May 11th, 2006, 09:53 AM
I'm a bit too compulsive to put one thing down when I know I have a deadline and work on something else. I can never seem to put all of myself into it under those circumstances. I remember my children's editor handing me a list of about five pages long with areas and specifics she wanted me to work on, including adding some new chapters and rewriting the conclusion. She gave me a month to get it to her. I couldn't sleep until it was done. It was all I thought about. I sent it back to her completed in two days. I stayed up all night working, because honestly, I would have been awake thinking about it anyway.
I'm an editor's dream, and I'm a quick study too. I don't know if that is good or bad, but it helps me get the job done. Sometimes I think I should stick to my guns a bit more and fight harder for the things I want, but usually the result is better than the product was before. I never give up the things that are really important to me. If an editor tells me that the typical reader is not smart enough to understand what I'm writing, there's nothing I can do about that. If she complains that my vocab is too difficult, well, that's how I speak and that's how I write. If I'm told that philosophy is boring, too bad. That's WHY I write. Some things I won't give in to.
May 11th, 2006, 01:29 PM
Just jumped in on the tail end of this one. Fascinating stuff. I've been writing and re-writing Book 5 of my kid's series, and I'm looking forward to my editor's structural suggestions regarding my debut adult novel - Jaarfindor Remade. Isn't an editor's main job to focus on retaining the essence of the author's voice, enhance the prose, enhance the plot, enhance the hundred and one things that'll improve the work?
Enhance the individual's voice!!! Not create the next Hemmingway copycat or Martin copycat or whatever. Individual's voice? Important? Vital? I think so.
May 11th, 2006, 01:59 PM
Oh yeah. Definitely. My editor is not trying to change me. In fact, she's really very enamored of my writing (thankfully). She's trying to make it as good as it can be. I appreciated her telling me that as it is it's competent, well written and interesting, but with my talent, she felt it could be much more than that. That is what an editor should be doing, IMHO.
May 11th, 2006, 03:09 PM
Yep, good to hear, Gary. Speak soon.
May 11th, 2006, 05:52 PM
Kids editors have it tougher, because there are language, content and length issues that there aren't in adult fiction, related to the projected age of the intended audience, and the publishing program involved, and those have to be dealt with, regardless of the author's particular style. So a kids editor isn't just an editor but also sort of a wrangler too. It's a type of literature that produces a fair amount of direct telling, but also likely more scenes with showing, more action and dialogue than many adult narratives, in less space. I'd be less likely to stand firm with a kids editor on a suggested change, unless I felt that editor was really going in the wrong direction, than I would with an editor on an adult work, for that reason.
The big limitation is that while an editor is coming at the ms. from an authorial perspective and can make suggestions from that perspective, it's the author who has to actually conceive and do revisions. The author has to understand what the editor is talking about and figure out what may be the underlying factors of the editor's concern, even if the editor doesn't know them, and then be able to address those issues. No matter how many enhancing suggestions the editor may make, it's not going to help if the author can't see how to use those suggestions. Some editors are better at communicating their issues than others; sometimes it's just a matter of chemistry between two people.
Show, don't tell is a red flag marker, but is largely useless on its own because it does not help the author pinpoint specific problems. Unless the author can spot where the sense of flat incompleteness is coming from, then the author is out of luck. But using a "show, don't tell" line isn't purely a matter of lazy editing. It's more like someone getting a creepy sensation that something awful is about to happen, and they may or may not have a clear idea of why they are getting that sensation.
May 11th, 2006, 06:01 PM
I'm much better with specific suggestions. I'm not referring to words or ideas, but I like to hear things that will enhance the chapter. When I'm told that it needs more action, that I can understand. Too many 'ly' words, that I can understand. Confusion between the characters, that I can understand. All this is easy for me to remedy. Specific things I address immediately and relatively easily. Fortunately for me, my editors have all like my voice and my style, and they believe in my competence as an author. I've been tweaking and improving things, not starting from scratch. I can tell a story and that's where it all begins and ends.
I'm seriously enjoying the edit this time around on book IV. I wasn't until now, but I see how much better it can be if I work at it. I just can't be lazy, and believe me, it's a lot of work and a lot of time.
And you are totally correct when it comes to the children's market. It's a different ball game and sometimes what the editor wants is not a suggestion but a demand by virtue of the market and readership. As usual, you have to pick your battles.
May 11th, 2006, 06:07 PM
Being an editor is kind of like training a horse. You have to cajole (some chose threats as well,) and gradually convince the horse not to keep knocking everything over with its hooves. Once the horse figures out that it's much nicer that way, that revision isn't so bad, then the editing goes much faster.
May 12th, 2006, 02:26 AM
Books of Pellinor
Last year when I was in England, my editor and I exploited the opportunity to go through The Crow together. It took two days of damn hard work, sitting side by side (though it saved us hours and hours of emailing). We could barely stand up afterwards. I remember when we just over half way through the ms, looking at the pile of pages with a kind of despair and thinking I was mad to write novels. It's not just the initial writing, but all the work that follows - not just my work, but the painstaking work of the editors, the copy editors, the proof readers - it just never stops...but it really, really is worth it.
May 12th, 2006, 08:20 AM
It is. Funny, and i don't want to date myself too badly, but I wrote my master's thesis on an electric typewritter with carbon paper. I remember the worst part was trying to insert footnotes at the bottom of the pages an not being able to type that close to the edge. I had to use 'white out' for corrections! today it's a breeze.
June 29th, 2006, 10:46 AM
I've read this thread with interest. I think juzzza's first post (the first reply to Gary's original question) sums it up perfectly. That's what editors mean when they say show, don't tell.
And of course those who suggest it's not a hard and fast rule are absolutely right. For example in a first person narrative, there's bound to be a lot of telling, because the narrator's viewpoint - irrespective of how inaccurate or subjective it is - is an essential element of the story.
Basically, the reason we can find so many examples of great writers who break the rules is because great writers can always break the rules. Most of us, however, are of middling ability (or a little above, or a little below) and it helps the way the work reads if we obey the rules most of the time.
June 29th, 2006, 11:47 AM
You're so right that the rules are not hard and fast. In fact, there are many times I enjoy being told things in a book. The phrase should be show and tell, in my opinion.
The key is to remain interesting throughout. If creativity had strict rules then it wouldn't creative, now would it? The combination of narrative, description and dialogue has to be carefully presented. Style is what distinguishes one author from another. We risk losing it if we simply follow the rules. Two of us could take the exact same story and tell it in totally different ways.
June 29th, 2006, 12:31 PM
Edited for submission
The thing is you have to understand the rules before you can break them. Too many want-to-be-writers, cite they are "breaking the rules", when they;
A. Don't understand them.
B Can't write clearly and concisely to begin with.
C. Canít be bothered to learn them anyway.
D. Think the rules donít apply to them.
Once you understand the craft, then you can start playing with words and create an individual style that suits you, your story, and your reader.
June 29th, 2006, 03:49 PM
I agree entirely, Holbrook. For example Joyce showed he could write 'straight' stories perhaps better than anyone else, in Dubliners, before he expanded his aims and broke every rule going with Ulysses.
June 29th, 2006, 04:27 PM
Taking Juzzza's original post as a definition of "Show, don't tell," the predominant style in "Dubliners" is telling. I guess, we can forgive James, though. Back then, they didn't know the rule yet. How backward of them.
Originally Posted by proudfoot
June 29th, 2006, 05:07 PM
Dawn's right! That's been my point all along. It's not the show or tell, the descriptive or narrative or dialogue. It's how and what you say.