At the beginning of November, I received comments back from my developmental editor. This was the first time in six years of writing that I’d gotten far enough to 1) finish a book, and 2) submit it to an editor. When I got her comments–which included a letter with general recommendations as well as detailed line edits throughout the MS, plus a 1.5 hour Skype call–I sat back and processed everything she threw at me before making changes, and I’m glad I did.
But once I was done digesting, how did I figure out what to use and what to keep? I listened to my gut.
Just because an editor (or anyone) makes a suggestion, doesn’t mean you make the change. It doesn’t mean you ignore them, either. The rule of thumb I follow is this:
- If one person makes a suggested change, I think about it, weigh the merits, and listen to my gut.
- If one person + my gut makes a suggestion, I usually change it.
- If 2+ people make the same suggestion, my gut is usually quick to follow suit, and I usually change it.
I say “usually” because sometimes (really…rarely) there’s a compelling reason for me not to. If that’s the case, I’ll brainstorm with my critique partners to see if there’s a way to make a different change that remedies the problem or issue they pointed out. In general, though, if more than one person (or my gut and someone else) suggest something or point out a problem, I try to fix it. Continue reading
I’ve been struggling this past week about what it means to be a writer and how much time and treasure a person should sink into the process. Let me explain.
Several years ago, the company for which I freelanced forwarded a request to me from a person who was looking for editorial help on his fiction project. He’s a nice guy, my contact said, who has a story to tell.
The writer told me he’d written a draft, but it needed more work and he wasn’t sure how to go about it. It was 216 pages.
I asked him what he wanted me to do. A line or content edit? Write the transitions? Shape it? Continue reading
Do your favorite authors have signature metaphors? Do you?
I’ve just finished working through my developmental edit on The Seeds of Power (yay!). Among many other smart observations and suggestions from my editor, Karen Dale Harris, I was surprised to find this comment: You use metaphors with dogs a lot. Do a search for “dog” and try to vary this.
My reaction: I do? Dogs? I don’t even have a dog. And no dog plays a significant part in this book. Really?
A search revealed the following:
- The man was like a fighting dog. Once he sank his teeth into a problem, he never let go.
- Her whole body came to attention, like a hunting dog on point.
- Captain Randsen’s hackles rose like a well-trained fighting dog.
- The prince was dressed and waiting. Soft boots, loose overshirt and trousers, and the ill-contained impatience of a dog who’d been promised a walk, despite the fact that the lad probably hadn’t gone to bed until the small hours.
- Daire said nothing, but if he’d been a dog, his ears would have pricked up.
- He put his enforced inactivity to good use, worrying at his mission like a dog with a sore paw.
- Oriel had described her as a strong ruler, politically astute, fiercely protective of her family and their domain. Again, nothing to set the dogs howling.
- She had the Hollin deep blue eyes and challenging stare, and she looked at him as though he’d thrown her pet lapdog to the hounds for a snack.
Yikes! Dogs, dogs, everywhere, and I hadn’t even noticed.
I’ve fixed it, but I wonder what else I write without realizing. And I’m even more convinced that quality editing is money well spent.
Do you, or your favorite authors, have a go-to metaphor? Or is it just me?
Author by day, copy editor by night. That’s me. To keep myself occupied in the evenings (I’m not much for watching television) and to help pay for my book cover habit, I take copy editing jobs from select writers. In my former life, I had a ten-year career as a technical writer. Combine all of this experience and one starts to notice particular consistent misuses of various grammar guidelines (I don’t like the word “rules,” because there are some rules made to be broken).
Over the next several posts, I’m going to lay out a few basic guidelines, abuses, and misunderstandings of grammar in the hopes that you, fair writer, will learn them and will put them to good use. If you’re paying for copy editing, this will not only make your copy editor love you more (trust me, it will), but it will reduce the time it takes your copy editor to work through your manuscript.
Disclaimer: I use the Chicago Manual of Style as my “bible” for anything grammar- or copy editing-related. There are other style manuals which may offer differing views. Continue reading
Last week, Jeanne discussed critiquing manuscripts for newbie writers, and yesterday Justine talked about revising (and revising, and revising!) the opening chapters of the first book in her historical romance series. With both of these posts on my mind and no less than three (three!) revisions of my own to complete, from minor tweaks in one story to major revisions in another to something in between on the third, today I’m thinking about the best way to bridge the gap between getting back comments from a trusted critiquer and putting a revision plan into action.
We’ve discussed a lot of the steps I’m going to suggest here at 8LW in the past, and much of the way the Ladies approach critique work is based on the guidance Jenny Crusie* gave us while we studied with her in our McDaniel writing program. But with so many of us knee deep (or eyeballs deep) in the critique and revision process, let’s revisit some of the basics, ICYMI (or ICYNAR – in case you need a refresher). Continue reading
I am in the throes of editing my first novel. I’ve never done this before. I’ve written a first draft…numerous times. But I have never gone back through and cleaned it up to make it spit-shined, polished, and ready for the world.
My thoughts on the process? Editing sucks.
I finished my draft, read through the whole thing from beginning to end, and focused on the high-level changes that thought I needed to make. And about ¼ of the way into my first chapter, I was so overwhelmed by my perceived flaws that I didn’t think they were surmountable. I was ready to toss the whole story and start over. At a minimum, I wanted to play the avoidance game, doing such things as scrubbing tile grout or watching repeat episodes of The Queen while eating lots of chocolate.
It was bad. Continue reading
Do you read contemporary stories set in countries other than the USA? What kind of stories are they? What do you especially like about them?
I have a reason for asking.
I’m just back from a most excellent vacation in the States, including an action-packed weekend at the Writers’ Police Academy in Green Bay, Wisconsin with fellow 8 Lady Kay, followed by a few days in picturesque Door County (click here to read Kay’s description of our excursions to the Northern Sky Theater Company).
Before I met up with Kay, I spent an afternoon in Chicago talking all things writing with a developmental editor. Mostly we focused on Alexis, but we also talked about my English/Scottish contemporary romance, which I decided to dust off in time for the next (and final) RWA Golden Heart contest.
The editor gave me the same feedback I heard from a very respected agent a couple of years ago when I tried to shop this book: the writing is strong, but a contemporary British setting, with all British characters, is hard to sell outside the UK. She said that the story offered a kind of insider perspective on life in London and Scotland, which is not what the mainstream American romance reader is conditioned to expect.
In her view, when US readers pick up a foreign-set story, they expect the setting to be either
- glamorously urban; or
- small, close-knit communities where the culture is a large part of the appeal.