As promised, a reminder to go read Part 2 of “Long Before They Were Read: Speculative Fiction Book Editors Speak Out” by Jeremy L. C. Jones at Clarkesworld Magazine.
Slow openings, rushed endings, point of view shifts, gaps in logic, over-blown language, book editors see it all—even in manuscripts they’ve bought from masters in the field. They also see manuscripts that need little or no work, manuscripts that make them jump up and down, and manuscripts stacked high enough to build bunkers with.
Some of it will not be news to anyone who has been writing for any length of time, but it really doesn’t hurt to hear it again. I will freely admit that reading these interviews has me almost frantic to go back and start revising my WIP, even though I’m still working on the first draft. I know some of the mistakes I make when I’m just working to get the words down. As I read back through (I know, breaking the cardinal rule of not revising while writing. But I love tinkering with words, it’s so hard to resist) I’ll immediately think of a better way to phrase something, leaving me with the immortal question, “What was I THINKING???”
Here are a couple of my problems that I know of right off the bat, but luckily are fairly easy to fix:
1. Commas. I overuse commas like nobody’s business. You’d think Macy’s had a sale on them.
2. Adverbs. I periodically run the “Find” function on “ly” just to see how many I’ve used and which ones need to go away. Sometimes I let them stay for awhile to try to prove themselves worthy, but a second pass through usually leads to a more liberal use of the ‘delete’ key.
Here’s an amusing response from Philip Athans at Wizards of the Coast to the question, “If you could rule the world of book publishing, what would you change?”
Athans: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the publishing business, really, that a top-to-bottom, exhaustive, total reorganization won’t fix. The number of things that happen in this business every day that are based on “well, we all know it’s stupid, but we’ve always done it that way,” would blow your mind.