Elaine Forrestal

Editing Jose’s voyage aboard the Uranie

Jose and Rose at Shark Bay in 1818

My editor and I are nearing the end of our voyage together on the Uranie. There have been smooth patches and rough ones, plain sailing and complex manoeuvres – as there are in any voyage, especially on a sailing ship in the early eighteen hundreds. But it has been an exciting ride – oops, my editor says I use ‘exciting’ (and excited) far too often. Although twenty nine times in a manuscript of forty thousand words doesn’t seem a lot to me, when it happens twice on one page I get the message. I do six or seven drafts of a manuscript before I let anyone else read it, but I am immersed in the story. Sometimes I don’t notice those surface features that are so important to the reader. Things that make perfect sense to me can be obscure, even confusing, to someone reading the story for the first time.

Good editors are worth their weight in gold. They bring different skills to the reading task and a fresh perspective to the writing. They force me to rethink and rewrite passages, to add details or leave out what is unnecessary. They have a heightened sense of the reader that balances my passion as a writer. Of course there are some compromises to be made, but I will only make them if the editor can convince me that they will strengthen the story.

Having said all that, after working away on my own for so long during the development stage, I do enjoy the stimulation, the soul searching, the cut and thrust of working with my editor.