Well, I found a copy editor. That bit wasn't difficult. They advertise in the back of writing magazines, pop up all over the Internet.
I chose to work with a big editing company in London. They are reputed to be constructive and highly professional. I found no negative reviews. And so I sent a sample, we agreed an estimated bill, and off went the tome.
Thumb-twiddling time? Not exactly - there are other projects on the go. A short story nagging me to edit it; a life writing competition that tempts me. But there is a corner of me still with Over the Hill. Is there a sense of story? Have I managed to describe the exhilaration of swimming in the Barrier Reef, or flying over Mount Cook? Should I ring her, ask her if I've overdone the discomforts of Nepal?
And then I make myself stop and think about why I can't, quite, let it go for a couple of weeks. What do I really want from this copy edit?
I want two things. I want her to find the mistakes, the wobbly grammar, the cumbersome sentences, those moments when I've followed an idea and become tedious. I expect the manuscript to come back covered in red marks, an ugly reminder of just how much work this still needs. She is professional and I expect her to be thorough.
And then I want her to like it. It is, of course, not her job to like it. Indeed, as long as she finds all the mistakes it doesn't really matter whether she likes it or not. But that doesn't stop me wanting her to like it, to make a brief comment about how working with my book was, well, entertaining, or fun, or - well, anything but boring. I have trusted her with something I've treasured for years, my precious efforts, my book.
Dissonance is never easy. But by recognising my all-too-human hope that she will like my work as well as improve it, it is easier to live with these waiting days. She will do her job. I'll get the report - and yes, I shall probably scan it for hints that she might have enjoyed this project - and then settle down to work with her recommendations.
Has anyone else worked with a copy editor? How did you negotiate this split between needing constructive criticism of your work and the gut-wrenching fear that she might cast judgements on your baby?