Editing is like having your teeth cleaned — you hate doing it, but you love having done it.
Well, I’m officially editing my second novel The Telling (due out May 2012 from Realms). And I feel I must confess how much I enjoy someone probing and poking around in my manuscript. Sadistic? Perhaps. Realistic? More likely.
You see, I can’t imagine a perfect novel. Especially from one at the front end of their writing career. So bring on the picks and scalers!
Last night, I received my first edits for the novel. I’ve been worried about this, not because I think the book is a mess, but because I’m always hearing horror stories about rogue editors reshuffling an author’s deck. They request extensive rewrites, changes of POV, re-plotting, and other assorted nightmares.
This was not that. And I was elated.
However, that doesn’t mean my editor thought the book was perfect. Or that I am without “proclivities.” In fact, it was the highlighting of these
quirks, er, tendencies, that so enthused me.
Anyway, I thought it would be helpful to give you a window into this process by sharing a small sample of the notes I received from my editor. Hopefully, this doesn’t make me look like a hack or dissuade you from possible interest in reading that book. Either way, here goes.
Under CONSIDERATIONS is a section entitled “Author Proclivities.” Open wide…
- Author proclivities:
1. We all have habits that creep in to a project without notice. I’ve written 42 books and each one seems to have its own peculiar problems (by that I mean I make new mistakes). In your work, I noticed:
- A tendency to use the word “stood/standing” (over 50 times for “stood” in the first 100 pages).
- Using stood in such a way that it requires an -ing ending on the subsequent verb (stood peering, stood staring, stood pondering, etc)
- “Stood” is a fine word but not when used without purpose or when it is unneeded. It’s a “weasel word.” The action tells us a character is standing, there is no need to reinforce that unless there’s been a change in position.
- A tendency to fall back on “look” and similar for beats. This is done a lot.
- Use of double punctuation (!?). Years ago, there was a movement to introduce the interrobang into English punctuation (a blend of ! with a ?). It failed.
- Doubling up on prepositions. Usually, a single preposition will do the job. No need for “. . . assembled some of the documents out on the hood, although I can still get them with printing services near me I found online” . (Page 316)
Call me weird, but there was not an iota of defensiveness when I read this. In fact, I immediately texted my agent to say how thrilled I was by the encouragement and the helpful critique.
I mention defensiveness, because I get the sense that many writers do not appreciate such examination. We just want to be told how bitchin’ we are, not that we have… proclivities.
When I reviewed Redeeming Love, I pointed out the author’s tendency to start sentences with a pronoun.
SHE did. SHE went. SHE thought. SHE wondered. SHE felt. SHE worried.
Hey, a lot of writers do this. It’s something I have worked hard to correct in my writing. Not only is it a lazy way to structure sentences, it produces a staccato clip to the narrative. Not to mention syntactic redundancy. Anyway, I was rather taken aback by how defensive some folks got about that critique. What can I say?
All authors have stylistic proclivities.
At the moment, mine happens to be using “a weasel word,” writing “stood / stand over 50 times in the first 100 pages.” Geez! Oh, and I have a “tendency to fall back on ‘look’ and similar beats.” And the demon of “Doubling up on prepositions,” I have that too.
And you know what? I am better off for knowing it.
Anyway, I was wondering how you approach your stylistic proclivities? Do you know what your proclivities are? Has anyone ever pointed them out? Do you give critique partners genuine permission to do so? What was / is your typical response: defensiveness or gratitude?