My writing and editing process
By Dinah Jefferies
I’m going to tell you about my own process of writing and editing, but please remember that everybody has their own way. The main thing we all have in common, is that any published novel will be the result of a group of people working on it as a team.
I’ve found that as I write more books the process changes, so really nothing is constant. For me the most difficult and sometimes painful part is getting the first draft down. During this period, I feel very much on my own. I may or may not have a contract to write a particular book, but it makes no difference, I am still faced with the task of writing approximately 100,000 words and, if I have a deadline, I often write even when I don’t feel like. It can be tough. I write new chapters in the mornings and catch up with research, emails, Q&As, and write blogs like this, in the afternoons. I can’t work at night as I run out of energy and, by then, my eyes and brain have had enough screen time.
I try to write the first draft quickly, because once the basis of the story is down I can then begin to dig deeper. I often don’t even know what I’ve got until somebody else sees it, and that first person is usually my agent, Caroline Hardman. She’s a terrific agent who’ll come back with essential feedback and it’s often only then that I begin to see the wider themes of the novel. The feedback can be quite surprising but this is when the first real editing begins. This is where the glaring issues are dealt with. For The Silk Merchant’s Daughter, I agreed with my agent that I would cut two point of view characters, and that meant cutting 49,000 words. Not a happy experience. For Before The Rains, I just had to add three chapters, so it’s different every time. I do enjoy the editing, because I feel I can really get to grips with the novel once I have a better idea of where I am.
Once this stage is complete, the manuscript goes to my editor, Venetia Butterfield, publishing director of Viking/Penguin. She will want to put her own stamp on the book and will usually come back to me within three or four weeks. She’s very experienced and I completely trust her judgement but, if I don’t agree with something, we’ll talk it over and reach a compromise. For Before The Rains, she suggested a final chapter I hadn’t previously considered. Her editorial suggestions are usually focused on characterisation, plot weakness, or maybe certain aspects of the story that need drawing out more fully.
Once these edits are finished, the copyeditor gets her hands on the script. This is when the nitty gritty of punctuation, any inconsistences, or timeline issues are dealt with, and I have to agree or disagree with all her proposed changes. Finally the page proofs arrive. They come to me and two other proof readers, and it’s amazing what tiny things you still find.
So that’s my process of writing and editing. I love the pulling and shaping of a story to try to get the very best out of it. That’s what we all try to do and we couldn’t do it without a team behind us.
About Dinah Jefferies
Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia but moved to England at the age of nine, travelling widely throughout her life and always maintaining a love of Southeast Asia. She spent time living in a musicians' commune, and has had work publicly exhibited as an artist. Dinah’s first novel The Separation was published by Penguin in 2014. The Tea Planter’s Wife is her second novel.
The Silk Merchant’s Daughter, was published in February 2016 and also entered Sunday Times Bestselling list. After living in Andalusia for five years, she now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband.
Find Dinah Jefferies on her official Facebook page and follow Dinah on Twitter - @DinahJefferies
About Before the Rains
Before the Rains
By Dinah Jefferies
Published by Viking (23 February 2017)
1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband's death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza's only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she's determined to make a name for herself.
But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince's handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families - and society - think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what's expected, or following their hearts. . .
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