The editing process of a novel is a shady area not usually opened up to the gaze of the publishing unwashed: the reader or aspiring writer. As a first-timer, I stumbled into it with hope, excitement and anxiety.
Luckily, I had Jane Parkin as my editor for The Blue. Highly respected in NZ publishing circles, editor of a range of marvellous award-winning fiction writers, her style can be characterised as insightful, inclusive, gentle and persistent. She also never made me feel she'd edited enough first novels to know without looking what to do with mine. In other words, Jane approached The Blue with respect, excitement and curiosity. Or that's how it felt to me. And when I received the marked-up drafts -all red dashes and post-it notes - it was like seeing finger marks in a clay sculpture, as if she'd gently pressed the novel's skin to find the pulse.
All the changes Jane suggested were good ones that I applied forthwith; many were essential to the flow of the story. Often, she would present me with a problem in the book - we would discuss it - then I would go away and think what to do. I liked that she didn't always know the answer and trusted me to find it. One structural problem we tossed around for a bit, tried one thing and then another, and then at the last minute I flicked the difficult chapter into a slightly different position and suddenly the novel relaxed into place. Jane agreed. It was the many hours of dicussion that got us there. Frankly, it was exciting to have one other person in the world as fascinated by my novel as Jane Parkin was, and as willing to obsess about its every detail.
The elegant writing partnership between The Great Gatsby's F. Scott Fitzgerald and his editor Max Perkins is explored in a new book on writing The Writer's Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House. Uber UK blogger Mark Sarvas has serialised the essay and it makes fascinating reading. Here's Part 1 - scroll up through his blog for the other three parts.
Here's the link to The Writer's Notebook on the Tin House website.