FROM A MANUSCRIPT TO A NOVEL :
AN INVISIBLE EDITOR.
In my previous blog, I had discussed the idea of artistic purity and its importance in the days of market driven publishing. In continuation with my decision to blog about “ non literary “ aspects of writing a novel, I would discuss in this blog, the role of an editor in presenting a novel as a finished product.
Since I am not an editor, either by training or by temperament, I would try to present a writer’s perspective of the importance of editing. Writing, particularly fiction writing, is not a straightforward process. Though, I insist on writing few hours every day while I am writing a novel, my experience has been that novel does not move forward in a fixed pattern. There are sessions in my writing, when the novel moves at a frenetic pace and then, there are sessions, when I barely manage to move the plot forward. During the writing of my two novels, I have tried analysing my own mind during both these types of sessions. Though, I refrain from rewriting or editing my manuscript, I can see shades of different thoughts that run through my mind during those two types of sessions. However, I feel that these different thoughts are integral to my creativity. Therefore, I tend to retain my original versions of different sessions just as they were originally written.
In order to avoid sense of patchwork and maintain continuity (of style and substance ) , what I normally do is to read outputs of previous few sessions before going ahead. My objective during the entire writing of a novel is to bring about smooth transitions in the narration of the plot, development of characters and the background ambience of the story. This process continues right from the beginning to the end.
The trouble begins, in my case, when I read that manuscript before submitting it to the publisher. On rereading the entire novel, I notice lots of shortcomings. Firstly, there are typos. Then, there are problems of styles. Finally there are problems of continuity. I usually try to correct these shortcomings during this stage. While doing this, I realized that there were lots of implicit meanings which did not surface in the final manuscript in a manner that I wanted to express. In addition, I found on both the occasions, that there is lopsided emphasis is some of the episodes. Of course, this is a natural phenomenon because, at least in my case, the story does exist beforehand. The story is shaped as it moves forward. Therefore, the manuscripts that I have submitted were actually rather complex narratives with some amorphous structures.
I also realized that no matter how often I tried to improve upon the manuscripts, they would still remain incomplete and unpolished. This was because I was looking at them from inside. The implicit motives of the characters and implicit meaning of the plot itself were known to me but they didn’t surface properly in the manuscript.
That was when I realised the importance of editing a novel. The task of an editor is far more delicate than that of a novelist. A novelist has liberty to shape the novel as she/he wants. An editor is bound by his professional ethics. An editor is required to read a novel from inside as well as from outside. An editor has to get into a novelist’s shoes and experience the novel from inside, from the novelist’s point of view. Having done that, an editor is required to read the novel from outside, from a readers perspective. In addition, an editor is required to remain faithful to the linguistic nuances that is different for each novel.
I have begun to appreciate the role of an editor after the publication of my first novel. Incidentally, my second novel is in the early stages of publication. The kind of corrections suggested and the kind of explanations sought by my editor during the publication of my first novel, have convinced me about the important contribution that an editor can make in a success of a good novel. The most poignant part of publishing industry is that these editors remain, by and large, anonymous. While novelists are recognised and celebrated for their creativity, the tribe of editors remains in the background, unknown and even unacknowledged.
This blog is not a paean to these unsung heroes, but a heartfelt acknowledgement from a neophyte. In my next blog, I would discuss a role played by the household environment in a novelist’s writing.