• Ollie Horsfall

Lessons in Editing #1



A couple of weeks ago my dad asked me to edit the diary that he has been writing for the past eleven years, I said yes. To be fair I was looking forward to the challenge of turning 361 pages into around 180.


I'm currently in the process of reading, making mental notes about overall arcs, things that need removal and things that should be kept. The interesting part is really figuring out how important repetition is to a story. I can't go into details, but there are a number of recurring themes that appear to lose importance once you've read about them three or four times.


I've also noticed that there are things omitted that would make for an interesting read. I know that they were there because my father and I have spoken about it, I was ready to read about our tumultuous relationship, but feel like some aspects might have been removed to spare my feelings. The irony being that I think in an autobiographical piece needs those moments and there's now a big gap where those moments should be. It doesn't read as it should. There's no climactic resolution because it sort of just fizzles away, which it wouldn't with the important struggles in the middle part.


I can say this because I lived it. I was there. I'm not embarassed about what has happened, it's too late for that, but when it comes to editing a diary, how can I expect my dad to add memories and elaborate on things that happened over a decade ago?


The truth is that I've only just started. My aim is to make it readable and sellable and, of course, I'll be consulting with my dad as often as necessary. A good editor knows how to cut out things that might seem important initially, but that others will likely perceive as ambiguous and therefore unimportant.


My job is to figure out what stories need to be told. I feel like this isn't as simple as removing words to fit a word count: there need to be additions.


This is something I'll be doing over the next few months, so I'll update as I go. In the meantime I don't have an answer to my question, I think and I hope that through collaboration with the author (Dad) I'll find out.

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