Friday, 20 March 2015

Tides and Eclipses

Today the UK witnessed a partial eclipse. Where I was it was cloudy, too cloudy to see much, but I stood in the supermarket car park looking up at the sky as the world dimmed around me. It felt like it does on a stormy day as the thunder clouds gather, an odd brooding twilight. It was only as I drove home that the clouds thinned enough for me to glimpse a pale crescent through the haze.

Photo  © Ciara Kelly
The last eclipse, in 1999, down here in the west, was far more dramatic. We gathered round a friend’s house as the light faded and the gulls began to roost and toasted the darkness with champagne. There was the same strange gloomy twilight, but the dimming was much more pronounced since we were not far from totality. The light fell suddenly, as if some celestial being was turning down the dimmer switch. The birds fell silent, and over on Portland we could see the flashes from people’s cameras in the shadow. Then the light returned equally swiftly.

But more dramatic as far as I am concerned – and I am a Marine Scientist after all so perhaps this is not surprising - was the super low spring tide this morning. We walked right out, almost up to the Sea Life tower without getting our feet even slightly wet. I haven’t seen it out quite so far before – and tomorrow’s low tide will be even lower! Of course, there will be a corresponding high high tide in a few hours time, so I might pop down and see how the flood defences are holding up. In the meantime, here a couple of pictures.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Editing Process

Progress is being made with my short story collection, The Scribbling Sea Serpent. The stories were collated and sent to the publisher, and now I am working on the edits.

Editing can broadly be divided into three stages. This applies not just to this collection, but also to longer works. In fact the editing process I went through with Red Rock followed broadly the same pattern.

1. Structural Edits.

This is the stage where major changes will be identified. These may include changes to the plot and the sequence of events. Scenes may be added or removed. A character may need development. Two characters may need to be combined into one.

The degree of structural edits required can vary. It depends on the vision of the publisher, and how much they feel the work needs to be developed.

In this case, with a short story collection, the structural edits consisted mainly of changing the running order, moving some of the more SF stories further back in the collection and bringing some of the more weird fiction or Fortean stories to the fore.

The stories themselves required little in the way of structural edits although I was asked to make some changes to the ending of one of them.

2. Line Edits.

These are the detailed edits, changing the structure of a sentence to make things clearer, deleting repetitions, or making a clarification. Inconsistencies can be ironed out. Does a character’s eye colour change?

Since several of these stories had already been published and therefore edited these were relatively minor, although some inconsistencies did come to light – in particular where I had used American spellings in some cases and British spellings in others.

Factual errors were identified. In one story I had described a font as being porcelain. I’ve no idea why, when I know it’s made of limestone! I also changed the title of another.

3. Copy Edits.

This is the final stage before a book goes off to the printers, and is one where the author makes little input, other than perhaps a final read through, just in case a fresh pair on eyes can pick up on something the copy editor might have missed.

Copy edits are the final check for typos and formatting errors, for example, are straight or curved quotation marks being used consistently throughout? This is the fine tuning stage.

A good editor is the writer’s best friend. However perfect we may think out work is when we send it off to the publisher there’s always something that can be improved, and this is where a good editor is so essential.

But of course, remember that this is a two way process. If your editor suggests something that you really don’t agree with then discuss it with them. Remember, it’s your story at the end of the day.