Pro Editors: They Tell You Things You Didn’t Know

‘Dictionary counts “then” as a subordinating conjunction itself, so it can be used without “and” to form a dependent clause.’

This is one of the 619 (!) comments which the lovely Misti from RedAdept gave me on ASCENSION POINT. Over the course of our hour-and-forty-five-minute chat yesterday–now that’s value for money!–I got the most concentrated lesson in grammar that I’ve ever had, as well as a ton of other excellent feedback. Phenomenal.

I’m still processing everything, but here are some snippets:

  • I really like using dashes. Like, all the time. Even when I should be using ellipses, or colons, or periods.
  • I’m far too busy and important to spell words consistently. See: light-year, lightyear, light year.
  • I’m generally good at POV! Yay for me! But not so good at maintaining a single POV in scenes with several of my POV characters: it sometimes gets a bit muddled.
  • Authorial intrusion FTW. Or: I’m not always great at keeping the narrative sections of a scene in keeping with the POV character’s voice. A key lesson.
  • Scene transitions need some work. Too often it takes a few paragraphs before it becomes clear to the reader where the story is, and who the POV character is. Or as Misti put it, “Who? What? Where?” 🙂
  • Dashes vs. ellipses. Phrases vs. clauses. Independent clauses vs. dependent clauses. Commas with modifiers. Commas with conjunctions. Phew!
  • Unnecessary verbiage, e.g. ‘Emitting a yowl.’ Yowl is already a verb, Dan. Tut tut.
  • Pacing needs some work. More shorter sentences in dramatic sections to build tension, keep the longer ones for more mellow stretches to diffuse it.
  • And last, my personal favourite. I’ll let Misti’s example show this one: “His eyes followed them.”
    • Interpretation #1: He watched them, following them with his gaze.
    • Interpretation #2: His eyeballs popped out of his skull and trailed after them while he did something else.

Ahem… Yeah, the first one.

As I skimmed the edited doc I was pleased to see fewer and fewer comments in later chapters. No surprise, the first chapter, or 4% of the book, has 15% of the comments! Good to get confirmation from a professional that my writing really did improve as the book progressed.

I’ll probably post some more editing bits and pieces in the coming week or two as I beaver away at the changes. Having addressed the 92 comments in chapter one, I can already tell that enlisting a professional editor was absolutely money well spent.

But we already knew that, didn’t we?

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8 thoughts on “Pro Editors: They Tell You Things You Didn’t Know

    • Misti’s marvellous. You can fire off a request to Lynn at RedAdept (link’s in my post), she’s the owner and chief editor of the company. She assigns members of her team based on the work; for example, Misti does most of the sci-fi that they get. Means you get genre-specific expertise as well as general-writing feedback. Ideal!

  1. This is awesome, thanks Dan. It gives me an idea of what to expect and its very educational. Of course, I wont be so lucky as you and will probably get an abstract-in-red back forcing me to rewrite everything. Again, thanks for sharing.

    • It all depends at what stage the MS is when you send it to the pro editor. Mine had gone through two edits by me, then one each for my two beta readers, so a bunch of the obvious storyline and character problems had been worked out. That way your pro editor can spend more time on finer-grained stuff, taking it to an even higher level. And it’s better value for your money too-you don’t want her/him spending time on simple stuff like telling you there’s a gaping plothole between chapters four and five 🙂

  2. It gives me confidence that, as a sci-fi editor, Misti is a Misti. Much more 24th Century than a Misty, say.

    I am also pleased that she’s picked up some of my amends that you chose to ignore. Although the “emitting a yowl” comment has changed my life – it’s like a split infinitive, we don’t realise we are doing it until told!

    Big love from France x

    • (Steve’s a beta reader, in case anyone’s wondering.)

      I wouldn’t say ‘ignore’, more ‘not apply because I wasn’t sure you were right’ 🙂 Misti dazzled me with her grammar knowledge, and made almost 100 improvements to the first chapter alone, so I’m pretty confident she knows better than I do!

      It’s the character and plot feedback I look for from you. Let’s leave the grammar to the professionals, and then you’ll have more time to tell me which characters annoy you 😉

  3. Pingback: Edit The Second One, Sell The First One: Rinse, Repeat, Profit | dan-harris.net

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