Editing is tedious, but it helps me get the story right.
March 31, 2017
An author’s name is on the front of the book. The editor’s name should be there as well.
I was near the end of the hardest job I had. Editing. Writing Night Side of Dark was easy. Editing was a chore. But it’s critical for all manuscripts.
Some writers I’ve talked with at conferences believe that the editing process merely makes sure that words are all spelled correctly and the commas are in the right place. And that’s absolutely vital. But perhaps the most important part of editing is making sure that the continuity from scene to scene is right.
If your hero carries a .45 automatic, don’t have him come out shooting a Glock.
If your heroine is a blonde on page 46, don’t have her combing her auburn hair on page 246.
If the sidekick is clean shaven in chapter one, don’t have him brushing his mustache in chapter 54.
Those things happen. I know.
In Night Side of Dark, I made it a point, in the following passage, to establish Ambrose Lincoln’s attitude toward drinking wine.
“I apologize for being so rude,” Kreisler said at last. He took a deep breath as he fought his own demons to clear the agony and torment from his mind. He had left the Netherworld and returned to the present. There was no difference between the two. His voice was stronger now. “Would either of you like a glass of wine. It’s vintage. It will turn the cold away for a time.”
Devra looked at Lincoln.
He shook his head.
Devra smiled. “No thank you,” she said.
“Do not worry about me,” the old man said. “I have more than I need, and a man who drinks alone has no reason to drink at all.
“A small glass,” Devra said.
Again Lincoln shook his head. The night might last forever, and he would face it sober without the smell of wine on his breath. He could not afford to deaden any cell in his brain. There were too many cells already missing.
So I made a big somber deal about Lincoln turning down a glass of wine.
Refused to drink.
His mind must be clear. That was the message.
Then three chapters later, I began the scene by writing:
Lincoln drank straight from the bottle, finishing the wine and hoping it would clear the cobwebs from his fragmented brain.
Whoops. Somebody made a mistake. It was either me. Or it was Lincoln. He either drank or he didn’t. And he wasn’t taking the blame for that blunder.
Thank God I was line editing at the time and caught it.
Toward the end of the novel, I had written:
Bahnker removed his coat and threw it across the bed, not much more than a cot, its thin mattress wadded up and pushed against the wall. A pale shaft of daylight cut past the iron bars on a small oval window. The rain had not stopped. A grey mist was blowing through a crack in the glass.
There was no other furniture.
Then in the next sentence, without hesitating, without my brain even flinching, I had the audacity to write:
The little man sat down on the chair in the corner and began rolling up his sleeves. “Welcome to my office,” he said.
Empty room. Single cot. No other furniture.
Where the hell did the chair come from?
What makes us as writers do things like that, or am I the only guilty party around, which is highly possible and probably probable.
Sometimes, too many times, I’m afraid that I’m writing one thing while my mind is looking out at another. And that’s how mistakes are made.
That’s why I edit. I don’t like it. Editing is tedious. But it helps me get the story right. And when I miss something, and I usually do, I pray my editor finds it, and she almost always does. An author’s name is on the front of the book. The editor’s name should be there as well.