Ian Rankin and editing

This is where the magic happens. This is where the magic happens. It doesn’t feel like magic at the moment. It feels like hard work with a lot of hard work ahead.” Ian Rankin, Imagine: The Case of the Disappearing Detective

This week, aside from parenting and stacking the dishwasher, I’ve been working on my edits for Baby Roulette.

My editor was very nice about my book, but his primary job was to tell me what wasn’t working, not what was. And he did it well. My role in the first few days was remember Ian Rankin.

In December 2011, the BBC gave Ian a camera to document his 6-month writing process for Standing In Another Man’s Grave . His very honest video diary was a revelation to me, for many reasons – not least, seeing a successful, well-regarded writer down in the dumps over his editorial letter. The lesson was: every book has weaknesses; the grown-up thing to do, is absorb the shock, work out which parts of your letter or email you agree with (most in my case) and get on with putting those things right.

Nine years later, everyone I come across on social media is saying pretty much the same thing: writing a novel is hard; only your final draft has to be near perfect; and most people are too close to their work to see what needs to be done to get it to this stage without help.

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