Friday, 5 July 2013

Visitors and the editorial notes

One of Marcia’s friends who lives in south west Wales, Vivien, was on holiday in St Mawes with her parents (leaving her husband behind holding the fort) and, on the way home, she called in to see us. I am delighted to say that she follows my blog and so is well aware of my recent obsession with corrugated iron.

It turns out that I am not the only one: she brought with her a mounted copy of a picture taken by the St Mawes photographer Ray Bradshaw which he has titled “Old Rusty”. It is a lovely pressie and I have found a frame for it and soon it will be hanging beside the tapestry of Trubshawe that Vivien worked for Marcia some time ago.

I would be breaking copyright by showing it to you but if you want to see what I am talking about, click here.

After Vivien had left for Wales, we had lunch at the pub – nobly served by Steph (who had been eating blue bubble-gum ice cream) and John.

* * * * *
We are approaching the moment when Marcia can safely wave good-bye to the characters inhabiting the last book to be written. Approaching - we are not there yet.

The dreaded editorial notes arrived recently. I say dreaded with no exaggeration. Any writing is as dear to the writer as babies are to their mothers. How dare this other person say anything negative about my baby?
We have a rule: nothing that I write goes out of the house until Marcia has read it, commented on it, offered a critique and (hopefully) some positive suggestions. The roles are reversed when she is writing. Obviously, over the years, we have learned to be gentle with each other but there is that initial moment when the process hurts. So, instead of starting off by saying, "The second sentence in paragraph three is rubbish," one starts, "This is really good, love it. By the way, you might like to have another look at the second sentence in the third para. I think you could word that a bit better."

Having said that the editorial notes are awaited with dread, I should add that the sooner they arrive the better it is. This is because the characters that will appear in the next book are beginning to take over but must not be allowed to displace the old lot. Marcia will need to revisit them when those editorial notes arrive and so is presently in that parlous state where she is trying to juggle with two very disparate groups: terrified that the old ones will intrude into the new book and that the new ones will, as it were, contaminate the old ones. That is why I say that the sooner these notes arrive and Marcia has dealt with them the better it is.

It had been arranged some time ago that Marcia would be in the Harbour Book Shop in Kingsbridge. As always, there was much jollity and laughter but had Marcia known when the editorial notes would arrive all this would have happened on another day.
Most editors are aware of the impact that their editorial notes will have on the writer and they tend to follow our practice. This time, sure enough, they start by explaining that the novel is really wonderful. I agree with that, but then, I would, wouldn't I? Then come the matters that the editor feels need to be addressed.

Actually, although I doubt Marcia would agree with this, her editorial notes rarely contain anything of great importance. Sometimes editors require what really amounts to a re-write and that has never happened. Mary Wesley also dreaded what she called "the blue pencil" and after one of the early books, having heard from Marcia what her then editor wanted, said, "That is nothing. If that is all she wants you are very lucky."

It was a great benefit that Marcia knew Mary in those early days. In fact there was a wonderful group of writers based around Totnes then: Joan Brady, James Long, Mary and then, of course, Marcia. These thing never last. Mary is, of course, no longer with us. James has moved to the Bristol area and Joan to the Midlands. As you know, Marcia also moved away but is now back but the town is poorer for the absence of the other three.

Now, as I write, Marcia has almost finished dealing with these editorial notes for the novel that will be called - well, whatever it is that Transworld decide to call it (and if I tell you the working title we shall the same problems as we had over The Ginger Jar which was published as The Prodigal Wife.

Anyway, within the next few days, Marcia should be able to wave good-bye to the old characters and be able to turn her searchlight on the new lot.

This is a rather special blog dog. Bennie is Vivien's father's dog and the two are inseparable.