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  • Writer's pictureMatt Davies

Editing This Thing of Darkness

image of an old typewriter

For the past two weeks I’ve been editing the manuscript for This Thing of Darkness. What an experience! Kristy Bushnell, my editor, has done such an amazing job. So much care, so much attention to detail.

It’s a great feeling to have someone else put such thought into my manuscript. And she hasn’t been pushy about anything. All her ideas have been prefaced with, ‘This is just a suggestion. This is your manuscript and you know best what you aim to achieve’. Such a joy to work with! Turns out, though, I’ve accepted about 95 per cent of her suggestions and changes.

The red blur

When I opened the edited file for the first time, I was taken aback by the volume of red, tracked text and the number of comment bubbles stacked up along the right-hand side of the screen. But I wasn’t put off. Every one of these changes and every one of these comments, I thought, presents a chance to make this manuscript better. I got excited about the possibilities.

So I worked through the easy stuff straightaway, accepting little wording changes (deletions!) to tighten up the text. I scanned them, not reading anything too closely. I figured I would read a clean copy when I was done with the whole edit and if anything jumped out at me then, I would change it.

When Kristy sent the manuscript back, she also sent a six-page report summarising where the story was strong and where it needed some more thought. She wanted me to delve deeper into my main character’s relationships with her parents and to reconsider how some of the plotlines were revealed. She felt there were opportunities to create more suspense.

She also made a few structural suggestions – that I should rethink where my character was living, the timeline for when the action takes place and about bumping her age up from seventeen to eighteen. She also suggested taking a whole character out of the story. The implications of these changes would reverberate through the whole manuscript but, ultimately, they would make it better. I have made all of these structural changes except one (she suggested deleting a scene towards the end that I wanted to keep).

A labour of love

Making the changes has taken a lot longer than I expected. As a consequence of one of Kristy’s suggestions, I ended up changing a key aspect of the inciting incident, which had implications for the whole story. I’ve spent a lot of time concentrating on her relationships with her parents, which has meant thinking much more deeply about those two characters (her mum and her dad) to better understand their behaviour and the way they act towards their daughter (the main character).

So I’ve had to add a few scenes – emotional scenes where she has to confront her parents about their treatment of her, and resolution scenes to tie up the conflict. They are important scenes and so have taken a lot of planning and thought. I’ve spent many hours in bed at night thinking of ways to create and then resolve the tension in these scenes. Sleep has been difficult, and I’ve found myself getting out of bed three, four times a night to write something down, too scared that if I don’t, the idea will evaporate by morning. It’s been worth it, though. That feeling of coming up with that one thing that will finally nail a scene is priceless.

What’s next?

I’ve just returned the manuscript to Kristy. She will spend another two weeks on it and then get it back to me for one last check. Then we’ll submit it to the publisher. The plan is to have advance review copies printed in April.

I signed the contract for this book in August 2016, so it feels like it’s taken ages to get to this point. But now I’m really starting to get excited.

It finally feels real.

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