It’s time to meet the editor and hear her proposals for our manuscript. Why is this so difficult? Is it because we are preparing to face the judgement of a sharp critic? Are we so identified with our manuscript that we see its lack of perfection as our imperfections? We remind each other that the editor’s task is to help enhance the manuscript and to be its (our) saviour.
We have a publisher for our non-fiction book (working title On Retiring). We have a contract, a promise of an advance and a publication date for the summer 2014. The contract is not yet signed as we took advice from the very excellent Society of Authors who provided us with some queries. Watch this space!
We have been working on this book for three years. We have written it collaboratively (and written about writing collaboratively, see for example the most recent blogpost on that subject) and received useful feedback from participants in our retiring workshops. We have revised it in the light of comments from an insightful and experienced reader. When she indicated they would take it on the publisher asked for two further thorough revisions, first to make it more edgy, and second to better engage the reader. Both revisions improved the book. Now we have the contract and the publisher wants some final revisions from a professional editor. She says it will be quicker and more straightforward for this to be done by a professional than by us. So now we meet our editor.
This feels personal. The book is still part of us. [Eileen wants to call it a tabernacle because she was brought up a Catholic! I don’t have a clue what she means. Hey ho. We learn as we go. Caroline.] This book holds the essence of our learning about retiring and our struggles to communicate our complex ideas. It is the outcome of considerable reflection on the processes of writing together. These subjects have been central to our lives in the last three years. Now we have to see someone else crafting the manuscript. We expect that when it comes back from the editor the book will be changed and enhanced. It will be a significant stage in letting the book go.
In preparing to meet the editor we are looking at issues raised by the publisher. We use different formats to signify different purposes in the text (eg summaries of information, tables, case studies in boxes). The publisher observed that our presentation is too ‘academic’. How will the editor change this to distinguish the different purposes without boxes and tables etc? Will we like these changes? Will the revised tone reflect our voice? Will we be requested to compromise in a way that is unacceptable – for example, turning it into a ‘how to retire book’ which it isn’t!
We hope she will solve the problem of the title. We have been through hundreds of suggestions. The main problem is that ‘retirement’ or ‘retiring’ doesn’t really cover it, to quote one comment. Yet we need either ‘retirement’ or ‘retiring’ in the title. It’s problematic because the title needs to reflect the edginess of the book, but neither word is edgy. Then there is the question of the index. Would this improve the book for our readers? And what else will she come up with?
As we write this blogpost we recognise a process in publishing. First, it involves a huge amount of personal investment to write the thing. But at some point writers have to pass their creation on and trust that the editing process will make their efforts into a better book. We are experienced writers so we recognise that this has happened with each of our published books. We can see this, but it doesn’t get any easier.
Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell
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