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What they don’t tell you about editing by Audrey Mac Cready

Writing.ie | Member Blog

Audrey MacCready


Sort-of in the home straits of my novel (you might be hearing that for a while) and submitting it to the clear-eyed scrutiny of an editor. Oh dear.

Editors are wonderful (she will be reading this), all-seeing, all-knowing paragons of literary expertise. In addition, they have the patience of a saint. They subject themselves to every idiocy under the sun on the pages of their victims, eh, clients. They must read, parse, figure out what the hell it was you were struggling to say, what you were thinking, what you thought you would achieve with the blather you committed to paper / screen.

Then gently suggest you change it. And be polite to you about it.

As I said, saints.

My editor has introduced me to the concept of ‘close third’. Ah, you thought you only had to decide whether to narrate your tale from a first- or third person Point of View – the famous PoV. No, there is, within the third-person PoV, omniscient or close third to contend with as well.

Close third seems to be a relatively modern concept, requiring the author to bring the reader closer to the thoughts of the main character, or protagonist as they are known in writer parlance. (I’ve had to learn a whole vocabulary about writing, never mind the vocabulary for my book).

Classic literature, nineteenth-century novels, for example, seem to have been written from an omniscient third PoV. There wasn’t any other kind. Essentially, the narrator observed and reported on the activities and feelings of the characters. A lot of ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’, I think. (More writerly jargon). I imagine it’s since the arrival of psychology and psychiatry, an understanding of the existence of the subconscious that modern readers expect to be taken into the shady depths of the protagonist’s mind.

But what’s wrong with omniscient, I asked. I got a polite reply. Right.

But how, dear reader, do I, a simple writer, take you to close third? This is where my cherished editor comes in. She knows a bit about this (see all-knowing paragon above). Shall I let you in to these secrets? No, I don’t think so. You’ll have to buy the book and see if you can spot the tricks. Suffice to say, there was a lot of cutting of text.

Cut, cut, cut. Whole paragraphs bit the dust. There goes my word count.

Another issue which attracted The Editor’s eagle eye was my use of hyphens and dashes. I have now been introduced to ‘en’ dashes and ‘em’ dashes. Both are longer (wider?) than a hyphen, and longer (wider?) than the other, as m is to n. I must confess, I do not feel as though my quality of life has improved with the arrival of these entities into it, nor my moral fibre.

I corrected hyphens to dashes – where necessary – in my 64500-word text. May I now get on with writing the damn book? Please?

(c) Audrey Mac Cready

Find out more about my writing at my Writing.ie member page https://www.writing.ie/member-emerging-writers/audrey-mac-cready/

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