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Authors You "Know" and Etiquette

Got a question/comment about the business of writing or about the publishing industry? Here's your place to post it!
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu October 11th, 2012, 7:39 am

"Justin Swanton" wrote:Just out of curiosity, what exactly are you looking for from an editor? I passed My MS past my wife who was completely honest in her critical appraisal (i.e. she tore large parts of it to bits). Besides typos and grammatical inaccuracies I was looking for:

- obscure passages, i.e. parts where the reader could not figure out what was going on because I had taken it for granted so much in my mind that I didn't see the need to tell it;

- difficult sentence construction, where the reader has to work to figure out what is being said;

- glaring inconsistencies in a character's personality or behaviour;

- contrived language (the most common being the artificial 'hiking up' that is so prevalent with new writers - 'she glared at him', 'he shrieked', etc.).

Someone who is reasonably intelligent can do a very good job of picking up most of this. I would avoid using a professional writer as he/she has his own particular notion of what constitutes good writing. An experienced reader on the other hand has the right first impression approach to an MS to spot the real errors. Just tell them to be ruthless - you want to know what's wrong with your work!


What I am looking for in an editor is, above all things, story flow. All the rest-- awkward sentences, grammar bloops, mismatches, inconsistencies, and the like, I can depend on my several beta-reading friends to catch. What one doesn't, the next will. But no matter how polished all those things are, if the story doesn't grab, they are just a waste of everyone's time.

I'm hard to please when it comes to storytelling. I hate to be bored. I hate even worse the thought of boring somebody else.

There are several options for presenting any story. The trick is to arrange the telling in such a way that the reader is led from one scene to the next without losing interest. I want an editor who is expert at sniffing sagging plot space, and honest about telling me. Then I'll try telling that part from another angle, or putting that information in another place.
my facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/emilylaurencotton are public, generally things I find amusing.
my passions: fair trade, ending slavery, and justice.
"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." Will Rogers
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User avatar
parthianbow
Compulsive Reader
Location: Nr. Bristol, SW England
Contact:

Postby parthianbow » Thu October 11th, 2012, 9:47 am

@MLE: It sounds as if there are a lot of people out there who are masquerading as editors, but who don't have the skills to back up their promises. In other words, they're probably trying to make a living at something else while they also write books!

The editor I mentioned is however, a 'real' editor: she worked for many years at one of the 'Big Six'. To give you an idea of her calibre, she edited more than half a dozen of Bernard Cornwell's books. I am in the lucky position of having my publisher now use her to copy edit my books. Like my inhouse editor, her opinion, IMHO, is like 24 carat gold. Consequently, you have to pay quite a lot for it. However, the money I spent with her on my first ms. I regard as possibly the best $1500 I've ever spent in my life.

She does take on outside work from time to time. If you like, I can ask her if she's interested in looking at yours.

@Justin: MLE's post subsequent to yours says most of what I was going to say in response to you. With all due respect, unless your wife is a trained professional editor, she will not be able to pick up the things that a mainstream editor will. Plus, as my agent always says, 'Never trust the opinion of your nearest and dearest. They love you, so their eyes are blinkered to the faults in your manuscript and your writing.' No matter how hard you think your wife was on you, I can guarantee you that it will be as nothing compared to an editor who knows their stuff, and who has no vested interest in you (because you paid them).

In pretty much any other type of job people pay to be trained to become adept/expert. Why is it that some people think that they have no need of this? The lack of good editing is often much of the difference between a lot of self-published books and the ones released by major publishers.
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

http://www.benkane.net
Twitter: @benkaneauthor

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu October 11th, 2012, 3:08 pm

@Ben: Yes, I would like her name, if you could PM it to me. I'm waiting on feedback from editor #5, and if this one is a flop, I'm going to be pretty discouraged with the process.

I was starting to think that I must be getting a little barn-blind, so I DID run the much-maligned chapter by my writing mentor. Her response? something on the lines of: "This ain't broke, why are you trying to fix it?"
I wasn't, actually-- that first part had been honed and polished a dozen times, including by our local HNS chapter (we do WIP readings and critiques, and they can be brutal). I sent it because it was the first part, so of course it came attached to the second part.

By now, I have so many versions of the thing as marked up by paid editors (none of whom agreed with each other, I might add, :rolleyes :) that I'm using it as kind of a 'control-and-compare' piece.

So my comment on editors is, caveat emptor.
my facebook posts https://www.facebook.com/emilylaurencotton are public, generally things I find amusing.
my passions: fair trade, ending slavery, and justice.
"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects." Will Rogers
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Justin Swanton
Reader
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

Postby Justin Swanton » Sat October 13th, 2012, 1:29 am

"parthianbow" wrote:@Justin: MLE's post subsequent to yours says most of what I was going to say in response to you. With all due respect, unless your wife is a trained professional editor, she will not be able to pick up the things that a mainstream editor will. Plus, as my agent always says, 'Never trust the opinion of your nearest and dearest. They love you, so their eyes are blinkered to the faults in your manuscript and your writing.' No matter how hard you think your wife was on you, I can guarantee you that it will be as nothing compared to an editor who knows their stuff, and who has no vested interest in you (because you paid them).

In pretty much any other type of job people pay to be trained to become adept/expert. Why is it that some people think that they have no need of this? The lack of good editing is often much of the difference between a lot of self-published books and the ones released by major publishers.


I think it's just experience in my case too. I offered my MS to a New Zealander publisher who had their in-house reader/editor look at it. Among other things, he objected to my centurion character using the word 'halt!' on his recruits, as that is of Germanic origin and he would have been speaking Latin (I was tempted to suggest writing up all conversation in Latin and adding translations as 8-point type footnotes).

I appreciate though that an experienced and competent editor can supply invaluable input.

PS: you have not met my wife. From her I learned the precious lesson of clobbering my ego when it comes to objectively appraising my work.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog


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