How to annoy your editor in one easy lesson

In between trying to come up with a new title for TNH, I have been editing the first draft. Sifting through the thing one word at a time, changing and fiddling and cutting out as much as I can. My goal is to lose about 15,000 words by the time I reach the last page. Slash and burn baby. If I can.

Right now I’m about 23% of the way through the book, my red pen a blur. Pristine printed pages, splattered with scarlet word-blood as I slash away. So if the book is me, I’ve edited from the ground up to just below the kneecaps. Or if it’s the Eiffel Tower I’ve done about the same height as 43 Fionas (which is a scary thought on many, many levels).

You know those people who sit in job interviews and say, “Well, like, if I have one weakness, it’s, like, I’m a total perfectionist.”, all the time thinking that this makes them appear smart and sexy to their potential employer? Well, I got news for them: being a perfectionist is not sexy. Hell, it’s not even mildly erogenous. Perfectionists are never happy – perfection, by its very nature is unobtainable, so they’re always disappointed – and they expect everyone else to live up to their unrealistic ideals. So the people around them are usually pretty unhappy too. That’s why, whenever I’m interviewing, if someone comes out with the “I’m a perfectionist” line I always give them a hard time. Lying bastards. I know the downside of perfectionism, because I suffer from it*. Everything I do could always be better. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph can always be made that much better. Which is why editing is such a gore-fest.

The page as edited and returned by Sarah at HC
The same page after I’ve got my grubby mitts on it**

The page on the left is what I got back from Sarah, part of my red-hot, slinky, and strangely feline editing team at HarperCollins. Five tiny changes, one of which is a typo. The page on the right is what happens when my RED PEN OF DOOM gets going on the same page. And this page isn’t unique. Of those 43 Fionas, about a dozen of them are similarly adorned with crimson ink. And the 143 Fionas I have left to do are probably going to suffer the same fate. Which means poor Sarah is going to have to go through the whole thing again from scratch. Nothing like taking something your publisher is basically happy with and tearing the trousers off it.

Wonder if I’ll make it onto their Christmas card list this year?

* And no smart-arsed comments about how you couldn’t tell from reading my stuff.
** For some arcane reason, editing must be done on printed paper with a red pen, never on screen. Don't ask me why, that's just the way the world works.