Sunday, June 03, 2007

Two Things I Learned From My Editors This Week

"I'm a writer first and an editor second... or maybe third or even fourth. Successful editing requires a very specific set of skills, and I don't claim to have all of them at my command."
~Lynn Abbey

A little background first:

1. I've been writing for about 6 years. I completed 4 novels and sent all of them out to agents and editors at some point. I collected 100+ rejection letters along the way. Then I decided to explore e-publishers, and within 2 months last winter, I had contract offers for 2 of my novels from 2 different publishers. Samhain Publishing Ltd. will be publishing One Night in Boston, and The Wild Rose Press will be publishing Lost in Paradise. Both of these novels are long enough that they will be released in print about 6-9 months after their electronic debut.

2. Anyway, what this means is that I've been trying to prepare 2 novels for publication at about the same time. I don't really recommend it, but that's the way things happen, so...

3. I've had the very interesting experience of working with 2 editors, and they are both kind and helpful but point out very different things in my manuscripts, which has been great. I'm able to transfer their comments to both the novels.

Drum roll...

These are the 2 areas that I've learned I have to work on:

1. I over-use internal dialogue.

2. I over-use commas to string together lengthy phrases in many of my sentences.

Regarding the first area, my editor from TWRP highlighted a lot of areas she wanted me to change from 1st person to 3rd person. At first I resisted, but I did begin to understand what she was saying. I didn't change all of them, but I tackled probably 50-60%. Here's an example:

Ash rolled over in bed. I should have told him how I felt. I shouldn't have let him go without telling him how he's changed me. Now what do I do?

The revision reads: Ash rolled over in bed. She should have told him how she felt. She shouldn't have let him go without telling him how he'd changed her. Now what was she supposed to do?

My editor's reasoning was that while internal thought can be good, even powerful in places, if over-used it can actually become a distraction to the reader. Well, OK. So that's my first piece of advice to: use it, but not too often.

Regarding the second area, my editor from SP wanted me to look at sentences that were too long and awkwardly phrased because I'd used commas (correctly, but still...) to join a lot of thoughts together. Here's an example:

From the womb, it seemed, Jack had been groomed for it. The Major bloodline, well grounded in Boston, demanded it. Everything he’d done since leaving home at eighteen, every step he’d taken and every goal he’d set, with the exception of one grave mistake of the heart back in his youth, had led him to this point.

Too wordy? Maybe a little. Here's the revision:

From the womb, Jack had been groomed for it. The Major bloodline, well grounded in Boston, demanded it. Everything he’d done since leaving home at eighteen, every step he’d taken and every goal he’d set, had led him to this point.

Because I make reference to his broken heart later on, I don't really need that extra clause here. So that's my second piece of advice: don't string together too many clauses and phrases in a sentence if you can help it.

I do think my writing/my editing has gotten better just over the past few weeks, in looking at these areas. I'm not losing my voice, though; there are some sentences I didn't change even if they violated the above recommendations. Some you have to stick to no matter what, I think.

What have you learned through writing and editing??


Sarita Leone said...

Allie, I use that internal dialogue thing overmuch too. Sometimes I do it without even realizing I'm doing it. It is a hard habit to break, or at least tone down. I'm trying, but it's not easy. Glad to know I'm not the only one in that boat, though!

Marianne Arkins said...

Looks like you worked out the issue you had re: internal dialogue. That's good.

Isn't it amazing how another set of really good eyes can point stuff out like that?

I've already blogged about the great things I've learned from my editors. I love them!

Jenna Bayley-Burke said...

each book teaches me something new...nailing house style is the trickiest. Some changes they ask for relate to that. WRP has a -ing phobia, while at Mills & Boon it is 'it'. Haven't gone through a Samhain edit yet, but I will soon :)