The Blog

Editing with the flu

After meeting my editor last week, this week has been about revisiting my first Heracles book and working in his suggestions. Unfortunately, I’ve also had flu. If I’m ill or tired, it’s generally a waste of time trying to do any sort of writing – it took me eight hours over Wednesday and Thursday just to put together two paragraphs! I’ll have to do better next week, as I’ve promised to get the edit finished by Friday.

The second edit (the first is my own, the second is where an external editor gets involved) is always my least favourite part of the writing process. I’ve never really got over the trauma of my first experience of this stage with King of Ithaca, way back when. The original manuscript was 180,000 words – twice the length of an average novel – and Pan Macmillan asked me to cut it down to 120,000. I was in shock for at least a week, but with my editor’s help I got it down to 130,000. It’s always left me with a bit of twitch, though, when it comes to getting a manuscript edited.

Not that I begrudge somebody else suggesting improvements to my work. It’s actually very reassuring to have a professional look over your work and point out what is good, bad or indifferent, and I value it very much. But I find it very difficult to incorporate somebody else’s ideas into my own. It’s a bit like running a three-legged race. The first difficulty is making sure you understand what it is they want. The second is trying to bring two sets of ideas together. It normally works out OK in the end, though. After this comes the copy edit – more details about that when I get to it.

After dosing up on Lemsip, cough syrup and Ibuprofen, I went with Jane and the girls to our local church on Saturday night to watch the Watoto children’s choir from Uganda. Their leaflet declares they’d sung before the Queen, the UK, Canadian and Australian Parliaments, and at the White House, so I wondered why Market Harborough was being graced with their presence. And I still don’t know – they were far too good for a little town in the English Midlands. They sang and danced beautifully, but the best thing was their enthusiasm – they projected a sense of joy, despite being orphans of war, AIDS and poverty.


I haven’t managed to catch any films this week, unless you count The Muppets Caper, which I watched with my daughters. I also caught some episodes of Friends, The Simpsons, Madam Secretary and The Black List, as well as a documentary about Winston Churchill in the First World War. I’m going to the cinema next week to watch Darkest Hour with my brother – I’ve heard good things about it, so am looking forward to that.


One thing I haven’t caught yet is Sky’s Britannia. I read a few comments by various Roman authors I follow on Facebook, and was left feeling a bit indifferent towards it. They all lament the historical accuracy, but several found it entertaining. Hmm… perhaps I’ll save myself for Troy: Fall of a City, though I’m not usually a fan of BBC drama. I note that Achilles is being played by a black actor, David Gyasi, which is a departure from the norm.


I finished Major Hesketh-Prichard’s book on sniping in the Great War and consider myself a lot better informed about the vicious struggle between German and British marksmen in no-man’s-land, as well as other activities such as trench raiding. I’ve reached the halfway point in the prophecies of Isaiah, and as a diversion picked up Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I’m also halfway through.


TELESCOPIC SIGHTS. Diagrams showing point of aim, from Sniping in France by Major H Hesketh-Prichard.

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