Results 1 to 9 of 9
Thread: What snags editors.
December 3rd, 2013, 11:08 AM #1
What snags editors.
I am currently going through the editorial review of my last novel by one of my publisher's editors and thought I'd share a few of the general gotchas. Keep in mind that the manuscript has already been worked over by a reading group that includes other authors - and still this stuff came bubbling up.
1. The major sticking point is excessive use of certain words. Yes, the book was ran through some professional-strength software to sniff out repetitions - resulting in a "top ten" list that also advises me what a tolerable level of usage is expected. Didn't know I used so many exclamation marks (grin). Other offenders include "all" and "as". It's the small stuff that gets you. Even with my own albeit humbler program to catch repetitions, quite a few things slipped through. This will take the bulk of my time to remedy (I've a two week deadline).
2. Passive sentences. Not a lot of these, but boy are they loathed when found. Little past-tense lovelies like "might have been" and such still survived the initial weeding.
3. Consistency. Things like calling the same town by two similar but not equal names ("Two Rivers" vs "Three Rivers"). Using "Mother" and "Mom" instead of settling on one or the other.
4. Story issues. The big bugaboo as far as I'm concerned. Fortunately, no killers here, but I did have character attitudes that needed tweaking earlier to better establish relationship changes. Keep in mind that while this is my story, an editor usually has better experience at what works and what doesn't, so do be a team player and stay open-minded.
The takeaway here is to pay attention to all of this early on in order to avoid paying the piper later. You can't be perfect - especially when dealing with over 80k worth of text, but anything helps. Too much of these issues and you might not pass muster with being accepted. Also keep in mind that every editor sees things differently. I had one book where the editor didn't like contractions in internalized observations. This particular editor has a differing opinion, and one must roll with the tide as the release date approaches.
There are also specific publisher "house rules" that have to be abided by - such as single spaces between sentences and particular characters to denote a time break (not to mention page formats).
Be flexible, and above all stay professional.
December 3rd, 2013, 02:11 PM #2
Another big one for me is movement. "She got out of bed and slipped on her clogs and went to the door and turned the doorknob and walked down the hall, took three lefts and finally reached the kitchen..." It's fair to say that if a character arrives somewhere, the reader will assume she got there.
Great list, Kerry!
December 4th, 2013, 02:49 AM #3
December 4th, 2013, 04:21 PM #4
- Join Date
- Jul 2011
- SF Bay Area
So much of McCarthy's work comes accross to me like lists of nouns and verbs intended to be read in an excessively serious voice to an expectant bookstore crowd.
Passive sentences burden a lot of my writing also. They're so easy to write and sound so good at first blush, and so stunted compared their active counterparts.
Lately I can't get away from phrases beginning with "but." I'm forcing myself to write through them, but the editing process is going to be a bear. Wait, I just did it again . . . gah!
December 5th, 2013, 07:54 AM #5
I love this kind of insight. Thanks for post it kmtolan.
December 11th, 2013, 01:06 AM #6
- Join Date
- Nov 2013
I'm new joining this forum. For my first official post let me add my gratitude for this helpful insight into the professional editorial process.
We all likely possess crutch words, as CharlotteAshley suggested. My bane are the classic - would / should / could.
December 11th, 2013, 09:11 PM #7
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
I doubt those minutiae which so plague us writers have as big an influence on editors. If a manuscript has minor problems but much promise I suspect they’d simply point them out in a general way and ask for a minor rewrite. God knows I’ve read a goodly number of bestsellers with all the weaknesses described above.
What I've found is that over the years I'm don't make the errors I used to. Or I catch them at the end of the page. (I always take a short breather every page or so and go back over them with my Blunder Filter turned on.) Practice DOES make better.
December 12th, 2013, 05:37 PM #8
December 13th, 2013, 08:43 AM #9
"Tracks" Round Two edits
I'm sure she won't find any more problems after my first pass correcting stuff. Really. She wouldn't send back the manuscript for...uh...
Now she's digging in.
Round two edits surface something I hadn't expected - my own damn complacency. I pride myself on action scenes, yet here she was pointing out that as good as they were, some scenes could be better - like making sure all action is in short sentences and present tense. I had to stare at the first scene in question for a moment before figuring out what I'd done to allow myself to fall into this rather basic Writing 101 oopsie. The answer? After five novels I'd become sloppy. She wasn't having any of it, and did what a good editor does. Consider this a cautionary tale that experience doesn't always help (grin).
I turned on the grammar checker in Word per suggestion and found it far more capable than I remembered in the earlier renditions of Word. More passive phrases bit the dirt. Zero tolerance for not using contractions where appropriate in internalized dialogue as well.
A stronger (or at least clearer, we're still hashing this out) romantic sub-plot was requested, as was a rewrite of the final scene to better satisfy a reader contract I'd inadvertently made early in the book.
This is an editor making me look great. In the midst of revisions, it's easy to forget that fact. I've had editors that hardly touched my work. Then, I've had this one. Guess which I prize more. Oh, her name's Sharon Cassiel in case you were curious, and she is one of my publisher's newest editors (although she came with tons of experience).
Hopefully there won't be a round three (grin).