I’m several weeks into Round One of edits on The Remarkables, and so far it’s been a wild experience—far more challenging than I’d anticipated. I want to share three hard lessons I’ve learned so far from editing.
And then, for fun, I’ll share some tempting tidbits of 19th-century trivia.
Editing Lesson 1: Prepare Yourself for Murder
Ever since I set out on my writing dream in 2010, getting to work with an editorial team has been my most highly anticipated goal. It’s been a long wait but so worth it. Talk about a Dream Team! I get to work with editor + YA author Kesia Lupo!
What’s being asked of me is significant. This is no spit-and-polish edit. It’s a major overhaul. Biggest on the list is the directive to the change the text from YA to MG (young adult to middle grade). This means shortening the story by 22K words, reducing the age of my protagonist, and reworking my antagonist.
I thought I’d understood the common writerly advice to ‘kill your darlings.’ I did not. To do any of the things required (see above: cut 22K words), I have to pick up my axe. Buffing won’t do it. Slashing and burning will.
I return to my previous sentiment about yearning to work with an editor. I trust the process. Publishing professionals understand the market demands and the readers’ tastes far better than I can. And at the end of the day, what I want most of all is a book I can be proud of—and the opportunity to write more.
In the first six days, I blitzed out a new act one. I was supremely chuffed at being more than two weeks ahead of schedule—until everything ground to a crashy, crunchy halt. I didn’t like what I’d written, and I couldn’t move forward until I figured out what was wrong.
Then the plague struck. My husband got it first, and my turn came a few days later. The nonagenarian we care for came down with Covid last. It was rough. Three weeks passed, and few words were written. By this point, my writer knickers were well and truly knotted.
While I was ill, I read (or rather, stared at) books about royal espionage and flipped through tomes on 19th-century fashion and architecture. I watched fabulous videos about Queen Victoria’s favourite foods. I dipped into contemporary and historical middle grade fiction to study story structure. I subscribed to digital history magazines to access juicy bits. I made copious notes. I drew mindmaps, genograms, and storyboards. But no words were added to my manuscript.
My foggy, Covid-addled brain couldn’t figure out the problems I’d identified. It felt like doing a 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in zero gravity. Pieces of puzzle and I were floating and spinning in space. Nothing would snap together.
This caused a HUGE crisis of confidence. What the actual flip was I doing? And why do I suppose I can do it? A sucking abyss was opening in front of me.
Thank God I had the good sense to talk about my fears to my husband and friends.
Editing Lesson 2: Rewriting doesn’t have one speed—or direction.
Any journey has stops and starts; so does editing. It’s normal to surge and slow, stop and start as conditions dictate. Change trains. Adopt new modes. Revert to pedal power when the conditions call for it. Whatever works! Speed isn’t necessarily the key.
And Editing Lesson 3: Forget writing when you’re sick.
Just rest and get better.
Nobody is confident when they’re sick. Everything is too hard. Just rest— and let someone know if you’re struggling emotionally.
As soon as I started to feel better, ideas clicked together. Oh.My.God. What a relief! And with each CLICK, the new story started to come together in my mind. THEN I could write.
I started over. Yep. Those blitzed-out words from week one? *Insert obnoxious bleeper noise* I still have them, but I opened a new document and started again. V3 begins with a frickin’ kickass prologue. I know, right? Never saw THAT one coming. I’m normally not a fan, but guess what? It works. It’s staying (for now. We’ll see what Kesia thinks!)
I don’t know when I’ll catch up or if I’ll catch up. I hope I do, because the annoying perfectionist in me wants a shiny gold star for handing in my work early. But right now, I’m just so glad that a story—a different, stronger story—is emerging.
Bonus: Teasers to Tempt
To reward you for reading this far, the following three factoids are for your enjoyment. If these tidbits tickle your fancy, you will LOVE The Remarkables.
A Royal Sting
Victoria and Albert once organised a sting operation! The year was 1842, and they’d been out for a spin in their carriage and were returning to Buckingham Palace when someone in the crowd aimed a pistol at them. The police bumbled, completely missing the would-be assassin, but eagle-eyed Prince Albert noticed the man.
He and Victoria (with the full knowledge and backing of the Prime Minister) planned another outing on the same route the very next day “to flush the rascal out!” How badass is that? Victoria recorded in her diary that she felt “agitated and excited.”
The man, 22-year-old John Francis, was caught in the sting, tried for high treason, and sentenced to death. Because his pistol wasn’t loaded, Queen Victoria eventually commuted his sentence to transportation to Van Diemen’s Land. Francis served his time and went on to marry and live a quiet life in Melbourne. Aussie-Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
Did you know that a primitive fax machine was invented in the 1880s, patented in 1888, and in use by the mid 1890s? It could transmit near exact facsimiles of signatures, handwriting, and even drawings. The technology was used in railways, military operations, banks, businesses, and hospitals until the 1970s.
Cringy Family Dynamics
Queen Victoria’s interesting bonds with her nine children provide enough eye-popping fodder to baffle a battalion armchair therapists. Her relationship with her oldest son and heir to the throne, Edward aka “Bertie,” was particularly vexing. She blamed him and his immoral exploits for the death of Albert, her beloved husband. She actually wrote in a letter: “Oh, that boy. I never can or shall look at him without a shudder.” Ouch!
Young & middle-aged Bertie was a piece of work, no doubt about it. Reporters’ nicknames included “Tum-Tum” for his abundant girth and “Dirty Bertie” and “Edward the Caresser” for his other (ahem) appetites. History records approximately fifty mistresses and hints at least one illegitimate child…
Once Mumsy finally gave up the ghost, I imagine Bertie rolled his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. He stepped up to be a rather excellent monarch for a mere ten years. King Edward VII died after a series of heart attacks. (Twenty cigarettes and a dozen cigars a day will do that…)
Here’s to More Lessons!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading the important lessons editing has taught me and the not so important trivia I’ve accumulated (but will put to excellent use!) I promise to share more further down the road. In the meantime, wish me luck!
You can read more about The Remarkables on this website. Check out the menu!
- Header: A Private View by William Powell Frith, 1883, public domain
- Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash
- Photo by Gareth Harrison on Unsplash
- Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash
- Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash
- Lithograph of V&A, 1851, CC0, accessed from sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk
- Edward VII in Coronation Robes, by Sir Luke Fildes, 1901, public domain