Nightscape Series

The Mobius Loop of Editing

David EdwardsComment

The editing process of Nightscape: Cynopolis has been relatively straightforward, but that doesn't mean it's been simple. Even a conventional process means a lot of tedious back-and-forth. In this case, the editing process started with me, as I tend to edit as I write. It's not the most efficient process, but I can't help it. Apparently, Kurt Vonnegut worked in a similar matter, editing the previous day's work before writing the next new sequence. (Not that I'm comparing my work to Vonnegut's--puh-lease.) 

Then my initial draft of the manuscript went to my editor, Sarah Kishpaugh. She delivered her edits in three distinct waves over about two months. The first wave consisted of a memo that detailed a few key areas for improvement, along with line edits for the first 95 pages or so. The second and third waves consisted of line edits in Word's 'track changes' mode with occasional explanatory comments. The guidance provided in the memo from the first wave informed my understanding of the line edits in these successive waves.

I used Sarah's edits to craft a new version of the manuscript, and as noted in previous posts, ultimately cut about 15K words. In some cases, I took an illustrative edit from one section and applied the principle behind it elsewhere. I didn't make any substantial structural changes as Sarah and I felt the narrative was soundly constructed. Most of the edits had to do with paring similies, metaphors, unnecessary details and the occasional digression. In the end, I cut even more than Sarah suggested, mainly to clarify the action and to ensure narrative consistency. This part of the process took a little over two weeks.

This version of the manuscript was kicked over to my layout designer, Ryan Peinhardt, who formatted the book with special attention to non-English phrases, the use of capitals in words like T-shirt and other font treatment details. He took about a week to do this draft, which I reviewed over about five days, marking up a printed copy and then transferring my comments to a 14 page Word table that identified my desired edits by page, paragraph and line. At this stage, I had to answer earth-shattering questions like Has bona fides become so common in the English-speakng parts of the world that I don't have to italicize it? and Did I inadvertently use 'naw' in one scene and 'nah' in another? 

Ryan's currently implementing these edits and I anticipate reviewing them and suffering through one more round of  (presumably few and simple) changes. All told, it will have taken about three months from my initial draft of the manuscript to final formatting. And despite all that, I'm sure a few mistakes will slip through. But as Leonardo da Vinci pointed out, of necessity "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Otherwise, you'd never move on to the next project.