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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Book Two: Embiggened

Some of you may recall a post from a few months back where I talked about my second book, ROGUE, and how it was starting to come along nicely–but was going to be too short. At the time I was planning to just keep writing the bloody thing, and let the story tell me where it could best be expanded, or the characters deepened. You know, writerly stuff like I imagine Stephen King does.

That’s not one of my strong suits, as it turns out.

It’s not like I’ve sat down to write very often in the last ten weeks or so–what with getting married and all–but when I have, I’ve found it almost impossible to crack on with drafting when I know the outline’s not finished. I can’t do it. I find myself just staring at the wall, wondering where I could slot in another chapter, or an extra subplot.

Well, happy day, I finally worked it out. And, like all the best ideas, it was completely obvious in hindsight. Just one additional chapter at the end of act two, a few build-up scenes inserted into previous chapters to point the way, and lo and behold we have a new secondary character and a plot tweak that cranks up the tension for Possible Ending Flashpoint #1.

Boom. Suddenly I have a twenty chapter novel which should roll in at about 75K words, and be a much more satisfying read.

Phew. Now I can write it!

Self-Publishing ‘Properly’, Or: Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I got an email earlier from my editor, Misti, telling me that’s she’s almost finished her edit of ASCENSION POINT.

SQUEEEEEE-

Ahem. We’re going to have a chat on Wednesday, and shortly thereafter I’ll be able to start carving up my MS into a leaner, meaner form, with an eye on publishing before the end of October.

As this milestone nears, I just wanted to post on something I’ve been thinking about, what I consider the two different approaches a writer can take to self-publishing. In essence, one’s free, and one’s not. But there’s only one which I think is doing it ‘properly’. Can you guess which?  Read more…

Edit Is Go Go Go… Next Week

On Friday I got the sample edit of ASCENSION POINT from the folks at RedAdept. My new editor, the delightfully-named Misti, did an edit of just the first four pages of the novel–and I was delighted to see her come back with 29 suggested changes! This is exactly the kind of thoroughness I’m looking for, especially for the first few chapters of the book. (Which are still significantly weaker than the later ones, despite my best efforts to bring them up to par.)

I like Misti’s editing style, and the quoted price was fine, so all systems are go. Misti’s going  to start on the full edit early next week, and should finish roughly two weeks later. At which point I spend ten minutes marveling at how many red marks there are, then set about hammering it into shape/cutting away the fat/insert editing metaphor here.

There’ll be a few passes back and forth as we whittle down the changes, then it’ll be time for a proofread by another editor to catch all the little flaws we missed. ‘This colon should be a semicolon‘, etc.

And then? PUBLISHING TIME.

Update on ASCENSION POINT

It’s getting exciting. I’m nearly at the end of my beta reader edits, which have been really helpful. (If you’re reading – thanks!)

Soon it’ll be professional edit time; I have a slot booked with the team at RedAdept Publishing, who come very highly recommended by the folks on the KindleBoards Writers Café. Looking forward to that.

And as if that wasn’t enough, my cover designer, the lovely Stephanie Mooney, sent me the first mock-ups for my cover yesterday! They look awesome, really close to what I’ve been envisioning. Just a few tweaks needed, and it’ll be done. You’ll see it here first, of course.

Exciting times!

This Is Why We Need Beta Readers, People

Just a quick one.

Among other excellent feedback from my friend Steve on ASCENSION POINT was this gem: “If you use the word ‘smiled’ one more time I will cry.”

“Oh, really?” thinks the author. “I’m sure he’s exaggerat- oh.”

135 times, in 88,000 words.

That’s 0.15%, and would only be acceptable if there were fewer than 700 words in the English language. And maybe not even then.

Holidays and Edits

Limited bloggery over the past few days – sorry about that. We’ve been away on a little trip over the long weekend here in Brazil. I have no idea which saint’s day it was which gave me the day off last Thursday, but I’m grateful – taking the extra vacation day on Friday made it a four day weekend, and they’re always good.

Anyway. Read more…

So It Turns Out my Fiancée is a Great Editor

Lovely fiancée Amisha powered through the first half of ASCENSION POINT today, and has loads of great feedback, including some things I’d simply never have thought of:

“If she’s a really powerful politician who works all the time, why does she care so much about her beauty regimen? I mean, look at Dilma.”

It’s marvellous having a voracious reader and very smart cookie to give the story a good kicking before it goes off to the professional editor. I really want to make this first novel the absolute best it can be.

And on that note, I’m very excited that Stephanie Mooney will be starting work on my cover next week – can’t wait to see what she puts together. Exciting times!

New Book Is Go Go Go

Ah, starting the first draft of a new book. Second only in writing satisfaction to finishing one.

I knocked out the first scene of ROGUE today, the first part of the prologue introducing the antagonists. I can already tell this is going to be really fun to write.

Meanwhile the edit of ASCENSION POINT rumbles on slowly – I love my beta readers dearly, but feedback is a tough thing to wait for. Hurry up, please! My impatience knows no bounds. I want to get the edit done, and get the book out into the world!

Patience, Dan. Patience.