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The Editing Process Revealed: "The Quick Read"

When a fiction manuscript is almost complete but still in early draft form, a “quick read” by an editor identifies the main strengths and flaws in the developing story. These fleeting impressions are like a scan of the hotspots and dead spots in the book. Do the opening chapters grab attention? Are there any glaring issues with character? Where is the story flowing and where does it lose pace? Do the turns of event ring true? Does the overall theme hang together? A skilled editor can give this kind of feedback after only a few hours with the draft. 

A “Quick Read” of Book Two

Book Two of the Selkie Moon Mystery series is just back from the editor and the “quick read” has led to some lively exchanges of opinion between Nicola O’Shea and me.  Because we worked together on The First Lie and created a great outcome, I trust her judgement even when I don’t agree with her.  It’s her job to tell me the truth and it’s my job to find the solution. 

The Good News and the Bad News

Nicola thinks the beginning is very strong, setting up a compelling new mystery to carry the story to a dramatic conclusion.  But one new character has motivation problems because later in the book her actions aren’t totally plausible.  When the story moves to France she found that some scenes read like a travelogue – too many trips to brocante markets!  Then in one stand-out scene where Selkie has an argument in a café, Nicola loved the energy in the developing relationship.  “Go with this energy,” she told me.  This feedback gives me crucial guidance about what to lose and what to build on in the next draft. 

Blood on the Floor

One plot issue that’s caused me the most grief is cutting a whole section because it feels contrived – as if Selkie’s actions are fulfilling my purpose rather than her own.  The “quick read” easily spots this kind of plot manipulation – even when the author denies it!  I’ve just spent five days agonising over what to replace this section with.  There are characters and symbols and themes to relocate (or lose, boo hoo) in a way that flows naturally from the evolving story.  Because I don’t plan the book on paper, I just need an idea that feels like a good place to start, then I’ll write my way into the solution.  

Give me Fun

The fun part is grabbing all this feedback and diving into the next version.  I start tomorrow.

Nicola O’Shea can be found at