Seven Sensible Steps to Success as a Writer
Step 7 (continued): Suzanne
I may have had a few problems along the way. Who hasn’t? But I’ve also been exceptionally fortunate in having as my principal editor a woman whose contribution to my books has been to strengthen and improve them immeasurably.
Suzanne has either copy edited or proof read all of my significant books. She’s a grammarian, walking lexicon, stylist, disciplinarian and guide all in one. Yes, and also a friend.
Let me tell you, she is somebody who knows when to use ‘onto’ (one word) or ‘on to’ (two words) … who can not only advise you to use the double possessive ‘Banks’s Journal’ but explain why from the rules of Old English (it actually means ‘Banks his journal’).
Suzanne is also a mighty wielder of the literary axe, once chopping somebody’s autobiography of some 600,000 words by two-thirds, and thereby enabling it to go on to become a best-seller.
To be sure, Suzanne understands what I try to achieve as a writer, and is sympathetic to my work. But this doesn’t mean that she allows me to get away with sloppy sentences or a manuscript she thinks I can improve.
During the editing of ‘Young Digger’, for example, she got me to revisit the basic structure of the book three times – kicking and complaining I acknowledge. Yet ultimately I found the subsidiary story to which I kept returning, like a rondo, and which – when it resolved itself – gave the book a whole new level of depth and immediacy.
That’s a good editor. And that’s why we all need one.
Photo: ‘Basket of Flowers’: 18th Century enamel snuff box in author’s collection.