Thursday, 12 September 2013

Hush my mouth

I was asked just recently at a book festival whether I was ever required to make changes to a manuscript. I said, 'Hardly ever.' And it's true - other than the normal editing amendments, there has only been an occasional timeline issue or something needing some clarification or expansion, which I've been very happy to do.

Any suggestions for improvement are welcome, in my opinion.

After submitting my latest manuscript - 'The Watchman' - recently to the publishers of the Harry Tate spy thriller series (this one is a new character and storyline, somewhat darker in tone and body-count to Harry), it was pointed out that I'd included a short chapter near the end which slowed down the pace of the narrative.

Wha-? Surely not! Hell on a skateboard, lemme see that...

And you know what? They were absolutely right. I'd put a chapter of blah in the middle of a series of action scenes, which was like taking a pot off the boil at a critical moment. Result: a hiccup in the story and the threat of skimming pages.

I suppose it must have seemed important to me at the time of writing, because I put it in there. But writers can often get too close to a story and need an outside view to point out when something doesn't quite work. Like a hiccup.

And if there's something a thriller can't afford to have, it's a loss of pace. A bit like a ski jumper slowing down just before lift-off: they'll go face down over the lip and drop like a bag of wet spaghetti.

Fortunately, I learned long ago not to get precious about my writing. That's a quick way of annoying people you work with and on whom you rely to bring your work to market. So, if someone comes up with a logical argument for changing something, I'll change it, no problem. (If they don't, of course, I'll fight my corner).

This was one of those times when I'm glad to say they were right. It took me some reading and a day or so to correct (checking that I wasn't causing a domino effect elsewhere in the story), and the job was done.

So, when the next person asks me if I ever change anything, I'll say, 'Yes, sometimes...'


  1. "Hardly ever" make changes to a manuscript? Oooo, lucky you, Adrian! Wish I could say the same about mine...

  2. Well, I did mean substantial changes, Wendy. I can't claim to send in pristine pages (I wish). This one involved dropping a whole scene/chapter. A bit painful but it made sense when I read it through.