Writers hone a book manuscript until we’re sick of every word. We submit, submit, submit and if we’re lucky, one day a publisher loves it enough to accept it for publication. Every writer dreams of this moment, but after the champagne we must face an awful reality. It’s time to begin the real work of writing: REVISION.
This recent article about Martha Kanya-Forstner actually nails the process of editing a book. Kanya-Forstner (Doubleday Canada and McClelland Stewart editor-in-chief of three prize winning books this year), mentions that her job is to “. . . figure out what the author’s intentions are very specifically for that book so that, at the end, the author can look at the book and say, ‘This comes as close as I can imagine it coming to what I had intended it to be.’”
In the same article, 2017 Giller prize winner Michael Redhill gives us the writer’s side of the story: “It takes a good editor to bring you from the place where you think you’re finished to where you’re actually finished.”
Revision Is Like Childbirth
You may think I sound jaded, and perhaps I am. I’ve written more about the revision process on Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s guest blog, where I basically equate it to a long and difficult labour with the need for medical intervention and drugs. Don’t get me wrong–I love my editor, and a published book in hand should be ample evidence that I’ve completed the editing process . . .
. . . so why is this PILE in my office? Is it because I require proof to have lived through a harrowing tale of revising my novel with an editor who did not believe in tracking changes and printed each section I e-mailed? That I survived an editor who snail mailed them back to me with his comments penciled in the margins?
Why do I keep The Pile when it shows up in my dreams like the monolith in 2001 A Space Odyssey and restricts my brain’s ability to process information?
I’ve kept it because it represents ten months of my life and reminds me that getting a manuscript accepted is just the beginning of a long, intimate process, not unlike the 38 hour labour I endured to birth my daughter and the midwife who coached me through it.
Tomorrow is recycling day, and I’m ready to finally toss The PILE, the nightmarish proof of my book’s birthing process. My “baby” is out in the world. If the book is not, as Martha Kanya-Forstner describes, “as close to what I had intended it to be,” it’s near enough.