Edited Highlights

Diva Ladies Wear


Friendly fashionistas, surgeons and murder all appear in this week’s post.

SOME years ago, my best friend took me to an astonishing shop in Low Ackworth, Yorkshire. I needed to get smartened up for career interviews and the like. Diva is a tiny emporium of posh frocks, race-goers’ hats and glamorous accessories. I felt so out of my depth. I’ve never been exactly what you’d call a girly girl and this was a Tardis full of fabulous fashion.

BUT the two lovely ladies – full of Alan Bennett-like charm – sorted me out. They made me wear styles I would never have considered, colours I had never even heard of (what’s teal for goodness’ sake – I thought it was a duck) and prance round wearing outfits whilst they decided if they worked. Talk about squirm.

AND so I came out with clothes that actually suited me – that I was complimented on and that served me well for years.

Diva PumpkinRATHER a lot like a really good first edit.

YOU have to trust the editor recognises the shape beneath the frumpy clich̩s on the surface. That she will have the experience to recommend changes you might never even have encountered before Рand that what you agree on between you will do what you want them to.

GOOD friends tell you that lime green does nothing for your complexion when it turns you wan. A good editor helps you lose the fripperies that spoil the story’s smooth lines.


From 2001: A Space Odyssey

UNLIKE the side-bar of shame it’s not about making you feel small – although it is intimidating. It’s about making the best of your story’s assets.

WORKING through a set of deep edits can feel rather like being in a chrysalis. You turn your tale into a soup of words and hope it will emerge as something new and lovely. As the imago forms, this the point at which your inner critic is welcome. All that nitpicking and pedantry has a role.

I’VE long thought that all personality traits can have a positive (or a negative) side to them. Cruelty or callousness, for example. Largely disapproved of – but you really don’t want a squeamish surgeon.

THE same goes for ‘murdering your darlings’. Some beautifully written passages will have to go. Your Lepidoptera can’t have six wings and fly well – and do you really need a fascinator with a tiara?

Deaths_head_mothTIPS – as promised

  • read it ALL aloud – then it will have your voice literally and figuratively
  • use a different font – one you dislike works well to show up the mistakes
  • try a different mode of reading – printed, Kindle, pdf – I am indebted to Joanne Harris (again) for these hints and I can honestly say they really do work

With thanks to Nicki Marshall at Golden Egg for her patience.

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