My Editing Process – Cressida McLaughlin
The Oxford English Dictionary definition of stationery is: Writing and other office materials. Writing materials. The materials of writing.
No wonder most authors love stationery. I certainly do. I am a worshipper of Sharpies, Post-it notes and Moleskines, and I’m not afraid to say it. I use a lot of stationery in my writing and editing process, and I’d be lost without all of it.
I have hundreds of unused notebooks. Beautiful hardback notebooks that are too perfect for me to sully the pages of. But I do also have a couple that I’ve taken the plunge with, that live in my handbag or by my side on the sofa, waiting for inspiration to strike.
I don’t write any of my drafts freehand, but do them straight onto my laptop (technological stationery?) in a wonderful programme called Scrivener, which allows me to work in sections – scenes or chapters – chop and change things around, search and edit by keyword or character.
I have a purple, glass whiteboard that I write characters and plot notes and doodle maps of my locations on in vibrant chalk, florescent pens. I can check a detail just by looking up from my screen, and the bright colours make me happy.
Once my first draft is done, and after leaving the words to fester for a while, I go back and edit it, scribbling notes on Post-its as I go. (My Post-its live in a shiny, apple shaped holder on my desk.) Once I’ve gone back and incorporated all my Post-its I export it into Word so it becomes a single, linear document, and then comes the fun bit.
I print out my book and I bind it. Yes, I have a binding machine. Just a little one, that lets me punch the pages and thread them onto a comb-binding ring, so my draft looks and works like a real book. I reread it, scribbling and highlighting in different coloured pens, always spotting things I never notice on the screen. Then, resting my bound copy on my wooden reading stand (oh yeah) I type the changes into my Word document.
Up until now, despite heavy input from my stationery family, it is only my brain that has worked on the book. So next it goes off to my fantastic editor Kate. She’ll come back with lots of suggestions of how I can improve the story, flesh out the characters, untangle a plot knot, so that’s the next round of edits. Then it’s the turn of the copy editor, who will remind me that not everyone in the world has dark brown hair and eyes, and that Sunday cannot miraculously become Monday without a night falling in-between. She finds the cracks in my writing and smooths them over.
At the end of all these edits, both Kate and I have a final read-through and then my words, which started off as unformed scribbles in that little notebook (currently coral with doves on the cover, in case you were wondering) are sent off to be turned into a book. It is a true collaboration of minds, pens and Post-it notes.
Cressida McLaughlin is the new author on the block! The Primrose Terrace series, an eBook serial published by Harper and the first book of the series, Wellies and Westies is out now!