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Author Topic: Editors - any advice?  (Read 4060 times)

Offline Justan Henner

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #15 on: October 20, 2016, 02:56:09 PM »
While I've never worked with a professional editor, I have had similar experience. I got stuck at about 75% of the way, didn't know how to finish. The ending I had in mind was awful. What was the resolution? You guessed it, a tell-all flashback. (Believe me, I share your disdain).

While not a professional by any formal standard, I took my problem to the person I consider to be my developmental editor; a close confidant who I could rely on to give me the truth. It saved my work in more ways that one. I found the ending I wanted, and more importantly, the ending the book needed. Problem is, it took two or three rewrites to get it perfect, and even now I've got some doubts about it.

Yes, I think a developmental editor can help you at this point, whether that be a professional or just someone whose opinion you value, I don't think it matters, so long as that person cares enough about you and your work to want to get it right, and to be truthful.

The best advice I can give you in this process, is to tell everything. Be detailed about the ideas you have and your opinions of them. All those ideas you had in reserve, the ones you didn't think you'd share, the big reveals and whatnot you've been saving for later, share them. Your developmental editor can give advice, but they'll never know your work and its purpose as well as you do unless you share everything. Your editor needs to know all the tools available.

One solution I might offer, from what I've read so far, is that maybe consider giving yourself more space, rather than deciding what to strip or how to condense what you really want. This is coming from someone whose gone well over the mark in this regard, (about 250k words over the convention), but it's not uncommon to see debut novels at about 200k. I'll admit, I don't know enough about the traditional market and whether that's what your aiming for, but I think the truly exceptional will catch people no matter the length, and what I've read thus far is in that league as far as voice, structure, prose, and philosophy.

Offline sennydreadful

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #16 on: October 20, 2016, 03:11:39 PM »
Hi Ms. Dreadful!
I have heard others speak very highly of your work, and appreciate you answering Jmack's summons. I have not yet read your books, but they're on my TBR list, which is still shiny and new after Jmack built it for me in a desperate bid to update me to the modern age. I'm 4 books into it? I forget. I am currently following Locke Lamorra through his lies at the moment.

I share your sensitivity about people seeing your work before it's ready for prime-time, but I draw the line further out. My writing experience has been very social with teams of 3 to 30 all working together, and I draw the line at the customer, which now means publishers and agents.

Your advice is good, and I was very specific with my editor and laid out my objectives. Her response: "That is EXACTLY what I do." Her cost was competitive with similar services elsewhere. She's very qualified and has edited works discussed here on several occasions, and garnered reviews and accolades from  authors she has helped. So I am hopeful and optimistic that she and I will be able to move my novel forward. Also I am playing a long game (I hope) and trying to establish a good editor relationship earlier than I need one. Did you go through multiple editors before you found Mr./Mrs. Right?

I learned some years ago that I am an idea machine, but my ideas range from horrendously bad to distinctively innovative and compelling - and having a partner to help me toss out the bad is more useful for me than I can communicate.

If you have any other advice on working with an editor, I am all ears.

Hi! Well I have been incredibly lucky with editors, which is handy, because in traditional publishing, unless you're  Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your editor chooses you rather than the other way around ;) My first editor was a chap called John Wordsworth, who was a commissioning editor at the time at Headline - my agent sent him the MS for The Copper Promise and he became it's champion. John really understood what I was doing with that book and editing with him was a joy, involving many excitable phone calls and emails (it helped that John is possibly one of the loveliest people in publishing). Eventually though he left Headline, and since then I have worked with two more editors, who have both been fantastic - enthusiastic and sharp and utterly efficient. And lovely. Headline really are fabulous.

Unless you have some sort of enormous conflict with your editor, authors generally don't get to demand a new one - and it's not something I would recommend. Generally, if you're really butting heads, that's something your agent will step in and smooth over. Thankfully I've never been in a million miles of such a thing happening, but I have heard of incidents...

Further advice-wise, there was something I thought of while I was writing my blog post on editing. When you get your editorial letter (summarising all the things that might need changing) it's sometimes possible to feel a bit bummed out, because by its very nature it will be listing things that need work, or stuff that doesn't quite hang together. Usually I sulk a little bit, and when I first get it I can feel very resistant to changing anything. So my advice is: give yourself some time to absorb it, go and eat your favourite comfort food, and then when you come back everything will seem much more reasonable. :)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2016, 06:40:16 PM »



Hi! Well I have been incredibly lucky with editors, which is handy, because in traditional publishing, unless you're  Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, your editor chooses you rather than the other way around ;)
Luckily, my life philosophy is to be polite and be lucky!  ;D Actually, I thought you had your own editor outside of the publishing house, so thanks for clearing that up.

Usually I sulk a little bit, and when I first get it I can feel very resistant to changing anything. So my advice is: give yourself some time to absorb it, go and eat your favourite comfort food, and then when you come back everything will seem much more reasonable. :)
I appreciate this heads up - and I have a thin-skin, for truth. But the nerves connected to my writing and ideas have been deadened in terms of "editorial feedback"  ;D The worst letter cannot be worse than live phone calls with 30 people on the call (10 in the room with me) telling me how poorly I have captured this or expressed that, yadda, yadda, yadda.  :-[

I've never had a problem with a true editor - as in, someone who specializes and works in the field. As a matter of fact, I have fired people over their writing: poor productivity, refusal to obey instructions, and inability to deliver. All writing has to pass muster and answer the "so what?" test, unless it's your journal. Senior military people often hate me - I have almost made some cry, I do not lie, just in reviewing their resume. "No one cares about your valor - they're looking for a manager who won't drive their people away. This line makes you sound like Gunny Whatshisface."

So if there's an unkind editor in the room, it's me. (So perhaps Karma is swinging back around??  :-\)
Great points Ms. Dreadful, thank you very much, I appreciate your time.

What was the resolution? You guessed it, a tell-all flashback. (Believe me, I share your disdain).
I know, right! I swear if everyone here didn't love Mark Lawrence so much, by the second flashback in Prince of Thorns I would have walked away based entirely on my bias (Anti-hater disclaimer: I am admitting that my disdain for them is out of proportion and unjustified in some cases, like my fear of spiders and moray eels). Luckily I stayed because I loved the books - but I view flashbacks like a carpenter views that pasty joint-filler stuff - a sign of poor craftsmanship. (Again, that's my bias - they're a proven and much loved tool by some, and I would never hurt a kitten or litter)

[...]I took my problem to the person I consider to be my developmental editor; a close confidant who I could rely on to give me the truth. It saved my work in more ways that one. I found the ending I wanted, and more importantly, the ending the book needed. Problem is, it took two or three rewrites to get it perfect, and even now I've got some doubts about it.
Yes, my confidant has been unavailable and I've been adrift, so that statement carries great weight with me.

Yes, I think a developmental editor can help you at this point, whether that be a professional or just someone whose opinion you value, I don't think it matters, so long as that person cares enough about you and your work to want to get it right, and to be truthful.
Thank you Lord, for sending me Justan Henner!  This has felt like Dane Cook's sequence about saying you want a monkey - and everybody's like "That's a terrible idea!"   Dudes, I was not asking the in "should I" mode, I was in "I bought a monkey" mode, asking "anyone brought a monkey into a house with two cats and a dog?" The check's been cashed, the contract's signed. My parachute is on, the aircraft door is open, and the red light is on - when it turns green, I am gone! Errr, anyone know how to open this thing?

The best advice I can give you in this process, is to tell everything. Be detailed about the ideas you have and your opinions of them. All those ideas you had in reserve, the ones you didn't think you'd share, the big reveals and whatnot you've been saving for later, share them. Your developmental editor can give advice, but they'll never know your work and its purpose as well as you do unless you share everything. Your editor needs to know all the tools available.

One solution I might offer, from what I've read so far, is that maybe consider giving yourself more space, rather than deciding what to strip or how to condense what you really want.

These were TERRIFIC points, thanks so much. I have a crap ton of material and I am doing just that this very day - preparing it for sharing it. Stupid poems changed my brain, Cannot turn rhymes off again.

And as it turns out my editor is fascinated by crystals and gem stones. See what I mean? Be polite and be lucky.
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« Last Edit: October 20, 2016, 06:44:56 PM by Gem_Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #18 on: January 07, 2017, 04:47:26 AM »
At this early stage, it looks like a moderately mediocre idea. Not terrible, but not the salve I'd hoped for. So if anyone has a "Told Ya!" saved up - go for it :)

In some ways the jury is still out. There may be additional value that I receive over the two additional rounds of review/analysis that I get. And I make this judgment with some truly excellent beta reader input in hand that I did not have at that time, knew that I needed, and had no expectation of receiving to the extent/quality that I did. And the more I've gone through it, the more I realize that my readers' observations and advice has been beyond excellent.  I doubt even my most enamored beta reader would want to sit down and re-read this novel in a revised and longer form, let alone do that twice more.

I should have sought advice before I proceeded. Lesson Learned. There are times when I ignore advice, but this isn't one of them. For though I defended the decision, the decision was already made when I opened this post, which was not (supposed to be) about whether to get an editor, but how to work with one.
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"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Adrian_Selby

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #19 on: January 07, 2017, 09:07:55 AM »
I would employ an editor without hesitation.
I had the first two chapters of Snakewood as good as I could make them. I paid £150 for an editor to go through them. Best money I've spent. Those chapters were not ready, lots of 'wood for the trees' errors and subtle grammar foibles.
Why risk submission to a tired agent or editor if a few silly mistakes could tip them over the edge?
It does sound like a lot of money too, but the mistakes she'd picked up I knew I'd made throughout the novel, so just a couple of chapters worth helped me 'straighten out' a lot of other stuff in the full manuscript.

Offline AnnaStephens

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2017, 11:22:28 AM »
At this early stage, it looks like a moderately mediocre idea. Not terrible, but not the salve I'd hoped for. So if anyone has a "Told Ya!" saved up - go for it :)

In some ways the jury is still out. There may be additional value that I receive over the two additional rounds of review/analysis that I get. And I make this judgment with some truly excellent beta reader input in hand that I did not have at that time, knew that I needed, and had no expectation of receiving to the extent/quality that I did. And the more I've gone through it, the more I realize that my readers' observations and advice has been beyond excellent.  I doubt even my most enamored beta reader would want to sit down and re-read this novel in a revised and longer form, let alone do that twice more.

I should have sought advice before I proceeded. Lesson Learned. There are times when I ignore advice, but this isn't one of them. For though I defended the decision, the decision was already made when I opened this post, which was not (supposed to be) about whether to get an editor, but how to work with one.

No 'Told you so' from me. Like you say, lesson learned. Move on. A freelance editor will edit to her own likes and dislikes, what she thinks makes a better book - and of course, a publishing house editor does exactly the same. The difference is that a publishing house editor is doing it with the intent to publish it - they're always going to be more invested.

Regarding your beta readers, you may be surprised about their willingness to read it again. If they engaged with it and provided valuable advice and feedback, they might be as keen to see what you've done with it as you are. You can but ask.

But to get back to your original question - how to work with an editor when you have one. I'm currently going through final edits with my editor at Harper Voyager. I have found it both a joy and a hardship. I understand the concept of murdering your darlings, and I have done it voluntarily and with many apologies. But an editor telling me I need to lose an entire POV character? That's been tough. I've fought back, I've made excuses, I've tried to justify their continued inclusion. As @sennydreadful said, I have sulked. Oh, the levels of sulking that have occurred.

And then ... then I have reminded myself that there's a reason I'm the author and she's the editor. There's a reason she's good at her job. There's a reason why she's asking me to remove a POV. All of those reasons come down to the fact that she is employed by a large publishing house to put out the best, most engaging novels, that she can find. And she's working hard to make sure my novels meets those parameters.

So with much biting of lip, I have done as asked.

The author/editor relationship is absolutely based on trust. And I trust that Godblind is going to be a better book for her input. And as she always says - "I want you to argue with me. If you can justify why something should stay in, then it stays in. But if you can't justify it, then you don't need it, no matter how good it is, or how much you like it."

So, hopefully that helps for your next two rounds of analysis and review. Perhaps your editor isn't providing mediocre advice, she's providing advice you don't necessarily agree with. You have to decide if you trust that her advice will make it a better book.

But it's always worth keeping a copy of the original novel, or any sections you are asked to substantially change or delete. That way, if you ultimately decide the advice was incorrect, you can revert to a previous version.

Continued good luck!

Anna

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #21 on: January 07, 2017, 12:50:54 PM »
Thanks for sharing Anna - I've the opposite issue - I need to make more darlings, but I can totally imagine the issues you describe and my challenges in pulling the levers that send one to the gallows.

It's a slide down the razor trying to balance what is good and distinctive and unique to you, and what is in the way. Please keep as posted as you proceed so we can learn and benefit along the way. Good luck with getting your baby to market!
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Offline Lu Kudzoza

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #22 on: January 07, 2017, 07:33:42 PM »
At this early stage, it looks like a moderately mediocre idea. Not terrible, but not the salve I'd hoped for.
Thanks for sharing Anna - I've the opposite issue - I need to make more darlings...

Just curious, what advice is your editor giving you? Is she saying to add more POVs, or more info in scenes, or what?

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #23 on: January 07, 2017, 08:35:38 PM »
Not Lu beat me to it. You may not have got what you want but you got something, so what was it and how do you use it?

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #24 on: January 07, 2017, 11:09:08 PM »
Most of her ideas are pacing, timing, and structurally related:

- an inciting incident that makes Kellithren want to join the Year
 
- bring in Mardivan earlier, connect him with Aglacia, and elevate the issue of Kell's status as an Influential.

- maybe beginning the story where the expedition departs, and depicting Kell's training experiences as flashbacks

- more and earlier depictions of Kell's interactions of the Apeiron

- depictions of vraguul and grouhl being a problem

- more intrigue, less passive voice

One of her chief comments: "You have a shit-ton of material here, Scott. I actually see three or more books in just this one of Kellithren's adventures. You hit the nail on the head when you said you have too many ideas, and you need to FOCUS on one main mission, one main story goal, and run with that."
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Lu Kudzoza

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #25 on: January 08, 2017, 02:25:49 AM »
Most of her ideas are pacing, timing, and structurally related:

- an inciting incident that makes Kellithren want to join the Year
 
- bring in Mardivan earlier, connect him with Aglacia, and elevate the issue of Kell's status as an Influential.

- maybe beginning the story where the expedition departs, and depicting Kell's training experiences as flashbacks

- more and earlier depictions of Kell's interactions of the Apeiron

- depictions of vraguul and grouhl being a problem

- more intrigue, less passive voice

One of her chief comments: "You have a shit-ton of material here, Scott. I actually see three or more books in just this one of Kellithren's adventures. You hit the nail on the head when you said you have too many ideas, and you need to FOCUS on one main mission, one main story goal, and run with that."

You should be pleased with her advice. She's given you several ideas that if nothing else should give you even more ideas about how to proceed. You just need to decide if it helps or hurts the work. I'll give my two cents worth just for fun. ;)

Her advice to focus on one main mission is spot on, however, it doesn't mean you have to strip everything else in the book. Just make sure that you look at each character, each story line, each scene, etc. and ask yourself how it contributes to the main mission. Try to make as many places as possible point to the climax/ending. Give the reader something to anticipate about the ending as the story moves along (slowly adding things that build up to, or point to, the climax).

- an inciting incident that makes Kellithren want to join the Year

His motivation for joining the year is what is important. An incident makes it exciting (likely why the editor suggested it), but this can often leave a character shallow or even boring (because we've all seen the movie where wife/girl friend/parents/sister<insert other trite character here> is killed/healed/kidnapped<insert other trite event here> and starts the hero on his journey). Sometimes internal monologue can set a character's motivation in a stronger and deeper way than a single event. Whichever way you decide, make sure the focus is on the character's motivation.
 
- bring in Mardivan earlier, connect him with Aglacia, and elevate the issue of Kell's status as an Influential.

All good points. Dragging important points of the story forward is almost always the right decision. Mainly because the reader doesn't have the background you do so they need to be reminded more than once that some things are important to the story. But, once again, you need to decide if it helps or hurts the story you're trying to tell.

- maybe beginning the story where the expedition departs, and depicting Kell's training experiences as flashbacks

Meh. But I don't mind "wizard in training" chapters... and I hate flashbacks to things that aren't relevant to the story. "Wizard in training" chapters show personal growth and challenges, which make them important in telling a life story. If you start the story at the expedition, you're telling a completely different story that doesn't need the training scenes. You need to decide: Are you telling a "quest" story? Or are you telling a "I wanted to be a wizard. And I destroyed the world." story. (You can thank me later for the blurb that sells a million books.  ;D )

- more and earlier depictions of Kell's interactions of the Apeiron

Same advice as above. Drag important points forward and place emphasis on your main mission to build anticipation.

- depictions of vraguul and grouhl being a problem

Yep. Same advice again.

Take all my comments for what they're worth. Remember, you're the one telling the story. Do it in your own way.


Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #26 on: January 08, 2017, 03:46:11 AM »
You need to decide: Are you telling a "quest" story? Or are you telling a "I wanted to be a wizard. And I destroyed the world." story. (You can thank me later for the blurb that sells a million books.  ;D )
Now THAT was sage advice...

I definitely want to tell a "I wanted to be a wizard and I destroyed the world" story, and I've been trying to sort out just what the hell IS this all about, and it was right there in front of me, where all the most important things hide. Thanks Not Lu!
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Offline AnnaStephens

Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #27 on: January 08, 2017, 03:40:44 PM »
Most of her ideas are pacing, timing, and structurally related:

- an inciting incident that makes Kellithren want to join the Year
 
- bring in Mardivan earlier, connect him with Aglacia, and elevate the issue of Kell's status as an Influential.

- maybe beginning the story where the expedition departs, and depicting Kell's training experiences as flashbacks

- more and earlier depictions of Kell's interactions of the Apeiron

- depictions of vraguul and grouhl being a problem

- more intrigue, less passive voice

One of her chief comments: "You have a shit-ton of material here, Scott. I actually see three or more books in just this one of Kellithren's adventures. You hit the nail on the head when you said you have too many ideas, and you need to FOCUS on one main mission, one main story goal, and run with that."

I agree, to me these all sound like eminently sensible suggestions. Starting the main plot points early on is important - while developments can - and should - happen throughout the novel, the seeds of them need to be planted from the start. A brand new plot point relevant to nothing happening halfway through a book is not a great idea. That might be what she means with bring in Mardivan earlier.

While I haven't been overtly told "too many ideas, too much story", I can see from what my editor wants me to cut what she's trying to achieve - a lean, sleek motherf**ker of a book. And I'm happy with that approach! I'm also saving all the scenes I'm cutting because, at the end of the day, a fight scene is a fight scene - one thing I can guarantee is that there'll be a need for those in the sequels. If I already have a handful written, so much the better!

My advice would be to trust her, implement her suggestions, and see where it leads you. Split out some of your sub-plots, remove them entirely and save them for other books. To paraphrase a cliche - too many plots spoil the book.

Anna

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #28 on: January 09, 2017, 03:07:28 PM »
Hrm. This one is somewhat discombobulated to the source of your discontent. Your objective seemed to be to have someone to help with pace and structural issues and that appears to be what you got. Were your concerns not the ones she addressed? Looking back at the first page, you appear more concerned with how best to space out the intellectual scenes and add action, and how best to street this home. Suppose none of those ideas address that, other than training experiences as flashbacks.

What you got sounds good though.

Next question would be what are you planning to do with this?
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Editors - any advice?
« Reply #29 on: January 09, 2017, 03:58:12 PM »
Hrm. This one is somewhat discombobulated to the source of your discontent. Your objective seemed to be to have someone to help with pace and structural issues and that appears to be what you got. Were your concerns not the ones she addressed? Looking back at the first page, you appear more concerned with how best to space out the intellectual scenes and add action, and how best to street this home. Suppose none of those ideas address that, other than training experiences as flashbacks.

What you got sounds good though.

Next question would be what are you planning to do with this?
My discontent arose because I was expecting help beyond pointing to the known issues. But what I didn't realize is that it's premature without a primary central plot in place. What I had was more like a cable composed of several threads of competing size, and it would be counterproductive to try and maximize pacing, etc., until I've done the Highlander thing "There can be only One!" (main plot, that is. Maybe two. But not 7.)

Looking forward, I wrote a long post in the writer's group on my plans, but the short version: I spent the weekend deciding which plotline to elevate and build out: my intrigue plotline(s). I had always intended to mirror my experiences in government agencies that shall not be named by depicting in-fighting. And my editor literally wrote "Intrigue! Intrigue! Intrigue!" in her letter. So yeah. Intrigue.

There are several plotlines of it, but they're so closely related one could say they're just different sides of the same struggle. I will let the other plots lie, or trim back as necessary to make space/quicken pace.

I am now working out the nature of that intrigue, characters and conflict, dramatic moments, and climax(es). I'll lay that out and work it into the standard structure, and move the current story around it, giving it the right of way. The current book is fairly modular, so this shouldn't be too hard. Most of it is training sequences relating to physical/character trials, sorcery, and crystal alchemy, gem cutting, and some other stuff. This will likely force me to cut the journey that began late; or at least, it will likely not survive in its current form/place.
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