The Carina Press blog is hosting various author interviews with CP editors. My turn was posted yesterday afternoon, and I’m all a-squee about it. Here it is!
I can’t say enough good things about her. Having never been through the edit process with fiction, I wasn’t sure what to expect. (With non-fiction, it can go in multiple ways. With some fields, I’m well-known enough that my material goes up without any question or review. That is unfortunate, actually, because I’m as prone to typos and repetition as anyone. With other fields, I’ll get the paper or the magazine to find that my material has been printed with a new title and six missing paragraphs even though I was under the required word count. Eh. It happens.)
The experience I had was so easy that I’m spoiled forever. All of her developmental edits vastly improved the story, as did the line edit. It was quick and easy. Her turnarounds were fast as hell, even though she has a huge number of writers to deal with. Our margin notes read like a sitcom script, only funny.
Her real genius came through in the revise and resubmit letter I got for my second novella. Anyone can edit something that is essentially done (although not everyone can put on a high shine). If the second one sells, it’ll be because of her suggestions.
I’m not her only writer to feel this way. The comment thread on the interview has a bunch of her writers popping up to cheer. Go cheer for her!
I finished the revise and resubmit material on the Widow and the Gentleman story. As much as I would like to think that my original story was a thing of beauty, with rainbows sparkling off every golden word, the revised material is about one billion times better.
The final stretch of rewrites went hard, though. Not the writing, the ignoring my own doubts part. The revised piece is 12K words longer, and I was/am terrified I’ve done harm to the pace the editor liked so much. And of course, the reason the suspense subplot was so puny in the first submitted version was because I am positive I’m a terrible suspense writer.
That’s a ridiculous statement, mind you. I haven’t written suspense before this story, so I have no outside opinions as to if I’m terrible or not. Guess I’ll find out… in a month.
But as soothing as it was to go back to characters I knew well, I’m relieved to have it off and done, and I feel much more confident about my ability to plot a longer story now. Heck, at the rate my word counts are rising, I might even write a novel someday. /snort
If it sells, I’ll write a post about the before and after and show you the story charts, but meanwhile, I need to cleanse my brain of Vanessa and Derek, and get back to figuring out my new characters.
My editor on Her Heart’s Divide, who is seriously the most fantastic editor I have worked with in ten years (go ahead, ask me about insightful criticism that turns a passage from acceptable to the high point of my writing day), is nearly as overscheduled as I am. Multitasking, fragmented scheduling, the whole caboodle.
She mentioned in the context of a promotional thing that she had some really specific things she loved about my book. Now, in an attempt to spare her my deep seated neurotic tendencies, I had never asked what she liked about the book. She’d given me plenty of positive feedback, but it was all about my writing, and not really the story.
I asked her if she’d mind sharing the specifics. At the exact moment I asked, she was on her way out the door, so she had to be pithy. She said she “loved how Lila was married but horny, and how Ryan had thick muscles, black hair, and he runs errands.”
Hey, who doesn’t love a dude who runs errands?
Efforts to retitle my second novella are not going terribly well, although we might have come up with some good ones last night. Sadly, “Don’t Let Your Wife Go To Sedona With Your Do-Rag” has been rejected.
The editor sent me a link to a word map tool in order to see what the most common words were in my story, in hopes that the picture would inspire us. Now I can’t stop playing with it: http://www.wordle.net/
I think it might be helpful to use it as an editing tool as well. For example, the word map of my novella reveals that I badly, BADLY overuse the word “just.”
I was just wondering if I did that too much.
Not baited. If your breath were baited, you would accomplish nothing besides being attractive to fish.
As a freelance editor, I am often reminded of the old saw about lawyers as soon as I sit down in front of my own work.
I just got my first round of edits from CP. Nearly every freaking one of them is about an area I knew wasn’t quite right, but any attempts at tinkering weakened the pace of the story.
Just one example: My hero and heroine have just been told a story by their best friend, one that sounds absolutely insane. Totally implausible. The thing that makes them at least tentatively buy it is that their friend is genuinely devastated. Also, in attempt to prove the veracity of his story, their friend mentions some highly intimate details about the heroine, details the hero didn’t know.
When the friend walks away for a bit, the hero can’t resist… er… double checking.
The scene was written cleanly, paced nicely, had nice work showing the H/h are very emotionally connected… but something about it felt weird.
If you’ve already spotted the problem, you’re one up on me. Fortunately, the editor caught it right off. For the characters to have sex at that moment in time, well, it felt callous. Totally at odds with the close friendship I set up for the three of them throughout the rest of the novella. The solution was simple – build on the existing emotional connection early in the scene to show that the H/h have been shaken by their friend’s revelation, even if they don’t realize it, and are using sex to reaffirm their connection.
I know I said this before, and that many people disagree with me. But I truly believe that endless revision on your own accomplishes nothing. A couple polish passes, sure. Let the manuscript set a few days so you can get some distance before one of those passes, absolutely. I personally go through a self-editing checklist to prune out adverbs, adjectives, and exclamation points. I even highlight any examples of “telling, not showing” to see if I can impart the same information with action instead of internal monologue. Certainly I recommend that process to my friends.
But there comes a point where you just need an outside editor’s eyeballs.
I write these blog entries in those bursts of time (under 30 minutes) where I don’t think it’s worth pulling out my fiction. I have calls for my day job all morning. (Is it wrong that I kind of can’t wait for that to be over? I hate short-timer syndrome, but I totally have it right now.)
And I’m so irritated about being unable to focus on my story, because I had a breakthrough last night that I need to pursue. The editor’s feedback included the information that the ending felt tacked on, so I was in the process of taking the characters from their first night together through the HEA (that’s “happily ever after,” for my friends reading this who haven’t been OCD about reading romance writing boards). It definitely took the story to a better place. I already cared about my hero and heroine, but last night, when I finally had to hit the sack, I felt reluctant to leave them. They crossed the line from my puppets to people, if that makes any sense.
But it made the story so much better that my opening grated on my ears. Seriously. I found myself not reading the first page anymore because it was so painful. I couldn’t figure out what was hurting – the dialogue was pretty good, the characters were vivid, etc. But it felt all wrong.
Then I saw it, and realized the editor’s feedback had hinted at the problem all along. She’d said that for the line I’d submitted to, it took too long for the main characters to have their first sexual encounter. She gave me a little more detail as to what readers expect in that particular line, as well, though that’s not related to the fixes I’m making. She invited me to submit future things to her directly, but that does not mean she ever wants to see THIS story again. So there’s no point in making changes that will suit this story to her line. I’m making changes that will help me sell it elsewhere.
Anyway, during my lunch break yesterday, I was hanging out at Absolute Write and saw some advice from one of the veterans in terms of where to start a story. Paraphrased, it was “if it can be summed up as “Introducing SOANDSO” or “five years passed,” cut it. Start where the action does.” Of course I’d heard this advice a million times. But they can’t be talking about meeeeeeeeeeee…
But just for yucks, I cut everything above right before the two mains meet for the first time.
POW. Now the story works.
Sometimes amputation is the best option!
The Making Light blog is one of my all time favorites – written by some of the best editors in publishing, lurked at by some of the finest minds in reading, it’s one of the few blogs that always delivers.
I found it by accident. Six years ago, I was procrastinating instead of writing query letters for a travel article. I was reading posts at Rejection Collection (no longer seems to exist – it was a site devoted to publishing rejection letters), and the site host posted a link to Making Light. One of the Making Light owners had also been reading posts at Rejection, and posted a response.
That response ranks up there as the most brilliant, succinct, life changing deconstructions of the publishing process I’ve ever read. The most important thing it did, of course, was give me perspective.
When you read it, especially if you’ve been writing for any length of time, you will either slap your forehead and cry “My god, it’s so obvious, why didn’t I think of that?” (or you’ll want to reach out and slap my forehead and say “My god, it’s so obvious, why didn’t you think of that?”).
If you read nothing else today, scroll down to #3: The Context of Rejection. That list is gold. I do freelance editing, and to this day, I mentally assign a number from that list to the manuscripts that cross my desk.
And if you have a few more minutes, read #5 and keep it in mind when you think of the people in charge of rejecting us.
I fished out an old manuscript, because I am currently desperate for something to send to an editor wondering if I’ve got anything more romance-ish, less erotica-ish. I remembered really liking the basic story. I also remembered tossing it in the metaphorical drawer because it was boring me, and even five years ago I liked writing sex scenes more than I liked writing sweet romance. (This was well before the e-pub/e-reader thing exploded, and before insane sales of e-reader erotica proved that lots more people will read it if they can do it without anyone seeing them do it. Kind of like actual… it.) Anyway, I’ve actually been thinking about that old thing. So I went fishing.
And holy cow, I was a terrible writer.
I went through all my old abandoned stories. There is a definite turning point where my work went from sadass to badass, but it’s not at the point where I started writing erotica as I thought. If you read the first post on this blog, you will note that I thought that two days ago.
But no, it’s the point where I purchased and read Self-Editing For Fiction Writers. I’m not kidding. I checked my spreadsheet from the year where the change occurred (remember, books you buy to further your craft are tax-deductible), and the month I bought it is when the manuscripts stopped sucking.
Please bear in mind – at the time that I bought this book, I’d been selling non-fiction pretty consistently. There really is a world of difference between how you edit the two types of writing.
Renni Browne, Dave King, if you’re out there: You are an entire barrel of awesome sauce.
I dabble in writing science fiction (dabble = not attempting to sell it at this time), and most of us who do that are familiar with Robert Heinlein’s Rules For Writers. I don’t see the rules come up in blogs nearly as often with romance writers, or erotica writers. I think they work equally well for all of us who produce genre fiction. Heck, these five rules established my non-fiction career.
1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.
Science fiction author Robert Sawyer has more to say, and says it well.
I want to add my own half-penny to his two cents on #3 (if you’re too busy to click the link, he says, in part “And although many beginners don’t believe it, Heinlein is right: if your story is close to publishable, editors will tell you what you have to do to make it salable”). He is absolutely right. If you’re close, you’ll get the editorial order the rule calls for. If you’re not, your own revision isn’t going to get you any closer or you’d have already done it. You need to find an editor, a partner, or a functional critique group.
As a side note, that’s another downside to writing erotica. I need an editor, or at least a writing partner who doubles as an editor.
I’m good friends with several top notch editors. It’s just that when they heard about what I’m writing these days, they all got this… expression. One of them even asked if I put myself in the stories. Argh! No! Do you put yourself into your space operas? But now that I know what you’re thinking, I will show you a draft the instant hell freezes over!
Also, if you do put yourself into your space operas, knock it off, Mary Sue.