Wright’s Writing Corner: The Joys of Editing

Mephisto and his Staff

I am in the throws of finishing the polishing of Prospero Regained, the third and last book in the Prospero’s Daughter series. I have finished the whole thing, except for one new scene that I need to write to add to the epic battle near the end.


So, what, you may ask, is the process of polishing?


Some months ago, I had read the book aloud to my brother and noted down various changes: repeated words I wanted to change, awkward phrasing, paragraphs that just did not make sense (there was only one of those), places where continuity of plot needed work—either because something was out of place or because I could add a line or scene that would emphasize some plot point. I was busy at work on another project at the time, so I would print out a chapter, read it to Law (my brother), and then stick it in the car under a thingy that had room to stick stuff under.


Normally, you might think this process would go awry, but it did not. When the time came, everything was in that one pile, and I was able to enter all the changes into the manuscript. (Well, those where I could read my own handwriting, anyway—writing notes on the fly while trying not to interrupt a reading does not lend itself to legibility. )


Possibly because I started using a computer in the days when files could only be so long, I work in chapters. I have each chapter in a separate file and only compile them at the end, once the work is done. (I have a method for making sure that all the chapters get into the final manuscript, but apparently it’s not foolproof, because Chapter Eight got left out of Prospero In Hell. Luckily, a friend discovered it before it actually went to press. My editor and I both missed it.) I did this polishing chapter by chapter, too. I would sit down, open the chapter, enter the changes I made while reading to my brother, and then read the whole thing over carefully, polishing additional things, adding small changes, etc, until the prose shone—at least to the best of my ability.


And I LOVED it.


I love the polishing. I love mulling over a scene, trying new wording, moving a paragraph here or there to get a better effect, perhaps sticking in a new brief scene. To me, this is the best part of writing. The part that is fun.


The other part, getting ideas onto the paper, I do not care for as much. I find it difficult. I’m always either mentally blank or rushing too fast because I am trying to write down a whole bunch of ideas at once before I go mentally blank again.


So the past few months have been great fun in the writing department.


But now there is just this one last scene to go. Then, it will be onto a new project. While I am never keen to start writing as opposed to editing, I will be so glad to put the Prospero book behind me—at least until the time comes to edit it for publication. I have been working on this series since 1992 and I will be really happy when the time comes that I don’t have to think about it again!


It has been great fun, though!