Wednesday, September 23, 2015

An Editorial Experience

   This last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of working with a professional editor, Karen Conlin. She graciously took some time away from her larger projects to look over a short story I submitted. This story is a departure from my usual fantasy writing and is loosely based on personal experiences and feelings. It's set during present day and something I felt compelled to write. Others have enjoyed the story so much, I felt it would be advantageous to have it edited before I submit to any contest or publish to Amazon.
   Several areas she pointed out were known problems for me, like incorrect punctuation, overuse of adjectives and confusing sentence structure that makes it difficult to tell who is doing what to whom. She did however, identify two areas I was completely unaware of.
   The first is in the area of dialogue and the way my male characters speak. To her, they sounded too formal and stilted. I had to sit back and think about that one until I realized that is exactly how I sound. I rarely interact with others and communicate even less. If I'm forced to share my thoughts, I think about what I'm going to say and try to sound as intelligent as possible. And yes, I've been accused of sounding pompous on several occasions.
   I know this stems from the fact that I grew up with a speech impediment and also that my mother insisted that my father and I spoke both German and English clearly and fluently. The two of us having been born in Mississippi made this a difficult task to say the least. It's interesting how many people have commented on the strength of my dialogue while writing fantasy. My fantasy characters obviously insist on sounding any way they want.
   The second area is in the use of clichés. After the thousands of books I've read over the last fifty odd years, I'm sure I've read every cliché ever written numerous times. Some writers go to great lengths trying to stay away from them, but for me, using a cliché is easier to understand than some of the convoluted sentences they come up with trying to avoid them. But I will do my best to re-word and eliminate those clichés.
   All in all, I'm very pleased with the results of her edit and I know the story is stronger and cleaner as the result of her suggestions.
   In an attempt to be consistent, I'm sharing another short scene from my fan/fic. Hope you enjoy and thanks for reading.

   The moment their hands touched, a sound, like that of a massive foundation stone being dropped into place, reverberated through the gathered armies and continued for hundreds of leagues in all directions. The mists surrounding them disappeared as the rest of the group shook off their stasis, unaware of anything other than the remnants of the rumble in the air. Only Min, as she slowly climbed back to her feet with Rand’s help, was aware that something was different.

   “What happened?”

   “An understanding,” Rand answered with a smile for Perrin, and then turned to his wife. “Faile, please accept my apology for the things you have had to endure because of the mission I sent Perrin on. It was never my intention to see any of you harmed in any way.”

   After an ‘I told you so’ look for Faile, Perrin turned to the line of people waiting to be introduced to the Dragon. Motioning for Rand and Min to walk beside him, he addressed the stately, dark haired woman who was first in line.

   “Rand, this is Alliandre Maritha Kigarin, Queen of Ghealdan and Arganda, her First Captain. Both have endured many hardships because of their service to me.

   Moving down the line, they stopped in front of the First of Mayne and Galad. Perrin turned to Rand to introduce them and watched in shock as his friend dropped to one knee, his back arched as a hiss of pain escaped his lips.

   Perrin dropped down beside him. “What is it, Rand?”

   “Someone very close to me has just been injured, mortally if I don’t hurry. I will open a gate to her position and place a protective shield a hundred arm-lengths out. I have no idea how many enemies will be caught inside that circle. She was supposed to be in the Borderlands so I must assume that Trollocs will be inside. I will need Aiel to clear the circle and a ring of men in armor to shield her until a healer is found.”

   At the first sign of something wrong, Galad signaled his Honor Guard forward. Perrin bellowed out orders for archers and shields. Maidens of the Spear were already arriving from all directions. Berenicia of the Yellow, one of the Aes Sedai who had followed the Dragon, stepped forward.

   “I may not be able to heal her completely, but I should be able to keep her alive long enough for someone to arrive with more power than I. Who is it may I ask?”

   “Alanna Mosvani of the Green,” Rand answered. Seeing that a large number of Maidens were already gathered and Perrin had positioned a group of Two Rivers archers behind them, he continued. “Everyone stay low. As soon as the gate is open I want all channelers and archers to send through three volleys.” He knew the Maidens would be the first to go through the gate no matter what he wanted. “Only twenty Maidens through first and then the men in armor. More Maidens will follow if needed.”

   One moment there was nothing, and then a gate appeared large enough for ten abreast. The body of a woman lay face down just past the opening and hundreds of figures dressed like Aiel turned to stare. It was obvious that twenty Maidens would not be enough.

   Fire balls, lightning bolts and arrows sped towards the enemy but with little effect. Rand knew that Alanna didn’t have time for a prolonged battle and was just about to commit himself when an elderly Wise One appeared.

   “Save your friend, young man. The reason for the Aiel involvement in this war is now clear. Ji’e’toh demands that we cleanse this corruption from the memory of the People.”

   At a signal from the Wise One, Aiel poured through the gate, Maidens and men together. What could only be described as Shadow Aiel were being forced away from the gate. Rand, Perrin and Galad were just about to head through the gate also when they were showered by gravel and clumps of dirt thrown up by a horse that came to such an abrupt halt, it sat down on its haunches. Nynaeve was already out of the saddle and running for the gate.

   “Rand al Thor, are you three going to stand around gossiping or are you going to help me. She can’t be moved so you will have to protect us while I work.”

   If the situation hadn’t been so dire, Perrin and Rand might have shared a smile over Nynaeve’s tone but they only nodded and ran to surround her. A large number of the Shadow Aiel, seeing four people alone, rushed forward for an easy kill.


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  2. Roland, thanks for your story. I have never read Fantasy in-depth before, and found it useful to learn the structure, characterization, and dialogue style. It was a bit difficult to follow with all the different characters and their origins and names, but very fast-moving, in the end. I didn't notice any dialogue issues, probably because of the stylized manner in which they speak. I did enjoy it. My own work tends toward Kabbalah and Mythological creatures, at, and my novel-in-progress is "My Study Partner is a Vampire." Good Luck!

  3. You gave a good description of what editors try to do for authors. I'm glad you were open to her observation and suggestions. A good editor's first dedication is to the story, itself, and writers need to be willing to kill their babies for the good of the whole tale.

    I have just two specific technical comments on the excerpt. There is a missing close quote in the introduction of Rand to the queen, and an uncharacteristic contraction in the last paragraph. There are spots where a comma would help, as well. The writing is good and the story promises much action.

  4. Great article. I wrote about it on my site

  5. Great to have a good experience with an editor - there are many good ones out there.
    A good editor would also comment on the structure of the story as well as other more complex issues while a proof-reader would be focusing more on the minor issues such as grammar, spelling, minor technicalities etc.
    Best of luck with your project.

  6. I was happy to read your blog on the subject. I know of Karen's professionalism, I do. I read her, have for several years and I'm always happy to read when someone shares an experience such as you did here.

    Beta readers are important and when combined with advice from editors, which generously impart advice in communities like WDG and others it's a good thing. It will save us time, both the editor and writer, come time of working full out with an editor.