Sunday, 20 August 2017

Clearing the clutter by Sue Russell

I've been cogitating on the subject dear to all our hearts (or maybe not): editing.
The gardening analogy is an obvious one, but might bear reiterating. We humans, compared to a grapevine, are told we are in need of pruning in John's Gospel, chapter 15, verse 2, with the express purpose of becoming more fruitful. I don't know anything about viticulture, apart from the delights of the end product, but I have a vague notion that some plants need pruning, whether delicately or more stringently, and I guess there are few among us who would deny we need that sometimes painful discipline.
Just lately we've been doing some drastic clearance in our UK garden. Used as we are to macro-gardening in France, we wanted to make our English garden as low-maintenance as possible. So the ugly, overgrown and already-ringbarked-and-therefore-dead Leylandii between us and our neighbours  - planted many years ago, and not by us - had to go. A dozen or so trees, ranging from spindly to massive, had been taken over by a rampant, tangled and inaccessibly-high growth of climbers whose woody stems had entwined themselves in and out of the chain-link fencing put in by us and our neighbours to prevent mutual dog incursion, and had been taken over by undesirables such as brambles and ivy. So it was a huge job.

Down comes the overgrowth...

 ...and  a little over a week later the new fence is partly up, after a great deal of hard work. I  am aiming not only for practicality but also for a more harmonious array of plants and a great deal more light. Which is where destruction begins to turn into reconstruction, and we see the (perhaps flimsy) analogy with editing. 

I wouldn't suggest that every work of ours needs quite such treatment, but I don't suppose that many of us can produce a perfect first draft - as Mozart is reputed to have done, so I am told. Editing, especially by a sharp-eyed professional, is surely essential, whatever we have written. Often we are too close to our great work to see its flaws of construction or gaping plot-holes. And proof-reading is also vital; how easy it is to miss the repeated word or misplaced speech mark. I don't know about you, but anachronisms, typos, spelling and grammar errors, inconsistencies and the like will very soon deter me from continuing to read. Such carelessness seems to indicate a lack of regard for the reader, and ignorance is no excuse.
No one is immune, though. I try very hard to eliminate mistakes,  but I once allowed 'bothers and sisters' to go to print!

Sue writes as S.L.Russell and has written six novels from a Christian viewpoint, available in the usual places. The sixth, 'A Vision of Locusts', published by Instant Apostle, is available to pre-order now on Amazon (yes I know, shameless plug.)


  1. 'Bothers and sisters' made me giggle. How maddening! I agree with you that many newly-published books allow mistakes in now which just wouldn't have got through before. Still, the one which annoys me most is in a children's book I read to my grandchildren in which 'surprise' is 'suprise'. Being in a big font and one of the only words on the page, it sticks out rather. I have to add 'but actually surprise has an r in it' to the narrative for my 5 year old grandson.

    1. Ha ha Fran, that made me laugh out loud! I would be EXACTLY the same! I can't stand seeing mistakes and always feel mortified when I realise I've made one! 😀

    2. I see spelling errors and grammatical blunders everywhere. It's a kind of curse!

  2. Timely advice for those of us busy editing a new manuscript. And it doesn't matter how many times I proof-read, I always need the eagle-eyed help of another to pin down the blips.

  3. It's amazing how blind we can be to our own mistakes. I must look around for some sharp eyed professional friends! Love the comparison to your garden as well. Very well put. Thank you 🙂