At the end of January, the Branford Boase Award Longlist was announced and The Girl Who Lost Her Shadow was on it! The Branford Boase is an unusual and very wonderful award in that it recognises the promise of debut writers and their editors. The prize is awarded annually for "an outstanding first novel to a first-time writer of a book for young people. At the same time, it marks the important contribution of the editor in identifying and nurturing new talent." I was beyond proud and excited that TGWLHS had made the longlist, and incredibly happy that the work of my two fantastic editors, Eleanor Collins and Jennie Skinner, was being celebrated. Also, look at all the phenomenal company my book is keeping!
Like a lot of book-world things, I didn't know what to expect when it came to working with editors. TGWLHS had won the Kelpies Book Prize in 2017 and Eleanor, Jennie and I began working on the edits in 2018. As far as I can remember, there were three stages to the editing process: Structural edits (where big changes can happen e.g cutting out a character, changing a plotline); Line edits (where paragraphs could move around or be cut for pacing, sentences improved); and Proofreading (spelling, grammar, consistency). By far, the hardest bit for me was the structural edits! In my story, this involved keeping the beginning and ending the same but rewriting a huge amount of the middle of the book, and losing a character (who I'd grown quite fond of). But the truth is that everything Eleanor and Jennie suggested were changes I knew I'd need to make, deep down.
When I go to schools, I'll often show some images of my edits and I've included some here. I think it's nice to see some of the behind-the-scenes work and shout out about my great editors, who took a sprawling strange story and nudged it gently and thoughtfully into something with more shape and mystery and excitement. It always felt like a magical thing, talking with Eleanor and Jennie about Pine Island and my characters, Gail and Mhirran, Femi and Kay. It felt like we were talking about mutual friends and an island we'd all visited, and I've learned so much about storytelling from them both.
My Editing Tip:
- Read your very favourite story by your favourite writer and discover where in your body you feel the magic of a story. When I read parts of stories that I love, I feel it right in my stomach. So now, when I'm editing my own books, I listen very closely to my stomach to see what it is telling me. If I feel a funny fizzy feeling, I know I'm doing something right. Maybe you feel it in your stomach too. Or maybe you feel the magic behind your eyes, in the little toe of your right foot, inside your elbows...