It’s springtime. Birds sing, trees sway, rivers tinkle gently by, and every magazine cover in every newsagent bears its own version of this:
I make derisory remarks to anyone who will listen: my friends and family are well aware of my perpetual outrage with the magazine industry and its obsession with external beauty.
But when it comes to being on the Ride to publication again, it seems that I have no option but to concern myself with these weighty matters. Punch is due to be published in October, and I am near the end of the first round of consultation and edits.
By this I don’t mean reading over my own, rough manuscript – no. I mean the process when you have made your manuscript as good as you can make it, then show it to the publishers. They like it. They take it on and commit to it and spend time reading it properly, taking notes, engaging with the text.
And in the resulting discussion it turns out: apart from some passages which need a little work, my manuscript in general is a little flabby. It would be healthier and leaner and fitter for purpose if it shifted all the bits that aren’t strictly necessary. In my case, this amounts to around 4000-5000 words which I must try to shave off the length of this book.
It’s HARD, this; and just like any diet worth its salt, it hurts!
But wait, there is an additional complication – not only am I asked to reduce the length. There is a particular aspect of the story which, according to the editor, is interesting enough to elaborate on: ‘More about the dancing bear, please. Kids will love the dancing bear!’
And so it came to pass that, while ruthlessly slicing away my favourite passages, I now began gathering new material again: replacing the junkfood of cliches and lazy phrases with the carrot sticks of additional research, to build up the muscle my story needed.
I have good days and bad days. But like the holiday panic diet, there is a deadline. That plane will leave.
So, is it working?
Too early to tell for certain.
I guess it’ll be up to the readers to judge whether Punch is in great shape when he finally gets out there.