Sample Editorial Comments Vol. 5

I have been struck down again by a vicious cold and, in light of my being a bit off thanks to the cold medicine I’m taking and my general state of ick, I’ll fall back on another episode of my failings as read and corrected by my readers:

I like these sentences & the image, but not here in this context. It seems too light for something so serious as conveying condolences for the death of someone’s parent.

Since Micah has a temper and normally would lose his cool here, it would be nice to emphasize the change in him by having his voice be low, cold, yet strong and cutting. Hey, The Man With No Name wouldn’t need to raise his voice. Just my two cents.

Lee, parts of this chapter are really good. (I liked the imagery of the carbon copy smiles, the mob movie similarity, and the drops of sweat to replace the tears that would not come, for example.) But there are parts that I think weren’t up to your standard, specifically in the first part of the chapter.

Don’t get me wrong – this chapter is fine. It is just not your best. And I think you now know me well enough to know that if I didn’t tell you that it could be better, then I wouldn’t be your friend (and I’d be staying up at night feeling deceitful).

This, as is the sentence in parentheses below, are fine, but they imply a more detailed, logical thought process.

I like the chapter and how you allowed Micah to grow into the man he becomes – it seems natural that while he is successful as a business man, he remains stagnant – a lonely teenager still living in his childhood home – in his personal life.

Lee, this is excellent.

I like this image a lot, but it is too reminiscent of the Native American in the anti-pollution commercials from the 70’s, so I’m afraid it may seem cliché.

Lee, I think HW’s voice is much clearer and stronger than LE’s. In this chapter, HW speaks with some great imagery (the 6 as sheep; cutting them down like wheat) – it makes his voice very distinct. Not meaning to be repetitive, but I wish you can do the same for LE.

This was great. Just the right amount of touches that make your writing so you, enough background and explanation of the woman Lauren has become & the life that she’s chosen, and enough spookiness to make me reconsider reading anymore of this now that it’s night and I’m all alone in the study.

Here, I’m thinking of pace. Mindy just received an intense shock – so I’m inclined to make faster the actions in the parenthesized sentence – and shorten the sentence – to match her feelings &/or thought process.

Again, another solid chapter.

Also, in this chapter, previous chapters, and in one of the last chapters, you have the friends refer to themselves as “misfits” and “outcasts.”

We need to talk.

Brandon was the smartest kid in school, Mindy was the second smartest, a great athlete, and voted most likely to succeed. John was charm, wit, and fun. Lauren dated a star football player. I never got the impression that these kids would be considered outcasts or misfits in high school. As a true high school outcast & misfit, I would’ve traded places with any of those guys any day, any time, any where. So either we are using different definitions, or your high school was waaay cooler than anything I can imagine.

This set of comments closes out part one of my manuscript and takes us a few chapters into part two. Think about that for a moment–I’ve posted now five fairly long lists of comments, picking out only those that had some meaning outside of context, and have only now drifted into the second half of my book. It’s quite telling that so much was wrong with my story before I sent it out and I’m very glad that I had my readers to look it over before I sent it out to agents. I always want to catch my mistakes in rehearsal rather than during the actual performance.

I would particularly like to point out the comment about the Native American anti-pollution ads. I am barely old enough to remember, vaguely, what she is talking about in that comment, but I would never have made that connection on my own. An agent though, many of whom I plan to query are older than me, would likely make the same link and ruin that moment in the story. This is the value of not only having other people read your book, but also choosing a diverse group of people who can catch a lot of things that you as the writer, with your limited experience and knowledge, might miss. Google can’t simulate the jumps made by the human mind.

You may also notice, if you have been following along (yeah, right), that there are a few more positive comments sprinkled in among the oopsies with this set. I’ve said before how important these are to a writer, propping up our tottering egos, but it’s important to notice how often these come when they come at all. I know I did a much better job with part two of the book because I found many more of these gems amidst the comments. They not only helped me feel good about the work I did, but also let me know where I needed to focus the bulk of my rewriting. If parts of your book are not that good, not good enough to garner some positive commentary at any rate, you are looking less at mild cutting or changes than at significant rewriting, something I’ll discuss in another post. Perhaps tomorrow’s.

Anyway, I’m on the front end of a four-day weekend, one that I will use for recuperation and, hopefully, finishing the involved work needed to correct the remainder of the comments offered above. I’ll have probably one more post of comments before I wrap them up and begin the actual query process. In the meantime, I’m also planning on heading up to Kentucky this weekend to see my girls, especially after my middle daughter broke her arm at school this week. I’ll have the younger two with me on the road and, with their mother staying at home, I’ll have an interesting trip.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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