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zx1ninja

Critique struggle.

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Just curious. Does anyone know how many writers, well known and not so well known, struggle with what the editor tells them in a critique even if they realize the editor is right?

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1 hour ago, suspensewriter said:

I can tell you that it isn't easy Z!

While I didn't expect it to be easy, I'd be lying if I said it was.

1 hour ago, Alley said:

I don't think I've ever heard of it being easy. 

I've never heard anything to be honest.

1 hour ago, lynnmosher said:

ALL of them!

After all this at least I can take solace in knowing I'm not alone.

 

Thanks, it helps.

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1 hour ago, zx1ninja said:

After all this at least I can take solace in knowing I'm not alone.

You're definitely not alone.

 

What really helped me was to take a step back and recognise that they're not criticising me as a person, but the words I put down on the page.

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As a working editor, I am on the writer's side. I find it strange to read about conflicts, some real, most imagined, with editors. Since I know other editors, including a Hollywood script editor, the answer is easy: We Are ALL in this together.

 

A book publishing company, which I work for, has necessary parts. A real book publishing company has four editors. A smaller one has three. My job is to ensure the manuscripts I see meet a certain standard and do not contain logic holes, contradictory statements and no 'over the top' elements. In writing fiction, especially science fiction, the tech level has to be plausible. Even in fiction writing, background research has to be done. If a story is set in Hong Kong, the writer should obtain some local color information so those that have been there, or live there, feel that what they are reading is authentic - enough. No need to go overboard there, just add enough.

 

Too often I read advice given to writers as if the "secret" to writing is found in a cookbook. Not so. There are formulas that get used over and over. All superhero movies, for example, share a common basic structure. Good looking people, with a balance of pretty girls, against the threat. That's it.

 

What is """hard""" about that is writing the dialogue and planning the scenes. Hawkeye has just pinned Black Widow. She looks up at him and says, "We're still friends, right?"

 

"It depends on how hard you hit me."

 

Otherwise, anyone and everyone could be a writer. Put in 40 hours a week, maximum, and crank out script after script, quit your day job and do what I do. I didn't get here, along with my fellow editors, without a lot of work. The learning curve does not go away just because we live in the 21st Century.

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14 minutes ago, robg213 said:

As a working editor, I am on the writer's side.

Like I said, I know their right, I'm not saying otherwise. Just struggling with it. 

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14 hours ago, zx1ninja said:

Just curious. Does anyone know how many writers, well known and not so well known, struggle with what the editor tells them in a critique even if they realize the editor is right?

From what I've heard from other writers and authors, my guesstimate would be 100%.

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Not a good guess. For those who have gone to college, how many were there to do things their way? How many were looking for zero feedback from their instructors? I quit college for a few reasons. One was a four hour class where the instructor did a head count, left for four hours, and occasionally gave us feedback and guidance. A good editor does both.

 

We, like instructors, are there to work with you and not hurt your feelings. We have feelings as well and people who supervise, and rate our work as well. If word got out that we were 'bad' to work with, the pile of manuscripts would disappear. We'd be out of work.

 

I'm also a writer and heard the following from the managing editor: "You realize that I can cut anything or not use the submission at all?" That's it folks. That's it. No need to fear for your emotional health. You're in the Army now.

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10 hours ago, EBraten said:

You're definitely not alone.

 

What really helped me was to take a step back and recognise that they're not criticising me as a person, but the words I put down on the page.

That part I get. The part I most struggle with is "I'm absolutely sure you're right, however how?" 

 

They say stuff like, "take out the info dump," "ramp up the tension," and "raise the stakes." I know what they mean, but if I could do that, then I wouldn't be needing their help. :$

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35 minutes ago, robg213 said:

As a working editor, I am on the writer's side.

We know, or at least the ones who care about more than being right. We are just saying we get emotionally attached to our stories and the way they are right then, making it difficult at times. Think of it like this: our logic and feelings war with each other.  Although you likely knew that already. 🙂

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To Spaulding:

 

It's not wrong to say: "How do I do that?" Or "Could you clarify that? I'm not sure what you mean." Not every writer who deals with an editor speaks his language. That means some editors do not express themselves as clearly as they should. It took me years to develop an ear for different writers with different skill levels. And years to realize that the problem areas usually boiled down to certain categories.

 

The "info dump" is usually too much history or back story about a person or place. That's when too much is too much. The reader does not need all that info, but some writers feel a need to write it.

 

"ramp up the tension" There are a few ways to do that. It's OK to ask for an example or two.

 

"raise the stakes" is vague. But not too vague. The threat level in the story may not be high enough. A series of additional but minor threatening events could be added or the starting threat made more menacing. Again, asking for an example is OK.

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Actually, Rob, I think your missing their point.  Not all editors are good, and they keep their job anyway.  They last two to three years, but in that period of time can do a lot of damage.  That's unfortunate because, just as writers need to be corrected when they include basic mistakes such an "info dump," the bad editors say pat phrases like "ramp up the tensions" or "raise the stakes."  Together, they make a miserable pairing.

 

There are the good editors like you, but, unfortunately, for every good editor, there is a bad editor.

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Earlier this week I was listening to an audio book. The protagonist was standing next to a car in the yard of the place she had just escaped the antagonist. She's looking at the dead deputy in the car, knowing that the antagonist was right behind her when she ran out of the house. 

 

The writer then spent a dozen sentences describing where the dead deputy was shot and the blood spatters in the car. 

 

This is where I would have skipped the description if I were reading a book, but of course, I couldn't, because I had to listen to the reader. 

 

I didn't consider that raising the stakes. I considered that unnecessary verbiage.

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To Alley:

 

Getting attached to any work of art is difficult. Especially if you know it will be subject to review and likely cuts and revisions. What writers usually do not do for us is read the finished book against their original finished manuscript. Why were some cuts or other changes made? I think the quality of our submissions would increase if everybody did that but they don't. I wrote a book portion that I submitted since it was felt that I could make a significant contribution in presenting some background material that someone had to write. I was disappointed that parts were cut and others rearranged and even felt my submission was superior overall, but I understood why the changes were made.

 

A story, like the scenes in a TV show, needs to have a certain speed, or pacing. The reader/viewer cannot get bogged down with anything, so cuts or changes need to be made. The average one hour TV show has only so many minutes of actual story per episode. Like TV, a book cannot have an unlimited number of pages. And it needs to 'keep the action going' and the reader interested throughout. But that does not mean every scene is an action scene. There can be brief interludes and even scenes where the character goes through some self-reflection.

 

 

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22 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Actually, Rob, I think your missing their point.  Not all editors are good, and they keep their job anyway.  They last two to three years, but in that period of time can do a lot of damage.  That's unfortunate because, just as writers need to be corrected when they include basic mistakes such an "info dump," the bad editors say pat phrases like "ramp up the tensions" or "raise the stakes."  Together, they make a miserable pairing.

 

There are the good editors like you, but, unfortunately, for every good editor, there is a bad editor.

 

 

 

I do see the point. However, consider this: prior to the internet, where did book manuscripts that were rejected go? To other publishers, with the writer collecting any number of rejection slips until that lucky break, or until the writer decided to quit. Or to submit his book to a 'vanity press' who would gladly publish it for a fee.

 

What has changed? Ebooks and the supposed 'freedom' that comes from not dealing with editors at all. However, the built-in problem is that pre-internet, the book publishing world was the Great Lakes. Now, it's all the world's oceans combined. No longer is any potential reader/buyer looking for a needle in a haystack but a needle in all the oceans combined.

 

I have dealt with writers at various skill and experience levels. I am friends with some. One writer I know took his book to some Literary Agents (it was outside of the type of material we publish). He was turned down by three or four. Frustrated, he self-published. He unceremoniously tossed a copy of the book on my desk, which is in line with his personality. In his case, impatient.

 

Now, with all of those options available, I think few complaints are warranted. I make no excuse for bad editors. They are out there. But remember, editors have to prove their worth as well. They cannot just reject everything. They need to have some comprehension of the actual writing process.

Edited by robg213
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33 minutes ago, robg213 said:

so cuts or changes need to be made.

Very true, and an important step.

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All right, before this gets to far. I'm not complaining about the editor or saying that I think they're wrong. As a matter of fact, after reading the report a few times and looking at the book, I think they're right. 

 

It's more about how I thought I did a pretty good job. Notice I didn't say perfect.

 

I was expecting recommendations for cuts/additions/rewrite/plot holes/impluasabilityies/unlikely hoods, the list goes on. Especially since this is my first time with a paid professional editor. (Okay, enough with the giggling).

 

I am in fact grateful for and believe they have the books, and mine by extension, success as priority. 

 

I was surprised by, and struggle with the fact there's more than I thought there would be. I  missed the mark pretty bad. 

 

In the end I'll cut the words, take a swath across the pages of a chapter, or two. Remove what I truly thought was needed and correct for the story. But mostly I'll try to learn from it.

 

 I'd be lying if I said it didn't hurt, it does. But I'd rather find out and fix it before, or even not print it at all, than be the one who didn't take the time to make it right or accept the wisdom to not print it.

 

I appreciate the support you've all provided, whether or not you thought or intended to. It has helped to deal with reality. 

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1 hour ago, robg213 said:

Not a good guess. For those who have gone to college, how many were there to do things their way? How many were looking for zero feedback from their instructors?

The question was how many struggle. I don't struggle with rote memory stuff. But writing isn't rote memory. And editors are instructors on how to get better. 

 

I did take creative writing in college. I wouldn't still be struggling with how to write well, if I assumed that's all there was to that. Matter of fact, I wouldn't need an editor, if I wanted zero feedback. What for? No way I'm getting trad pubbed with that attitude. And no reason to ask for an editor if I were self-publishing with that attitude. No one is ever going to read my junk with that attitude, so no editor would look at it to cause me plenty of reasons to struggle.

 

Struggling is good. Without it, there is no growth.

 

So, 100% struggle with what editors tell them. The rest aren't worth reading. ;)

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1 hour ago, robg213 said:

Again, asking for an example is OK.

I do. Often. And sometimes it sounds like I'm talking back, but there is book knowledge and then there is putting book knowledge into practice. No examples makes me frustrated. I see. I do. I wait to find out how I didn't do it right. I do again. And we go back and forth until book knowledge becomes practical knowledge. :$

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I'll close by saying this. A stack of submissions looks exactly like the stack before it, and has for years. That said, it's not like a drawing where one picture is worth more than a thousand words. Mistakes are easier to spot and agree upon. "That arm's too long." It either is or isn't and the fix is not that difficult.

 

With writing, it's all in your head first and putting it on screen is its only tangible form. What is the difference between your writing and Stephen King's books? It's harder to say than with a drawing. All writers have different strengths and weaknesses. All writers have certain problems they need to be aware of so they can write better.

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1 hour ago, carolinamtne said:

She's looking at the dead deputy in the car

Too funny. Hubby was playing music while I'm reading this thread. He was playing I Shot the Sheriff, (but I did not shoot the deputy.) xD

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