Editing Aaron’s War
My novel, Aaron’s War, is in the can, as movie people would say.
The first phase of editing was an evaluation process—does the story work, stick together, flow? What is the genre? Does the book have market appeal? Secondly, the editor went through the book line by line.
I used to see editing as mainly inserting and subtracting commas, adding colons, hyphenations, em dashes, checking spelling etc. But, I have learned that not all editors agree on all the grammar rules anyway, and have come to understand authors like to break them anyway. The ultimate value is not the adding or subtracting commas, but checking the story, making sure it fits together and makes sense, flows, characterization, keeping dialogue real and character specific–like women need to talk like women and fact checking. In the first draft of Voyage of Life, an American soldier in Viet Nam writes in a letter home that drug use was prevalent by writing, ‘It’s ‘Lucy in the Sky with diamonds over here.’ My editor pointed out that the Beatles song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, didn’t come out until after Viet Nam war.
I love the editing process. It is as enjoyable as the writing, and in some ways less frustrating. In writing so many ideas flood your mind, so many different ways to present–paragraphing, flashbacks, short hard hitting sentences, long poetic ones. With editing there are no dead butts in the chair. It is more like going to a restaurant with two things on the menu.
My editor for Aaron’s War had an impressive understanding of the story. She seemed to know as much as I did about it, the metaphors, the deeper meaning, and she liked some of my darlings. That was the best part—the revelations and confirmation that my writing came through.
But, the reality of the experience always comes at the end when the editor reminds me the publisher might have a whole new way of looking at the book. Oh well.