• Sheryl Gwyther

Sweet Adversity thrives on professional structural/copy edit

Four months ago, I'd promised to tell you a bit about Sweet Adversity's journey through a professional structural/copy edit with HarperCollins, my novel's publisher. Broken promise, I'm afraid!

But I'm back again after finishing a fabulous editing experience under the professional and strong wings of the book's immediate publishing team, Nicola O'Shea, Lisa Berryman and Eve Tonelli. And we're a month ahead of schedule!!

I know the writers amongst you will be interested in a behind the scenes look at a professional edit. So I'll share some of my observations over two blog posts.

First thing to note though - Sweet Adversity's journey to publication is proof of never giving up on one's instincts for a great story idea and a main character who'll reach into your heart and not let go. No matter how long it takes!

Sweet Adversity's manuscript has undergone many changes over 10 years, benefitting from the insights of dear writerly friends and colleagues; paid ms appraisals from experienced editors like Craig Munro; unpaid readings from editorial friends and helpful publishers I know; from an amazing chat with Peter Bishop (a creative director at Varuna Writers' House) who first used the word, Dickensian, and opened my eyes to the underlying possibilities of this story.

And also from the experience of being awarded a 2009 Australian Society of Authors Mentorship for this story (a different title then). My insightful, fabulous mentor was experienced and well-loved children's author, Sally Rippen.

And 7 years ago, my stars aligned with a brilliant children's literary agent in the UK, Rosemary Canter. She chose my story for its possibilities, even with it being so Australian. My time with her was amazing ... but that's another tale I'll share with you one of this days. Vale Rosemary Canter, a great loss to a globe of children's literature.

Image below includes corrections as well. e.g. Nicola's comment #1 is because I'd written 'Children spilled from the dormitory....' when they were actually eating breakfast. See what I mean? Your eyes can trick your brain into mistakes.

So, what did I learn from Sweet Adversity's edit ...

No matter how good you are at editing, you can't edit your own writing as well as a publisher's editor with a passion to make your story the best it can be. It's tricky to see your work clearly because you know it so well.

Nicola picked up errors and inconsistencies I'd read dozens of times and missed. The perfectionist in me is horrified. She remembered something from an early chapter that fitted so much better many chapters on! That's an astute eye and memory at work, folks!

I'm in awe of Nicola's editing skills. She's like the 'fairy-godmother-housekeeper' who searches into every dark corner of your house, magically whisking away all the clutter, dust and accumulated rubbish to find a lost jewellery piece of two. And when she's done, you welcome visitors inside without feeling like you should apologise for the mess.

Right from the start, Nicola said her suggestions were just that (except for the HarperCollins house style, and Macquarie Dictionary version of spelling like 'any more' and 'all right'), and if there were edits I disagreed with I could reject them and reinstate my original text. Her editor's report included, 'It’s your book and you need to be happy with how it reads.'

That set the tone of our relationship - TRUST!

Check out my next post where I'll list some of the excellent suggestions from Nicola's edit.

You may find them useful to think about for your works-in-progress.

#HarperCollinsChildrensBooks #HarperCollinsAustralia #SweetAdversity #Shakespeare #CraigMunro #editor #PeterBishop #VarunaWritersHouse #AustralianSocietyofAuthors #RosemaryCanter #SallyRippen