Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Guest Blog - Editing Process Q&A - Trevor Wood

Our next guest author is Trevor Wood, a crime writer who recently won the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award, for his book: ‘The Man on the Street’. 

The CWA is the UK Crime Writer’s Association and they host yearly awards called The Daggers. This means that Trevor is a veritable celebrity, so I am extremely grateful he agreed to take part! 

His new book ‘One Way Street’ came out last week on Thursday the 29th of October, and is a follow up to 'The Man on the Street'. (see details after the interview).

Trevor Wood has lived in Newcastle for 25 years and considers himself an adopted Geordie, though he still can’t speak the language. He's a successful playwright who has also worked as a journalist and spin-doctor for the City Council. Prior to that he served in the Royal Navy for 16 years joining, presciently, as a Writer. Trevor holds an MA in Creative Writing (Crime Fiction) from UEA. His first novel, The Man on the Street, which is set in his home city, was published by Quercus in March 2020. He is represented by Oli Munson at AM Heath.

On to the questions:

Do you send a proposal before a book is accepted? Do you send in an outline first and get that okayed or do you go straight to the full draft?

For my first publishing deal I had already written The Man on the Street. I wrote it as a standalone but the publishers believed it had ‘legs’ as a series and gave me a two-book deal without requiring any outlines for the second book. Once I’d delivered the second book I sent them a two-page pitch for a third book in the series and on the back of that they gave me a second two-book deal, the subject of the fourth book to be agreed at a later date.

Do you do several drafts before you send it to the publisher for editing, or do you just send the first draft?

Yes, many many drafts! I wouldn’t want anyone to see my first draft, and I try to make the first one I send to my editor as perfect as I can. Most days I edit what I wrote the day before and then I stop around every 10k and edit the whole lot again. I’m not a planner so my first full draft will often have a few plot holes that need filling and that’s my first job. After that I do a variety of edits. I like to make the beginnings and endings of every chapter memorable so I focus on those in one edit. I do other edits e.g. deleting any adverb that hasn’t earnt its place. I also do what I loosely call a ‘fuck’ edit where I delete any swearing that I don’t consider necessary. My books are set in Newcastle’s homeless community so I tend to write a lot in and reduce them as I go. I used to be a sub-editor on newspapers so do have a pretty good eye for detail. All the time I’m looking for typos etc so by the time I’m ready to send it in it’s pretty clean copy.

How many times do you go back and forth (on average) - does it vary with the publisher or with the story? 

On both books so far it’s been accepted after one pass I think. So my editor has sent me notes on the first draft I’ve sent to them, I’ve changed things accordingly, or not, if I had good reason not to, and that version has then gone to a copy editor for checking.

What kind of changes/suggestions do they make? Are they just minor ones or are they major? (any examples?)

Mostly minor so far, thankfully, possibly because of all the editing I do beforehand. Many are just making sure that character’s motivations are right, that there’s enough detail to support the way they behave and the decisions they make. When my first book, The Man on the Street, was initially out on submission one editor was very interested in the book but couldn’t convince the rest of the Acquisitions Team. He asked me to do some fairly major rewrites to try and get it through, both structurally and in terms of adding other characters and plot links. I did them but it still didn’t get picked up by that publisher. However, the new version went back out on submission and I received several offers for that version so it was well worth all the work in the end.

Does it go through various stages, like developmental, copy editing and then proofing? Or is it straight into copy and proofing? Or again, does that vary on book and publisher?

Yes, my editor is the first port of call. She covers pretty much everything but is the only one who really considers structure. Once she’s happy it goes to a copy editor and then for final proofing. The copy editing is always interesting as often I find it’s quite a subjective process. My books are set in Newcastle so there’s quite a lot of vernacular and, though it’s written in close third, the voice is very particular and there are some words that just sound better than others. My first copy editor changed ‘knelt’ ‘leant’ ‘leapt’ and ‘dreamt’ to ‘kneeled’ ‘leaned’ ‘leaped’ and ‘dreamed’ but it didn’t sound right in that voice so I changed them all back again. 

What would you say best practice is in regards to accepting/rejecting edits - is there always a discussion, or do you feel you have to accept all/some of them?

I think you have to be grown-up about it. All the suggested edits come from a good place, everybody involved is trying to make your book the best version it can be. So I take every single suggestion seriously and try to make them work. Sometimes, if I understand the rational for a suggested change but don’t like the proposed solution I’ll change things in a different way than suggested. I’d say I probably end up accepting about 75% of the edits proposed. If I don’t accept things then, when I send back the new draft, I always explain why I don’t think the suggested changes were a good idea or why they don’t work in the context of the rest of the book.

Do you find it hard to embrace the suggestions/changes given? 

Not at all. Ultimately I’ve got be happy with the finished book – it’s got my name on it after all - but I think if you have a sympathetic editor then most suggested edits will improve the book.

Thanks so much for taking part in this blog series.

The word on the street is that a rogue batch of Spice - the zombie drug sweeping the inner cities - is to blame, but when one of Jimmy's few close friends is caught up in the carnage, loyalty compels him to find out what's really going on.

One Way Street sees the welcome return of Jimmy Mullen, the homeless, PTSD-suffering, veteran as he attempts to rebuild his life following the events in The Man on the Street.

As his probation officer constantly reminds him: all he needs to do is keep out of trouble. Sadly for him, trouble seems to have a habit of tracking Jimmy down.

Available from Amazon and all good bookstores - click on the book cover to be redirected to Amazon UK.

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