manner of other tasks.

I’ll be updating on the book’s progress regularly, so you can follow its journey to launch from now on. Also, watch out for opening excerpts coming soon!

If you like this, sign up to my blog and mailing list to never miss another post! This London Love is due out in June.