Lessons from My Editor
Okay, I don’t know that I can even call her “my editor.” She was only contracted with me for a short while with my sequel to Shadow Eyes before Musa Publishing shut down. I had a different editor for Shadow Eyes, and although she was nice, she didn’t push me and challenge me as much as Jeanne De Vita did.
I used Jeanne’s great advice and constructive criticism to go through and revise the entire manuscript of the sequel. Then after Musa shut down, I decided to take what I’d learned and completely revise Shadow Eyes as well before finding another publisher. I’m finally done now and feel much more confident about the novel than I did before! Of course, I’m still a new author with a ton to learn, but I feel like I’m getting there.
Since I haven’t posted on my blog in a while, I figured I’d better get back into the habit now that I’m done revising…for now anyway…
I figured a great post to start with would be to share some of this great advice with you! You’ve probably heard some or all of these before, but they’re worth repeating!
- Make sure your VOICE MATCHES your NARRATOR’S AGE and character. This seems obvious, but it can be easy to forget as you get lost in your writing. (It’s easy to forget a lot of things when you’re lost in your writing.) This may not be as hard if your narrator/main character is your age and highly intelligent…like you, of course. But if your narrator is a teenager like mine is and you’re (cough) thirty-something, you need to always be conscious of this. Here are two things to consider while revising for this:
- First, it doesn’t matter if you’re writing dialogue or narrative because it’s still your narrator talking or thinking, and it doesn’t matter if it’s in first person or third-person limited. If it’s omniscient, that may be a different story…
- Second, you need to pay attention to not just your vocabulary, but also your wording and sentence structure.
BEFORE: Going over a week without her felt like denying myself of water. Her brief, intermittent texts and occasional short chats were mere drops that only teased my parched tongue. (Sounds beautiful! But no teen would EVER say or even think that…)
AFTER: Going over a week without her felt like denying myself of water. Her brief, random texts and short chats weren’t enough. (Oftentimes, shorter and more concise is better.)
- Try to only have 1-2 VERBS IN A SENTENCE. Some of this is dependent on the genre and pace of your book. If you’re writing an epic science fiction novel meant for an adult audience, long, intricate sentences are probably a plus. But for a young adult audience reading a fairly fast-paced book, you don’t want to bog them down with a bunch of long, confusing sentences. You don’t want the reader to have to work too hard, and long sentences can often take more mental work to comprehend. It can also take away from the flow and pace of the story. Shorter sentences keep things moving. Of course, the occasional long sentence like a series has a purpose and place, too.
BEFORE: Glaring at the steaming puddle that had sunk into the snow, I wished angrily that my stomach would have waited until I crossed back to the path from the door to the driveway so Austin could have stepped in it on his way out. Maybe he could have slipped and fallen and broken something. (There’s just too much going on in the 1st sentence.)
AFTER: I glared at the steaming puddle that had sunk into the snow. Why couldn’t my stomach have waited until I’d crossed back to the path from the door to the driveway? Maybe Austin could have stepped in it on his way out. Maybe he could have slipped and fallen and broken something.
- TAKE OUT OBVIOUS THINGS THAT READERS CAN INFER themselves. This could be explaining people’s actions that we can infer or using words like turn, glance, saw, etc. when the characters can just speak or do something without it.
- First, giving too many of these obvious phrases distances the reader from the action. People call this filtering. It can take on many different forms, but the result is always the same. Instead of readers experiencing things as they happen, as though they are actually there, they have to experience them through the narrator’s eyes.
- Second, reading these words and phrases over and over can get redundant and annoying, but it can also muddle up the flow and sound awkward.
BEFORE: What just happened? In awe with eyes and mouth wide open, I turned back to face Mr. Delaney. He didn’t seem to notice.
AFTER: What had just happened? I was in awe, my eyes and mouth wide open. Mr. Delaney didn’t seem to notice. (That last sentence is enough for us to infer that she looked at him.)
- Avoid HEAD HOPPING. Head hopping is where the narrator states other characters’ intentions or thoughts. Unless you have an omniscient narrator, you can’t do this because your narrator/character can’t really know these things. Of course, the narrator can infer some things by observing others, but you have to watch how you word it.
BEFORE: As Hanna poured herself some cereal, she took a sideways glance at the two of us, trying to decipher whether or not the topic of my birthday was safe. (The narrator doesn’t know for sure what Hanna was thinking.)
AFTER: Hanna poured herself some cereal and eyed us from the kitchen without saying anything. I hated that they felt they had to walk on eggshells around me. (This one is more of a general thought she assumes rather than her somehow knowing for sure what Hanna’s intentions were.)
Well, hopefully this has been insightful. I’m super happy to be back into writing again, and I’ll keep you posted when I find a new publisher!
~ by Dusty Crabtree - Author of Shadow Eyes on July 27, 2015.