Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Editing 101 Continued

In a recent blog Linda talked about her editing process which included retyping the manuscript. My fingers grew tired even thinking about such a challenge and I knew I’d never do that. But, as I struggle to whip the manuscript of Cut to the Bone into shape, I realize why I must edit at least four times before I even send the words off to the ever patient and always helpful members of my writing group.

For my first book, Cut Off His Tale, I had an outline. I knew who the killer was and what rationale he use to justify the murder.

Then, because some of my critiquing group, notably Barbara Fradkin, claimed it was more fun for the writer and later for the reader if you winged it, I tried that method. For a type A Virgo it was a challenge because it forced me to wait until the synopses clicked in my brain and inspiration arrived. This frustrated me but I did find that I liked the unexpected twists and turns that happened.

At times I worried that it wouldn’t work out, that I couldn’t knit the strands together. It did eventually coalesce into finished form. Once I had that I read through to see if it hung together. It more or less did but ghosts of ideas partially explored or incorporated and then erased lingered. Because it took almost a year to write the ending turned out to be much stronger than the beginning when I’d been feeling my way and I had to go back and beef up the beginning.

Once I reached that stage I worked through unifying the text, checking time sequences, names, ages, all the things that need to be attended to if I was to persuade a reader to suspend belief.

Then I began honing the manuscript, eliminating cliches, passive voice, redundancy. For guidance when doing this I rely on Theodore Cheney’s, Getting the Words Right: How to Rewrite, Edit and Revise. In the last part of his book he deals with figurative writing and while I understand simile, metaphor, analogy and personification I have never quite understood metonymy but probably use it along with hyperbole and allusion without realizing that I am.

Three times through but it isn’t ready for inspection. Now I will check the beginning and ending of chapters, question the pace, the tension and ask whether or not I’ve resolved all the issues without rushing to a conclusion. When those questions are answered to my satisfaction it will go out to my critics. When it returns there will be more work to do and then, finally, Cut to the Bone will go to the publisher.

Is there any easier way or is this the way all writers prepare for the end?

Joan Boswell A member of the Ladies Killing Circle Joan co-edited four of their short story anthologies: Fit toDie, Bone Dance, Boomers Go Bad and Going Out With a Bang. Her three mysteries, Cut Off His Tale, Cut to the Quick and Cut and Run were published in 2005, 2007 and 2007. In 2000 she won the $10,000 Toronto Star’s short story contest. Joan lives in Toronto with three flat-coated retrievers.


  1. I think writing without an outline works if you keep a running timeline handy. That was my major problem -- since there were weekly events that happened on certain days, I lost track of which day came next. I had to go through, re-jig the order which meant more re-writing than may have been necessary. Timeline at all times is my new motto.

  2. Why is it so hard to let go? I love the editing process more than the first creation (except for getting the ideas), but even so, I always worry. Thank heavens for deadlines. I've learned to accept that there will still be something that needs fixing!

  3. Wise words from Erika and Mary Jane. I too like editing but always forget how long it takes.