Editor Horror stories or how NOT to critique someone else's work

>> Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I've said before and I'll say again that you've got to be able to take criticism to be a writer unless you want to leave your work in a (virtual or otherwise) drawer forever. You're never going to write something that everyone loves. However, if you're beta reading/critiquing or professionally editing someone else' work, there are certain things you just shouldn't do. Top of the list should be patronizing.

I've been writing a long time. I was asked to join a group and contribute to an anthology. Sent in a story and had it accepted (won't say which one). A month later, I get my "edited" story with a snarky comment to fix it because it's "all over the place." When I opened it up, one of three editors had almost blanket commented every line in the thing. Among the critiques:

"Exposition" - that's the whole line. Because one can't have so much as a paragraph of exposition in a short story set on a totally different world? Over-exposition, where you do nothing but tell what people think and feel and who they are and never show anything or going on for pages on the history of this and that--obviously too much for a short story and probably a novel. But that's not what we were talking about here.

And then this one:
THESAURUS ABUSE! Please, please, please, do yourself a favor and read the dictionary entries on words that I point out thesaurus abuse. Some words are interchangeable and make sense, while others don't. This was over the use of "fret" in a situation where it was meant to discuss someone being vexed, which happens to be the second definition you can find in the dictionary my editor should have picked up. Now, I HATE thesaurus abuse where someone clearly picked up a thesaurus and used a word in a context where it doesn't actually fit or is redundant: "verdant green grass" or a friend "ogling his friend in astonishment" - verdant MEANS green and ogling has a very specific connotation. But I probably haven't used a thesaurus but five times in as many years. So, to be called out for it, especially when the editor is WRONG, is more than infuriating. Other words called out as thesaurus abuse included "fiction," "quit," and "forced affection." The latter is indeed a clumsy term but intended to describe the plight of unwilling prostitutes. Her suggested alternate of "some 'fun'" is NOT the same.

Here's another gem: "
thesaurus abuse here. yes, technically it works, but really you're using a 50 dollar word when the 25 cent words would do better." Except that isn't necessarily so. Using precise and evocative language adds texture to prose, helps us define things more clearly, make some parts more specific to a particular character. I can use walk, but tripping, marching, stumbling, trudging all add additional information that walk alone doesn't have and, by using them, I don't have to explain it. I get visuals that walk doesn't have. Sometimes walk is enough. Sometimes it isn't. An editor should know enough extensive vocabulary to know the difference.

And this charmer: "
I feel Lofar is supposed to be arrogant, and this is a good chance to show that off, but it's just not jiving well with the rest of his characterization. He's not quite two-dimensional, he's what I call 2.5 dimensional. He has depth... but it's not readily apparent." Y'all are free to provide suggestions as to what a character having 2.5 dimensions is like.

The point isn't that she didn't have anything useful to say. Several of her suggestions were perfectly reasonable changes I'd have no trouble making. But, as in writing, how you say it matters. There are people who critique and edit who use that position to bully and patronize. Speak in absolutes, inflict one's own idea of what's ideal on a writer with a different style. None of that is good.

I'm pretty resilient and I have a good set of self-assurance when it comes to my writing, so I was mostly hacked off at the tone and HER mistakes that she tried to treat as mine (and believe me, you don't want to get patronizing if you're not actually correct). Imagine if I had been a writer just starting out or one that is still very self-conscious (and this anthology was geared to "support" emerging authors) I could readily be crushed or, even worse, feel the urge to cut all my own personality out of my writing in favor of someone else. I don't think I need to tell you how unlikely that is to lead to a good result.
Critiquing and editing are positions of power. Abusing that power gives people who are really helpful, even critically necessary a bad name. And it makes you look hateful and/or stupid. Not a good way to further a career. 

But more than that, this is a writer's work, not yours. You don't get to shape it into your vision, but only help them realize her own. By all means point out problems, even note things you (personally) don't like, but don't confuse that with thinking you are the only arbiter of taste that exists. It has his or her name it; he or she must decide. 

It could lead to responses like my first knee jerk response:

I'm out. Hell no. I will not be accused MULTIPLE times of thesaurus abuse (which is my pet peeve and does NOT mean using descriptive but exact language but rather means looking up similar terms and using words that have subtle meanings at odds with their context or that are redundant). If I had called for running over the verdant green grass or had a friend ogle his buddy in astonishment, such an accusation would fit. Using a precise word that means exactly what I want (as opposed to the alternates you handed me) does not suit me at all. And I don't need to be in your anthology. I have withstood and grown from much more useful criticism than you have to offer; I will not be crushed. I can only marvel at the damage you are inflicting on those more sensitive and not yet self-assured where writing is concerned.

I did not write a story for a sixth grade primer, more's the pity, and my use of language is hardly extraordinary. Or out of keeping with my speaking vocabulary, both of which are the result of years of reading great books. Given that I still have to look up about every tenth word Poe wrote. I suppose you'd tell him not to quit his day job.

But I'm not going to have my story included in a collection where one of the editor's chief complaints is that we didn't dumb down the language enough to suit her.

I'm out. I have no trouble, actually, placing my stories in other anthologies and will find a home for this where, hopefully, they won't be interested it in simplifying the charm out of it.

I didn't send it because I'm a professional, but I did remove my story from the anthology and, believe me, that's just as bad.

Also, as an FYI, if you're looking to get started as a professional editor, spamming prospective clients via PM every few days is a good way to get yourself blocked.


Guest Post: Debbie Manber Kupfer's New Release

>> Tuesday, September 12, 2017

And now, Debbie Manber Kupfer,

A lady who really knows her way around shapeshifters:

I'm really excited today because I get to reveal the brand new awesome cover for the next book in the P.A.W.S. Saga, LONDINIUM.  The cover was created by the hugely talented Rachel Bostwick who also made the cover for the new box set of books 1 to 3 that are now available on Amazon.

So here goes - drum roll please - LONDINIUM (The P.A.W.S. Saga 4), on presale now.

“The pea soup has spoken,” said Caradog. “You are destined for Londinium.”
“Londinium?” asked Miri.
“It was the ancient city from which London sprang. The P.A.W.S. Institute of Londinium is the oldest in the world. It started before the city of today existed and straddles the old and the new. Unfortunately, today it is run by a fool.”

Join Miri as she continues her journey through Umbrae and Londinium with the help of werecats, wild warlocks, an old dog, a duck, and a whole lot of pea soup.

The P.A.W.S. Saga continues with Londinium.

Need to catch up?

You can do that all in one place with a brand new box set of books 1 to 3. Now available on Amazon.


Indie Author Introduction: A.D. Trosper

>> Monday, September 4, 2017

I have written and self-published a number of books, which mostly languished. Last fall, I was briefly signed with an indie publisher that has since closed its doors. However, as a side effect of that, I found myself amidst a large collection of indie authors who not only welcomed me, but have taught me several important things about publishing and marketing for myself I would never have found alone. More than that, I have really appreciated that support that few can provide like those who have lived through the same trials first hand. 

They have been unflinching in their willingness to share with me and also spread the word about me around, so the least I can do is share it as well, which means I'm adding a section to my newsletter to showcase another writer and his or her work as I will add a post to my writing blog. 

This time, it is A.D. Trosper, someone who has written one book I very much enjoyed (Unveiled) and another I'm currently devouring (Betrayed), two fantasy novels (part of the Raven Daughter Series) that combine some of my favorite elements like magic cats, demons, snarky women, people who aren't what they appear to be, and romance. And adventure. And even some humor. Cool beans. She manages to combine devils and gods and angels and demons and soul reapers without wallowing in religious miasma or getting preachy, largely because she regards individuals as individuals, as who they are being more important than what. Now where have I run into that concept before?

Unveiled is out now and I highly recommend it. I'm reading an ARC for Betrayed which will be out shortly (and yes, I've preordered it). You can find them on Amazon here (Unveiled) and here (Betrayed preorder)

 A.D. Trosper also is involved with a set of several paranormal and Sci-Fi Romance novels that you can preorder for an astoundingly small price. Bound by Legend is currently exclusive to this set and is the only place you will find it. A mix of Paranormal Romance and Sci-Fi Romance, this is one set you don’t want to miss! Pre-Order it now and get 20 books (including Bound by Legend) for .99!

Here are some handy links for the collection.  Collection  Google Play Kobo  iTunes Barnes&Noble and Amazon



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