At what point does the seemingly endless round of editing and getting people to read your manuscript become self-defeating? The objective, no doubt, is to refine the manuscript so that the best possible product reaches a publisher or, in my case, potential publisher. Somewhere along the line, however, this quite possibly ends up sliding towards nitpicking, navel gazing and – essentially – procrastination.

A friend of mine has a simple mantra in life, one that’s borrowed without shame or compromise from the corporate world: just Do It! I admire her for this enormously and am often slightly envious at the capacity she has to live up to those words. She’s a great example to her many students and, indeed, to me. So whenever I start to debate the finer details of syntax, grammar, sentence construction, paragraph length and so on for too long, I try to haul myself back from disappearing down that rabbit hole and try to keep a sense of perspective. I remind myself that, whilst correct spelling, appropriate grammar and the position of a comma or apostrophe are all very important, so is finishing a product and getting it out there. Finding the balance between procrastination and a gung-ho attitude is the key to just doing it whilst doing it right.

In that spirit, I tidied up the final details of my epic tome this weekend – adding and captioning some photographs and scanned images – and have sent it off for some final line editing. Are these edits really necessary? Probably not, but I’m pedantic enough to want to be sure that the product I take for professional assessment by a publisher is indeed the best that I can produce. To an extent doing so will make rejection tougher than if I knew that it still needed a lot of work, but at least I won’t castigate myself unduly for not having done a good job upfront – whatever the outcome.

I actually have no idea how long other writers take to edit and tidy up their manuscripts prior to submission. My only benchmark is my thesis – and that took an awfully long time, partly because reference checking is exacting and very time hungry. This round of editing (by no means the first) started in September last year. Given that December was a write-off, that still means that this is the fourth month of nitpicking, of checking for consistency and formatting, along with everything else.

Things I’ve done that have worked:

Changimageing the font and colour of the text. This makes me actually read every word, rather than letting my eyes slide over them and not see typos. This is a real pro tip, by the way 🙂

Printing out a hard copy and reading it as though it’s a book by someone else – and being ruthless with a red pen whenever I find an error.

Reading sections out aloud to myself, since this often shows me where the errors lie more clearly than anything else does – particularly where the commas should (or shouldn’t!) be.

Things I’ve done that haven’t worked: Procrastinate. Yup, that’s about it really.

So – onwards (to victory, and beyond!). I await feedback from a couple of people and must then knuckle down and submit the manuscript as a book proposal to local publishers. Exciting times…

The past week was my almost-holiday between terms. This is the relatively quiet time when I generally get to enjoy some downtime, with only a few hours of work thrown into the mix each week. I managed to be out of work-mode for a while, but have had to wrack my brains a bit to figure out just what – exactly – I did with my time (other than the usual daily thingos).

Well, first there was brunch down in Fremantle with a dozen or so people to celebrate a couple of birthdays, followed by a quick foray down onto the beach to laze around, paddle or – for the bravest amongst us – to swim.


On one day we adventured off to meet our puppy for the first time. At all of six weeks old, Miss Molly turned out to be a-dor-able in every way. We get to bring her home in early November – and then the fun really begins!

Over the next couple days I managed to pack in quite a few things, now that I think about it. I rode my bike in the sun, zipping off on sundry missions to shops, library and friends. I’d almost forgotten just how much l love my bike and what fun it is to fly down hills with the wind in my hair. More of that to come over the summer, for sure. I read some books, planted some seedlings and a rose bush and finished the penultimate round of edits on my memoir. One more reader on that, then it’s time to hit up a publisher and see what emerges.

week of things234_oct14

Thursday morning was spent at work – so that wasn’t downtime at all, really, but putting nine volunteers through a training programme on the new computer system will make life easier for me next week, so it was a worthwhile investment. Afterwards I visited a damaged sibling – she broke her ankle earlier in the week and needed some cheering up. It felt good to be the one visiting and cheering for once, rather than on the receiving end. I think I make a better visitor than patient!

I attended week 4 of my ‘Smart Busy’ programme at Murdoch Uni, which motivated me to declutter several cupboards and get rid of some unnecessary stuff. VERY satisfying. During that process I came across some artwork that my brother did for me for a wedding invitation – nearly forty years ago, when he was living in Melbourne. How the wheel turns: I’m now in Perth and he’s in Johannesburg. Sadly he seldom sketches these days, but I’ve sent this one to him to see if it inspires him to start drawing again. We’ll see how that goes.

week of things56_oct14

A family dinner on one night included experimental Magic Bean Cake. It’s gluten free and very chocolatey – lots of good quality cocoa in there. Made as per the recipe it turned out super delicious and the unanimous vote was that it’s a definite do-again option. We had it for dessert, dusted with icing sugar and served with raspberries and custard. Yum. You can find the recipe I used hereOn Saturday we hit the veggie markets for fruit and veg and came away with an amazing haul of great stuff at bargain prices. I now need recipes for things to do with oranges – lots of oranges! Maybe the next magic bean cake should be orange flavoured…  The week has finally staggered to a close with gardening, a waterlogged German Shepherd (our water baby strikes again) and a trip to the cinema for ice-cream and a vampire movie.

It’s possible that I now need to go back to work to recover enough for more ‘down-time’!

I remember editing my dissertation a few years ago, reading and re-reading over eighty five thousand words. This equated to about 1,370 paragraphs (excluding footnotes) that I had to check for formatting, typos, spelling, punctuation, syntax, grammar, references and more typos. After I’d stared at the words on the screen and on printouts for way too long, my treasured band of proofreaders stepped in to try to ferret out what I’d missed. They went through the whole thing with fresh eyes, providing me with a bit of distance from it all and some invaluable feedback that I could put too good use. The whole process took months; it was a long, hard slog, but well worth it in the end. (Thanks again, guys).

To date I’ve had five sets of eyes (other than my own) run through my current manuscript. Four were those of friends or colleagues, their remit simply to look for flow and coherency in the story line and to let me know if anything didn’t make sense. Changes were made and then the manuscript went off for a more comprehensive review, to elicit specific editing feedback.

This brought me to the end of the first two phases of the edit process (self-editing and outside assessment) and has left me squarely in the middle of the formal revision stage. When that’s done I plan to call on some more of those fresh eyes before taking the next step.

Meantime the typos are easy enough to fix, the layout likewise, and even moving the prologue to the end of the story and repurposing it as an epilogue had turned out to be okay. Adding content for context is quite a bit more challenging. Not because writing the content is difficult, but because there is so much I could add – and only a small percentage of that is really relevant.

So I’ve taken to reading the new sections out aloud to see if they fit, or if they sound awkward. The dog gnaws on carboard and looks on patiently as I drone on to myself; the chickens watch me warily through the window with their beady little eyes. It’s a writer’s life.