The editorial process for novels

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Martin L. Shoemaker
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The editorial process for novels

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sat Nov 11, 2017 8:22 am

As suggested by Ishmael, this is a thread for discussing the editorial process and what to expect. Novel editing and short fiction editing have significant differences, so I'm launching two threads. I'll bet you can guess what this one is...

I've also invited editors to contribute their thoughts. We'll see if they respond.
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Other worlds from award-winning author Martin L. Shoemaker

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
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juliecfrost
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Re: The editorial process for novels

Postby juliecfrost » Wed May 09, 2018 11:49 pm

My first experience with novel edits, people had to talk me off of ledges. At that point, the first and only novel I'd ever written had been accepted by WordFire. The developmental editor read it and said, "[Certain character] is completely useless. Either give her more to do, or cut her completely and give her stuff to other characters."

After I got done breathing into a paper bag, I realized that while I was writing the thing, I'd been hunting around for stuff for her to do. Her presence was a function of how the whole thing started (as a mashup between Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Iron Man--don't ask), but... he was right. We were on a ridiculously tight deadline, but I by-God got the thing rewritten in time and the book was so much better for it. I ended up taking her out of the novel and sending her to Australia on vacation for the duration; I couldn't remove her from the universe entirely because I'd written something like 14 short stories set there, some of which she was in.

She's got a much bigger role in book 2, and the (new) editor didn't ding me for her. However, he came with his own issues about certain things, and he had a bad habit of moving sentences from a paragraph to the previous one. I realize (now) that I have a tendency to write an action sentence before the dialog in a paragraph, but the solution to that is not to stick that sentence in its own paragraph (thus giving it more emphasis than it deserves), or to put it in a paragraph where a different character is doing the talking or the actions. The solution to that is to point out my tendency and then let me fix it myself, if I deem that it actually needs fixing. There was also an issue where he didn't like how I was writing one of my female characters and eventually told me (after I pointed out that he was actually wrong about a certain plot point) that a particular scene needed more emotion from her. He was right about that--I am emotionally stunted and need periodic reminders to add emotion--but it was kind of hilarious to be lectured about feminism and then told to make my lady more emotional.

Overall, I'm going with "these experiences were ultimately positive and made my novels far better than they were before we started," but ugh, it is painful to be told that your baby is ugly. Especially when they're right.

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Martin L. Shoemaker
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Re: The editorial process for novels

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Sun May 20, 2018 10:31 am

My experience is only one book, so far: Today I Am Carey based on my short story "Today I Am Paul". Editor Tony Daniel sent me a two-page doc. Lots of it consisted of tense changes and similar copy edits. There were also places where he thought a point deserved emphasis, usually because it would become significant later and he didn't want the reader to miss it.

On top of that... Well, "Today I Am Paul" appeared in Clarkesworld, so Neil Clarke and Sean Wallace read it. It appeared in four year's best anthologies (including Neil's own); so Gardner Dozois, Rich Horton, and Allen Kaster read it. It has been translated into eight languages, so that's eight more editors who read it. And first readers, and reviewers, and readers... And Tony Daniel asked a question NONE of them had asked, and had never occurred to me. And as soon as he asked, it was an obvious question. But only he asked it. That's valuable editing!

Soon I hope to have more experience to share. Nothing I can announce yet; but fans of Nick Aames, keep watching...
http://Shoemaker.Space
Other worlds from award-winning author Martin L. Shoemaker

WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!
SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT! SUBMIT!
REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT!
Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience. Patience.
NNiNN

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orbivillein
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Re: The editorial process for novels

Postby orbivillein » Mon Jun 25, 2018 3:46 pm

An editorial process perspective from an editor:

The product speaks for itself. Either a work is publication worthy or isn't ready yet, regardless of a writer's and an editor's sentiments about it. Only publication performance and audience response can truly tell.

Like writers, like anything in life, editors' aptitudes vary across broad dimensions. Many who hold out they are editors are little more than run-of-the-mill proofreaders, or worse, of below average high school composition skills. One cue for identifying able editors is how much sincere quantity and quality commentary an editor lavishes on genuine story craft strengths. Mediocre or worse editors accord little, if any, attention to strengths. Most so-labeled editors at best are capable of mediocre proofreads and minimal, mild copyedits. The rare few of comprehensive editor aptitudes are too costly for most writers' resources anyway: time, money, and emotional investments.

The process, first, if a screener approves and then an acquisition editor deems a work publication worthy -- or a work contains appeals worthy of publication are worth the expenses and heartaches of the process -- a project editor is assigned or a writer is advised to independently engage a competent editor. The editorial process then entails three areas of four skill sets: Light copyedit, more or less solely a proofread for nondiscretionary grammar errors; medium copyedit, mild to moderate analysis of consistency, authenticity, story craft, language, and expression, plus proofread; heavy copyedit, intensive analysis of consistency, authenticity, story craft, language, and expression, and proofread.

The editor four skill sets are grammar, includes the gamut of handbook Standard Written English principles, nonconventional grammars, rhetoric, and artful language skills; story craft, the organization, structure, and aesthetics of dramatic construction aptitudes; expression, message, moral, tone: what, how, who, and why, etc., a work expresses about a relevant and timely social topic; and appeal, who's the audience, and does the work suit its overt and covert subject matters, each suited to the other, and to the opportune occasion, and to the audience. And a fifth skill often wanted and lacked -- capital-D diplomacy.

Needless to say, a heavy copyedit wears editor and writer hearts and minds, and patience and wallets and emotions and elapsed time spans alike. A very light copyedit wanted is often a work's publication consideration on its own. If the grammar is aligned and suited, the craft and expression likely are aligned and suited, too. Appeal is a separate consideration then. Is the work relatable for enough of an audience metric to want publication? More often than not, a proofread and minimal, moderate copyedit are wanted due to timeliness, affordability, and least stress on all concerned.


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