Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Editing

This will be a short post today.

I'm not done posting the seemingly endless stream of John Ringo novels.  I loved reading these books, but as I look at my own facebook page, cluttered with links to posts about John Ringo posts, I'm starting to get tired about writing about them.

So, on Monday, we will have the last of the John Ringo posts, and the most about the books for free on the Baen website.

But, today, I'm going to look at a very strange phenomenon: editing.

I'm not going to talk about editing A Pius Man, mainly because it's almost impossible for me to edit my own work, a problem a lot of authors face.

For example, Stephen King had one amusing problem with the edits of Salem's Lot.  He found one of his friends laughing hysterically over a page that was supposed to have the locals of the town of Salem's Lot "shooting pheasants for food."

Instead, King's friend found himself reading a line that the citizens of Salem's Lot were "shooting peasants for food."


You may remember Karina Fabian, who guest-blogged for us back in April during her virtual book tour for Infinite Space, Infinite God II..  She recently asked for beta readers for her upcoming novel Discovery, which was based around the Rescue Nuns in outer space who starred in her short story Anti-venin, which I called "Snakes on a Starship." (more below the break)

I liked Discovery, though there were some issues I had with the draft I read.  I may be one of the few people who read visually.  I see events as I read about them.  I even picture events as I hear about them (which have lead to some embarrassing moments for me, I can tell you now). So, as I read through the novel, I had made a few notes of "I'm sorry, can I get descriptions / details on these people?"  She had the details on the characters, I just had to go back and forth because they were spread all over the book.

Given her reply, I'm starting to think I'm one of the few people who reads like that.  With luck, I can go into a full review on the novel some other time.  I liked the book, and I suspect I'll love it by the time she gets to her final draft.

I was also an editor on one book, for at least the first ninety pages. And I found something inadvertently funny.
Rendering of Peregrine
As done by artist
Nicole Le.

The original second paragraph of chapter one is a description of her costume (pictured on the left).  It's supposed to be a simple ninja tunic that fit over her street clothes.  The draft I read looked like this.
Rae Masterson crouched on the edge of the roof and tried to stifle the butterflies flitting madly around her stomach. She had done this before. She’d trained for a whole year and a half, memorized a hundred contingency plans, even field-tested her costume. She could do this. The summer sun was roasting the black cotton of her costume tunic. Rae reached up under her deep hood and wiped sweat off her exposed forehead, above her lower-face mask.
The description is wonderfully done, isn't it?  It's nice, and neat and concise.  Rae has an instance where she leaps off of a roof and lands on top of a bad guy.

The arc was perfect, and she sailed feetfirst through the air, her loose black tunic fluttering around her, tugging at the red sash that cinched her costume tight around her waist. The tunic hung to her knees when she stood still, but it was slit up to the hip on each side to let her run and kick, and the front and back flaps snapped like flags in the light breeze. Her hood lifted free of her head and billowed out like a sail behind her, her brown ponytail rising off her neck as she fell. She thought of the figure of the scarlet peregrine falcon on her back, and felt like she was flying.
Elegantly written, isn't it?

Can you spot the problem?

There's a reason I posted the photo.  Every other editor had seen it as well.

If you'll go over the description, you'll see there's nothing about her wearing jeans.

Apparently, of her multiple readers, I'm the only one who spotted it. And the part about her flying through the air, the flaps on both sides ... you get the idea.

If you ever wonder why professional authors, who have published multiple novels, sometimes have problems with sentences, punctuation, etc, this is why.

I would publish some of my own gaffs, but the first draft of A Pius Man was written about seven years, six rewrites, ten beta-readings, six beta readers, four computers, and Lord knows how many drafts ago.  

And that's just one book.

And this is why authors tend to thank their editors.  A lot.

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