Editing And The Publishing Process

mm1

14 July 2016-publication day!

Here is the third step on my journey for Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.

Emma Cox – children’s author and winner of the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 – continues to share her experiences of working with a publishing house for the first time as her debut, Malkin Moonlight, edges closer to publication.

So many exciting things have happened in the life of my book since my last post for Writers & Artists: I have learned lots about the publishing process and about editing and writing. I’ve also had many happy surprises, and I intend to keep these posts coming so those of you who are going to have books published this year, or next, have a bit more of an insight into some of the things you can expect and look forward to.

There was a quiet couple of months at the start of summer. I think it’s important to mention that, because if your default position, like mine, is to worry when you’ve heard no news, it’s good to know that quiet periods are normal and to be expected. Then, towards the end of August when I was away on holiday with my friend Katherine, I had my first lovely surprise. I received an email attachment with the rough copy of the front cover forMalkin Moonlight. Seeing my own name on the front cover of a book was the strangest thing. I wish this moment for you too – whether you are an author, an illustrator, or both – as it’s a wonderful feeling. Within the same email was also the news that my book was going to be in Bloomsbury’s catalogue (page 63) for the Frankfurt Book Fair. This wasn’t something I had even considered, so I was delighted and surprised by this. It felt a little as if my book was off on holiday as well.

At the start of October half term I received my manuscript back with notes from my editor Zoe. I still love getting envelopes from Bloomsbury, and this was the edit to do with structure and plot (so quite a long edit, but I had a two week holiday to do it in!) I sent it back almost a year to the day that I had sent the original manuscript to the competition. [Emma won the New Children’s Author Prize 2015, which you can read more about here]

The tracked edit was tightening everything up: this took a weekend in November. I’d never used or seen tracked edits, so this was something new. You click on a little coloured box and comments pop up on that word or sentence. Zoe wrote helpful or complimentary or just cheerful comments all the way through, and often I’d click on the box and laugh out loud. I enjoyed the process and it made my brain think about writing in a completely different way. In November I also received the suggested back cover copy and the latest front cover with the strap line. It felt as if the outside of the book was wrapping itself safely around the words it was to contain. So many people were working on the book in different ways by now and I felt very honoured that all this hard work and expertise was to help me, and to make my story the best it could be.

Just before Christmas I was asked to write my Acknowledgements Page. I was very excited to be able to thank the people I love and who have supported me. I always enjoy reading Acknowledgements Pages and getting an insight into authors’ lives. I was also asked to write my letter of introduction to booksellers which is to accompany the bound proof.

It was lovely to receive the Bloomsbury Christmas card – a beautiful illustration from The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell. I read this book over the holidays and it was a magical, tingly book to read at Christmastime. I also got some chocolates which I sat and ate with my friend James while having a celebratory drink and feeling really excited about what 2016 was going to bring! One of the first things it did bring was a bouncing baby boy for my editor Zoe, which was lovely news to receive.

Now it’s February and this week I have finished the copyedit: my deadline was Thursday. I love deadlines: I love the feeling of them and the structure they provide when you have an important edit to do. It’s half term again, so things fell just perfectly as I love to have the clear space of a day in front of me to really concentrate without interruption. The writers and artists reading this will know that fantastic feeling of utter absorption; those lovely days when things go well and you’ve transported yourself, not noticing how much time has passed and how far away you’ve been.

The copyedit, however, doesn’t quite promote this feeling of pure creativity, so it was a brand new discipline for me! This is the edit where you are looking for continuity errors, or the repetition of a word on a page, or questioning the choice of a particular word, or considering whether the meaning of the sentence has come across as you meant it, or whether it could be improved in terms of clarity or flow.

Your mind really lifts away from the story and gets quite clinical: you become a surgeon of words in a way – precise, methodical, and looking at the tiniest things. It was very interesting to click on the tracking boxes – this time by two editors – to see the things they are looking out for.

The next step will be the manuscript going into production – hopefully next week – and then the first proofs will come out. Some of these I think will go to book critics, so I’m now bracing myself for my first criticism, but also so excited to hold my own book in my hand.

Just quickly before I sign off, one more exciting surprise happened this week, in that the illustrations for inside the book were emailed to me for my comments. They are by a wonderfully talented artist called Rohan Eason and it was very exciting to see my characters brought to life through his pictures.

So there I am. The proof copies will be next and, fingers crossed, the actual book will be published in July this year. (This year!)  I hope you’ve found this useful I wish you all every success on your journey to publication. If I can do it, so can you!
Read the first piece in Emma’s series of articles for Writers & Artists.

Read the second piece in Emma’s series of articles for Writers & Artists.
Malkin Moonlight by Emma Cox is published by Bloomsbury later this year. Find out more about titles and buy the latest releases from Emma Cox at Bloomsbury.com.

Advertisements

Editing

Here is the second step on my journey for Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.

Emma Cox – children’s author and winner of the New Children’s Author Prize 2015 – continues to share her experiences of going through the publishing processes in the run-up to her debut novel being published. Here, she discusses the process of editing. 

It is through this first editing process that I’ve realised how much all the thrown away words matter. All those words that got highlighted then deleted. Poor words. It’s so instant. They fall so that the ones that remain are stronger, work harder, shake themselves off and think, ‘We’re not so bad after all.’

It wasn’t that I didn’t love the words that got cut: I did. I lost some favourites. It’s just – they had to go. Some of the ones I didn’t like so much remain. But they look better now, on their own, without their clever friends around them, shouting out, drawing attention.

Editing is so strange.

The right combination is the thing isn’t it? This I would love to master, one day. Like great guitar players can combine a few chords that have always existed, that any amateur could play, but they make a tune that is so recognisable it survives forever. The start of Smells Like Teen Spirit: so rough, so rude, so great. Dylan can put a harmonica to his mouth and now we all recognise Once upon a time you dressed so fine… Yeats said to us A terrible beauty is born and in five words defined a time and a country, and the young men who died for it.

It’s the combination: the complexity and the simplicity.

And it’s the cut. Cut, cut, cut and let what remains standing seem simple and yet be so hard.

This is what I’ve been trying to learn. But I’m me. I’m brand new to this and I’m not very good. But I’m going to carry on because I love learning and I’m so grateful for my mind to be even thinking in these terms. My brain enjoys it.

Let me tell you about this process, now I’ve finished my first edit. Now I’m back to me, and the MS back to my lovely editor who has to think of polite ways to say Change This.

Every morning during the edit I got up at 5am because I am a teacher and these last five weeks of term are our busiest. I wanted my book to get the best of me, and not my reports, so it got the five to seven slot when I was half asleep and my fingers raced ahead of my mind, and my coffee went cold.

Boiling the early morning kettle for the second time and wondering at the sky I kept thinking about this shop in Dublin, this pen shop. I love this shop. It is all dark wood and beautiful ink pens beneath the glass and you really don’t have to buy anything, the shop is just happy for you to be in it, the person is kind, tries to give you free things, if you leave with a bookmark and a black pencil with a quotation from Joyce he puts an extra one in the paper bag. It kept making me think about editing, and here was my first Dublin thought:

How did they do it in the olden days? The people who wrote with ink pens or quills, dipping and thinking. Did they think a lot between sentences? How about back in the day when paper was so expensive, long before Find and Replace. Have we evolved? Have our brains changed? Are we now fast and furious because we’ve got to have a shower and get to school looking halfway decent, with no midnight hours printed on our brows? Did those quiet writers of the great past think about every letter, suck on their quills, while we just tap away and delete? How have writers changed?

I hate sentences that end in question marks, over and over. But that is my five am mind. Prodding; nasty mind, asking, and asking. No space to think, and then it shuts up all of a sudden, and then I write.

I fear I am just crass and rubbish. A bit of me, perhaps a lot of me, wants to sit in a room lined with dark wood, listening to cathedral music drifting up, with a bottle of something cellar-worthy (not from Tesco Metro) wearing a very long skirt that rustles along the floor in a pleasing way. A bit of me wants to be a contemplative ink-dipper, not a teacher with reports to write and time ticking on, and Sports Day and the Marquee Concert and these horrible broken fingernails and my father coming to my flat and looking at what I like to think of as ‘Writer’s Corner’ and saying ‘You need another bookcase.’

Yes, my flat got messy and books spilt over and everything was untidy. The food I ate was not always healthy. But I was throwing away words, and that matters. Bigger than that, it’s the books I wrote before Malkin Moonlight: all the thousands upon thousands of words that I stuck in certain combinations that were fated to never see the light of day together. Those careless words that real authors have placed together perfectly, carefully and just so; that they have used to define people and countries and times. All the words I’ve thrown away perhaps have made me capable of being an author now, albeit a new one, one who is learning.

Thing is, since I started to want to reduce the word count, not increase it, I’ve learned a lot about the craft. And now my book is with my editor, and my reports are written, and I’ve two months off school.

What do I see in that time, what do I do? I have two lovely holidays booked – hooray, but what else? What about all those other days? Easy answer: I see me writing. In that wonderful, secretive, no one can see me state, whatever hour of the day or night it might take place. When an idea wakes you up and you think, Oh good, I can get up. That lovely state of creativity, when you tot up your day or night, by the number of words that exist; not the ones who are lost. I’m looking forward to this.

The other Dublin thing:

Last September, on my birthday, I was outside a pub. Brilliant people talk to you in Dublin, everyone talks, and it is one of the lovely things about the city. A man in a raincoat started to talk about Samuel Beckett. He said a lot of things in that Irish accent I love so much, and then, in a moment, he said: “When Love walked in I didn’t recognise him, it must have been the hat.”

I’ve had that sentence stored in my head for nine months. In that time it’s been growing. I can see a story all around it, but I haven’t had the space to start. Now time is here. I can’t wait. I’ve done words like axes, and now I want to stop chopping and start creating.

This is what summer is for.

I can’t wait.