Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Enjoying the editing process

Just last week, I completed checking the edits of my latest novel, which the publisher had sent to me well over two months ago. Prior to this, I had not had time—or the space in my brain—to do a careful enough job of it all. However, in these quieter January days, I finally tackled those edits so patiently waiting for me.

I felt my editor had done her part with thought and care. She had picked up things I had totally missed and I was grateful for that. Around six months ago, I was asked to re-write some sections of this same book because I had swapped point of view too often. That was a good lesson for me to learn. I duly did this re-writing and returned the manuscript. Yet now, I discovered I had still missed a couple of spots where the main protagonist could not possibly have known some things I had her saying or thinking. Also, I had fallen into an all too familiar trap for me, which was that I kept repeating myself in the earlier chapters, just to make sure my readers understood exactly what was happening! Little by little, I am learning to trust my readers more, but it is something of a long process for someone who has been a school teacher in the past and also speaks often! I want to be sure people are ‘with’ me when I speak. Yet, in a novel, this merely becomes unnecessary repetition.

Am I striking any chords with other authors out there? Do you ever find your editor has marked things in your manuscript you wonder why you didn’t see yourself? Or am I the only one who is a slow learner at times?

Yet inevitably, I also found points on which we differed, particularly in the punctuation area. I tend to use quite a few dashes in my sentences, especially in direct speech. For some reason, I like them better than commas—and definitely more than semi-colons! Somehow, they seem to make the dialogue flow better and feel more relaxed, whereas the commas make for a much jerkier, choppier ride. Or is that merely my imagination? Also, while I understand the grammatical rules for using commas, it seems fewer and fewer of those little, curly things are being used these days. So, not wanting to appear old-fashioned in my writing style, I now tend not to use so many myself. Do any of you face this dilemma as well?

Along with all this, however, I experienced some wonderful moments of joy and fulfilment during my editing. It is a while since I wrote this novel—I finished the first version over two years ago. Yes, I had another bite at it around six months ago, but so much has happened in my life since then. How enjoyable it was, I discovered, to be caught up with my characters again and be drawn into their stories! How satisfying it was to be able to say to myself as I read. ‘Yes, I do love these characters! Yes, I agree with what they’re saying. And yes, I still think this book will be a jolly good read!’

Do you ever find yourself doing such weird things? Or am I the only one?

May you, too, not only survive all your editing journeys ahead in 2013 but enjoy them as well!
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy—and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Her sixth novel, The Inheritance, will be released in 2013. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit or

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