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Early Morning Editing & Learning to work with a Professional Editor

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

I have been writing for the stage for nearly twenty years, on and off, and this is where I have gained almost all of my experience as a writer. I have been very lucky to have had the unerring support of Malvern Theatre Players who have performed all of my work. I suppose that all playwrights have their own ways of working, but when I write my plays, I sit alone in my study with a cardboard box for a stage and a set of small glass animals which I move around as if they were my actors. Well, it works for me. When the first draft of a play is complete, and the director has looked it over, he or she will gather the actors together, and I get the opportunity to hear the play read aloud at the first read-through. The theatre's sound technicians record this for me, and then I go back to my study, listen to the recording and make adjustments to my script. I make more small changes during rehearsals, and these are the ones that I enjoy the most. Those that happen during rehearsals show me where I have made mistakes; it soon becomes clear when the dialogue is unbalanced. It is often too wordy; or there are too many jokes; or not enough jokes. Some characters have too little dialogue, and this becomes obvious immediately. Most actors try to get more lines for themselves and most of them quite enjoy pointing out inconsistencies and errors. A dramatic piece is collaborative, and the text alters right up to opening night and beyond. It only becomes fixed when it is published; which may be at a much later stage, if at all. My most successful and popular play about Shakespeare - Nay, Remember Me! – first performed at The Other Place Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2001 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Fringe Festival remained unchanged for many years. But when it was revived and performed again in 2010 I completely rewrote the play, added a new beginning and a new act at the end. When it is next picked up by another theatre company, I am sure that I will be asked to change it again.

For the last three years, I have been writing my first work of non-fiction, Walking into Alchemy, this has been a very different experience to writing a piece for the theatre. I have mainly worked alone and in isolation, and I have found that hard. But now I have a professional editor and at last, someone to tell me where the book needs some work. In the past two months of editing my editor has made 5,782 tiny alterations, so Microsoft Word informs me. My text was quite clean, so this number might seem high, but it is quite normal. Sometimes it is not only errors that have to be fixed but also stylistic choices have to be made – some publishers favour italics for book titles others quotation marks. In addition to these small adjustments I have worked through the comments – all of them gently and sensitively made and I have spent my early mornings completing corrections. We have also had several email conversations about fonts. I love fonts; my father spent many years training to be a typographer - poorly spaced lettering caused him physical pain. I spent a happy hour researching and choosing my favourite fonts: Garamond, Verdana, Palatino and Gill Sans, but the final decision won't be mine because the designer will decide. He favours a font called Sabon which I do not know; I'm looking forward to finding out what it looks like on the printed page. When the ideas for my book cover arrived, I felt very nervous - it was almost impossibly hard to choose from the three options – all of which I liked. My partner Katie helped me to make the right decision. Soon you will all have an opportunity to tell me what you think - I hope that you like it as much as we do.

I have really enjoyed the editing process - when I submitted my book, I felt bereft thinking that it was the end of something, but it was, of course, merely the beginning of the next step in the journey.

More details about my Shakespeare play Nay, Remember Me! may be found here:]

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