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Arse, Ass and Backside:- Drafting at the Sharp End

I imagined there would be deep technical discussions about the style I had used in my sentences. Back and fro, we would pick out nuances, refining the meaning of words and searching out the real underlying gems of my novel. My masterpiece would be broke apart and reassembled, pristine and glorious, changing the world’s view for ever about, well, everything. Okay, so maybe not quite all that. But there was something that came along that I didn’t expect.

I am in the final throes of editing my manuscript for my first novel, Crescendo!, working into the night on my editor’s comments and generally it has been fun, tiring, thought-provoking and eye opening. However, one thing has made me laugh. When writing for a world audience, one has to think about those words which can be misunderstood, or seem quite foreign. Coming from a British perspective, this means that American readers may not get my meaning. So what words have been causing a little trouble.

Arse, ass, backside. When to use which one. The character would usually refer to “arse”, a north american audience understands “ass” best and on occasions, the moderate and all encompassing “backside” is used. It’s not the glamour I was expecting! When I got to the “fag” that Austerley, one of my main characters, was smoking, I pre-empted the editor’s emergency delivery of “cigarette”.

The choice to keep language true or to open it up to others is an awkward one. At times I have used Russian with no translation to keep the reader in view of a character. Each situation is unique and requires full attention. Providing a manual may in this case be counter-productive. But I have learnt that keeping the voice of a character and making that voice understood is a dynamic situation due to the variety in our English dialects, never mind when a book is translated into a completely different language.


G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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Getting the professionals – Dealing with the dreaded editor!


When writers talk about editors with each other, it always makes me smile. Why? Because the testimonials run somewhere between people who rank just a touch lower than your mother to the awful beasts who didn’t understand and wrecked my manuscript. Usually there is a severe bias from ourselves, the authors, but then you must appreciate, we are handing our baby over to these people and they need to take great care with it.

My experience so far has been an enjoyable one. I scoured Reedsy (an online hiring post for editors and graphic artists) and put forward my proposal to receive several replies announcing desire to copy-edit my manuscript. There were several excellent bids and I put out a test edit piece for the bidders. After much thought I choose Caroline Orr to work with. From the off, Caroline was professional, courteous but also keen to seek a way of working between us. One point I would say, to my fellow authors seeking to engage a professional editor, is that you should feedback not just your opinion on any editing made but also the way in which that editing is explained to you. Early on in our collaboration, I fed back to Caroline why her method of explanation worked for me.

Following through the editing is fierce for a writer. You see changes and deep inside is an animal screaming that this is your novel and your style, how dare they suggest any change. But then why are we paying for these services. Some changes are easy. Punctuation (hand is up, I am in dire need!). Bad phrasing (hand up again). But then there are moments when sentences are reconfigured, your audience nationality is questioned, and at times pointers that your entire paragraph is struggling to make sense (my hand is getting sore!).

I am still working through my novel’s edits but already I am convinced of the need of a good editor. They cannot write your story for you (well maybe they could but they’d probably want to publish it themselves) but they certainly polish up the car, get the engine running smoothly and make sure the driver finds easy access to all the necessary controls. However, do not underestimate the work involved or the occasional knock to your ego. But then it’s not about us, is it? It’s about that novel. Who cares what the parent looks like on prize day? But our child needs to be ready for presentation!

By the way Caroline hasn’t proofed this blog, all errors are my very own!