I give regular talks to various groups at libraries, service clubs, schools, on radio etc, and I am often asked what happens when my manuscript goes to the publisher and is edited and changed. Is this a frustrating process given the work and effort put into the writing and to try and bring strong visual images to the manuscript.
To be honest, yes, it is a frustrating and often demoralising time and process, but very necessary and well understood by authors. In my last book, The Boy Colonel published in early August this year (2013), the following change was made. First, read my original two paragraphs. Then below that you will see this has been edited into one quite short paragraph.
The infantry barracks within the Ypres ramparts had never been built with comfort in mind. The cobbled floor was cold and hard and the thin straw paillasses issued to the men were next to useless. A small glass window, a worms-eye view of the world outside, was set into the rampart’s earthen walls, blurred with a smattering of water from the rain that had not ceased for ten days. The vast barrack room was drafty though there was a strange snugness, absent from galvanised Nissen huts or from recently vacated, claustrophobic German blockhouse. Men were spread across the floor in rows like faggots laid out to dry, straight and neat, their few possessions stacked at the feet, a roll of clothes under their heads as a pillow.
|The Ramparts in Ypres
with the Menin Gate
The Cloth Hall in the market square
in Ypres, Belgium.
Douglas Marks walked carefully among the splayed legs, thinly covered by a grey, Army issue blanket. The air was rank with tobacco and sweat, rancid mud with a hint of mustard. About him, the men snored as if in unison, rolled and twitched, some shivering. Was it the cold he thought or their experience of recent days. Was it the shadows and the ghosts of mates who haunted their sleep, the still frames of men caught in flare light, the images of death, the wretchedness of that vast awful place; unimaginable, seething, smouldering, poisonous. The faces, unshaven, taut, aged and angular, veiled the recent past yet showed men tainted for life with images that burnt to their soul and gas that burnt to their very human essence. And their meagre possessions, all the very same, all issue, all accountable. A rifle with a serial number, owned and signed for. There it lay with its owner like a dog with its’ master. Loyal until death, the mud its’ likely grave. Marks passed from the room and turned off the last Tilly lamp and all was dark.
This is what appears in the book.
The infantry barracks within the Ypres ramparts were not built with comfort in mind. The cobbled floor was cold and hard, and the thin straw paillasses issued to the men were next to useless. A small glass window, a worm’s eye view of the world outside, was set into the rampart’s earthen walls. The vast barracks room was draughty, and men were spread across the floor in rows, their few possessions stacked at their feet and rolls of clothes under their heads.
20th November 2013