The Editor, Edited: The Almost Truth by Anne Hamilton

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Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton

If writing a novel is regularly compared to birthing a baby, then an editor is the grandparent.

The editor takes in the book-baby – whatever its age and stage; whether it’s beautiful or ugly – and loves it, nurtures it, helps its development (and gives the author-parent a well-earned break) – then hands it back.

I’m a freelance editor and I love the work. With fifteen years’ experience,  I am also (I hope) reasonably good at it, firmly believing that every book is improved by an empathetic – honest, kind and challenging – edit.

My first read of a brand new manuscript is, controversially, bedtime reading on my Kindle. How long the story keeps me awake is a fantastic if non-scientific indicator of how much editing, and what type, the book would benefit from. Interestingly (to me, at least) as someone with a horrible memory in real life, I can put my editing hat on, read page 253 and instinctively remember that Fred, currently tucking into a plate of peas, hated peas on page 6… The downside is that I can’t read a bill board, an advert on the side of a bus, or a cereal packet without mentally editing it. My once pre-school  son used to hand me picture books with the instruction to ‘read it, not edit it, Mummy.’

I’ve learned four specific things over the years:

First, editing is different things to different people, a spectrum often blurred: development editing, structural editing, line editing, content editing. And the first role of an editor is frequently that of detective – a forensic exploration into what exactly the writer wants, what you suggest they need – and what is the common ground?

Second, self-editing only goes so far. You see what you think is there; you don’t see the clichéd wood for the trees well enough to even consider killing your darlings! The general advice is for a writer to send off their MS when they can’t do any more; mine is to send it when they just can’t stand it any more.

Third, there is always something the writer knows isn’t right but hopes will slip through – and it never ever does!

And finally, it’s as nerve-wracking sending an edited manuscript or a reader’s report back to a writer as it is for the writer to submit the MS in the first place. What if I’ve got it wrong? What if all the writer really wanted was me to say, it’s already perfect! What if I just didn’t ‘get’ the writer…

Almost Truth frontAll well and good – but what happens when the editor becomes the edited? In April this year, my debut novel The Almost Truth (first in a 2-book deal) will be published by Legend Press.

Suddenly, I had an editor of my own.

Part of me yelled hurrah – at last, someone else’s eagle eye dedicated to the nitty-gritty of my book. Another part worried I wouldn’t be able to swap roles properly – what if I couldn’t cope with my beautiful book-baby being dismantled? The rest told me to get over myself, put my butt on a chair and concentrate.

There’s no doubt I was lucky. Lauren Wolff-Jones, Commissioning Editor at Legend Press is fantastic, straightaway getting to the weaknesses, the unnecessary and the inconsistencies. Developmentally, the story worked – as it should have: it won the Irish Novel Prize and arose from a short piece written for The People’s City (Birlinn, 2022) anthology. But revised to The Almost Truth there are three settings and four timelines: Dublin (1994), Bangladesh (2004), Edinburgh (2014)  and all of them in the present day. As such it could be ripe for confusion. On top of that, the central characters, Alina and Sanna, originated from real people, good friends. Long ago I promised to tell their story, but truth is stranger than fiction and some things had to change…while doing the original inspiration due justice.

Line editing, and the sea of red ink generated, was something I was prepared for. Editor-me is used to returning really good manuscripts with a caution that the hundreds of minor corrections and formatting changes are perfectly normal. In fact, I was thrilled with mine – and the subsequent rounds of proofreading – someone else had done the work; I was just checking, confirming, clarifying, and marvelling at my carelessness. (See what I mean about self-editing!)

Edits from the audiobook, narrated by the hugely talented Scottish-Bengali actor, Hiftu Quasem, were an unexpected bonus. Despite a twenty-two year relationship with Bangladesh, my Bengali remains amusing, so Hiftu’s queries regarding the wider understanding of the odd colloquial phrase were spot-on.

The result ? A beautiful proof copy, some amazing endorsements, and an editor who has survived being edited – all ready to jump into the more complicated work required for book two…I think.

(c) Anne Hamilton

https://linktr.ee/annehamilton_author

About The Almost Truth:

Almost Truth frontA compelling story of family, secrets, identity, and a reminder that love and life can surprise you… right until the very end.

When Alina’s son, Fin, traces his long-absent birthfather, it’s the catalyst for decades of secrets to implode in Alina’s neatly ordered life.

With the sudden appearance of Rory, and the ever-present pull of a very different life in Bangladesh, she’s left reeling.

Three relationships, all of them built on half-truths. All Alina can truly be sure of, is that you can choose your family, you just can’t choose who they will turn out to be.

An extraordinary novel based on real events.

Winner of the Irish Novel Fair 2021

The Almost Truth by Anne Hamilton is published on the 8th April 2024. Pre-order your copy online here.

About the author

Anne Hamilton is passionate about diverse and inclusive voices in her writing. The Almost Truth (forthcoming April 2024) and The Island in April (Spring 2025) explore identity and the complexity of relationships in some way or another. Anne lives between Edinburgh and County Mayo with her newly teenage son and even newer puppy. She balances being a single parent with a chronic neurological condition and freelance work as an editor and in adult education.

Anne Hamilton’s first book, the travel memoir, A Blonde Bengali Wife, was published in 2010 based on her experience in Bangladesh, with proceeds going directly to the charity Bhola’s Children. She is also one-fifth of the persona Gill Merton, who created the collaborative novel, Entitled (2022). The unpublished manuscript of The Almost Truth was the winner of the Irish Novel Fair, and a short story adaptation of it is included in an Edinburgh Charity anthology, The People’s City, titled The Finally Tree. The Island in April has been listed for a number of prizes, including the Lucy Cavendish Prize, the Yeovil Prize and the Blue Pencil First Novel Award.

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