Editing The Author Speaks

The Author Speaks: On Editing

Right now I’m in the process of doing my final edit of Glenrowan in preparation for publishing. I’ve lost count of how many edits I’ve done, but I think it’s at least three or four big edits since I completed the first draft of the whole book. It’s a very important and painstaking process.

The first thing that’s important to look at in editing (beyond spelling and grammar, of which you will undoubtedly find things in need of immediate attention when editing your work) is whether the words are flowing correctly. There have been a number of times where I had written a sentence and it sounded right in my head at the time, but when returning to it months later I stumble over the wording. Getting the text to move smoothly for the reader is of utmost importance as that will make or break the book. If your reader finds it difficult to follow the writing or it doesn’t occupy their imagination then you have failed as an author. You can’t tell a story without an audience and if your readers aren’t engaging then you have no audience. My method is to read once in my head; once out loud if it doesn’t feel quite right; tweak where necessary; read again. Usually this gives a very accurate indication of how a reader will find the writing. Speaking aloud also allows one to hear the words and this can really shape our understanding of our own text both on a syntactic level and a content level. Words are powerful and should be used appropriately.

Research on the Glenrowan Siege is something of a rabbit hole. Every blood-soaked leaf you turn over yields something unexpected.

In editing Glenrowan, the other big thing has been incorporating new research into the existing text. Every time I have read a witness account or have found something that can be incorporated into the text, it has required me to return to the stuff I had already written and alter the text where relevant. An example of this is something I have been doing in this round of edits, which is looking at weather reports. In order to ensure that I accurately depict the events, I felt it important to look at the weather that would most likely have been experienced. I knew Ann Jones had spoken of it being rainy in the night when Ned bailed her up. I was also keenly aware of the thick fog on the Monday morning when Ned had his last stand, which was part of why the police didn’t understand what they were shooting at. It just adds a further element of authenticity to the text. This is also the most frustrating element I am coming up against at the moment. There are so many things that I’ve had to go back and tweak because I find an account of an event or person that is slightly different and I need to make sure I get it correct. I know the high level of scrutiny such a text will be under (mainly because I know how I would assess such a thing myself) and it is a burden, but it is better to carry such a burden and get it right than to fall short and be torn to shreds by people looking to find fault in the work.

Visual representation of an author trying to write about Ned Kelly and not be attacked by Kelly buffs.

The current edit is coming along well but it is a slog at times. I do feel confident, however, that this will be the final edit before I begin the next phase, which is illustrations. I intend to fill the book with black and white drawings like old fashioned books did. While the text can create a vivid image in the reader’s mind, there are just some things a modern reader might not have a reference point for understanding. I mean, outside of railway enthusiasts, who immediately knows what a fish plate is? It’s just a little visual aide to help immerse the readers.

Anyway, I ought to try and get a little more work in before I get dinner started. It’s Good Friday but thanks to the lockdown I won’t be going to the fish and chip shop as is the tradition. Ah well, welcome to the new normal.

By AJFPhelan56

Father, writer, artist and bushranging historian residing in Melbourne, Australia. Author of 'Glenrowan' and the popular website A Guide to Australian Bushranging.

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