Nikola Scott, author of My Mother’s Shadow and Summer of Secrets, talks about her journey from working as an editor to becoming author.
I always assumed that becoming a writer after being a fiction editor for many years was the most natural thing in the world. The same industry, the same understanding of how a book is constructed, similar tools which, with a bit of tweaking, could surely be made to work just fine on the other side of the fence. In reality, however, for me at least, making that switch came with an unexpectedly steep learning curve.
Yes, both use the same toolbox, the same shared knowledge of plot and structure, voice and characters. But there are many additional skills that set them apart, which all need to be learned from the bottom up, the way you’d have to acquire any new craft. But one of the most crucial things I had to figure out for myself was the difference in perspective.
Editing a manuscript gives you a birds-eye view of a story. You circle above it, see it in its entirety. Far away from the foaming whirl of ideas down in the creative fray, you’re able to analyse how the cogs and wheels fit together, you can pinpoint what is working and what isn’t. And because that story isn’t a part of your soul, isn’t you, you’re able to take it apart and see exactly how it should be stitched back together.
As a writer, stuck down in the heat of things, you rarely get a birds-eye view and things are definitely not calm. Most days, it’s all you can do to keep track of moving pieces, wrestle them into shape and hope for the best. That story and you are intrinsically interwoven, you’re your own fiercest critic and most loyal advocate (sometimes both at the same time, an impossible and fairly exhausting combination!), emotions are generally running high and there’s little room for stepping back from it all to take stock.
During the first year of writing My Mother’s Shadow, my editor-me and my writer-me were locked in perpetual combat. At every turn, I wanted to be soaring above, analysing, organising and reshuffling narrative pieces, when I was really meant to be down below, creating those pieces in the first place. It took me a while to fully embrace the messiness, the chaos and the unpredictable twists and turns of creative free-fall and to recognise all the small, gold-dust-moments that make writing so special. A character that makes you cry, right there at your desk. A knot in the plot that suddenly, after days of picking at it, unravels so that everything falls into place. That pure, unadulterated exhilaration when a scene finally bursts into being and feels right, without analysis, without birds-eye view, without cogs or wheels or anything else at all. Those moments are magic.
Two books in, my editor-me and writer-me have made their peace with each other. And these days, every time I get to hand over my manuscript to my own wonderful editor, I simply feel very lucky to be able to sit back and watch someone else soaring above the moving pieces of my story.
Nikola’s latest book, Summer of Secrets, is out in eBook and paperback now!
A riveting and heart-breaking novel about dark secrets and dangerous romances…
At peaceful Summerhill, orphaned Maddy hides from the world and the rumours of war. Then her adored sister Georgina returns from a long trip with a new friend, the handsome Victor. Maddy fears that Victor is not all he seems, but she has no idea just what kind of danger has come into their lives…
Chloe is newly pregnant. This should be a joyful time, but she is fearful for the future, despite her husband’s devotion. When chance takes her to Summerhill, she’s drawn into the mystery of what happened there decades before. And the past reaches out to touch her in ways that could change everything…