Sample Editorial Review

(c) 1996 Karen Mitura
All Rights Reserved
 
This is an intelligent and ambitious work. I enjoyed working on it. The material is intellectually challenging. Even with the flaws I'll enumerate, it is better than the last three novels pulled at random from the library for me.

After a few general comments, I'm going to give you notes chronologically rather than by placing them into categories so that you can see how the text gave rise to them.

The good news is that the elements of this that work well are the parts that have to come straight from the author. The flaws are all things that can be remedied externally. There are segments where I wouldn't dot an "i" or cross a "t" any differently than you did. Some of it is beautifully lyrical.

The characters are interesting and fit the material. They and the material have an air of authenticity about them. In the Prologue for example, the hero seems real, like someone you know.

I like your social observations and esoteric material, so it is difficult for me to judge if some of this may be too obscure for a mass audience. I think if you "thin" the verbiage a bit, it will move quickly enough to be enjoyed even by those who will miss out on many of your allusions.

You've done an outstanding job of integrating local elements. It is amazing how difficult that is to accomplish. It gives the material a good grounding. The location cuts and the computer-like dates give it a cinematic, contemporary feeling.

The chapter breaks are well placed. You generally end on a hook or a "got-ya."

I'm hedging just shy of saying the plot is exciting. I enjoyed it, but there are some problem areas in terms of expression that slow it down. If I think in terms of story in general, it is interesting and has enough unique elements to make it fresh.

I'm sure you know, good writing is re-writing. The best advice I ever got was to cut everything you write in half, cross out every other word. Obviously this is not meant literally, but economy of expression is a boon. This is good material, but it needs that kind of pruning. Where easy cuts were obvious, I've indicated them. It needs more of that type of editing. However, I wanted to leave you the freedom to make cuts yourself, without prejudicing your eye with my selections.

The second most valuable advice is that you must murder all your darlings. No matter how witty or wise an observation or turn of phrase may be, if it doesn't advance the action of the story, it must be deleted.

Following are some minor repetitive problems that need repair. I'd suggest you word search for them after reviewing the rest of this.
 

1. "To be" is generally awkward construction and should be eliminated. You don't have an enormous amount of this, but it should still be reduced.

2. Ditto "very." It is a weak modifier.

3. Italics is overused and used for several different purposes. Where you use it for emphasis it is not needed. If your readers are intelligent enough to get this in the first place, they will understand the emphasis. It's a bit condescending. I'd limit it to indicating unspoken thoughts.

4. "Marine" should be capitalized throughout.

5. You used capitalization irregularly, sometimes seemingly for emphasis. As with the italics, this was largely unnecessary.

6. Multiple hyphenates are distracting.

Now for the tougher nuts.
 
1. Fragmentation and omitted words.

You have a mix of styles that at times seems random. In many places the sentence fragments work well. In others, they go on forever and become tedious. You have shown that you are quite capable of writing lovely, full-fledged prose.

In places, cutting out articles or eliminating understood an understood "he" or "she" works. In others it is a mental stumbling block. Where it absolutely tripped me up, I made notes. I think more should be made, but I wanted you to make that judgement before doing more editing along those lines.

Keep in mind that I'm not a formalist, so I could catch on. I know people who would have great difficulty in reading sections of this because of the non-traditional fragmentation and deletion of "extra" words.

(I'd suggest you read all of this before turning to the text. Then look back at the referenced pages.)

Eg. pg. 176: I'd rewrite fairly heavily as indicated. Pgs/ 164-166 I'd only make one or two changes.

A concentration of fragments best fits flashbacks and other segments where we are inside the characters head.

The fragmentation also creates a problem with dialog. Although blocks of dialog can be done without attribution when only two people are present, you frequently have the same person speaking twice or more, without attribution. I know it's not terribly
exciting to have to come up with character actions just to delineate dialog, however these tidbits give you a chance to deepen the characterizations.

(Eg. pg. 161-162)

Where I've noted "who" in the margins, it means there's a problem with identifying the speaker. Once this became a repetitive problem, I stopped marking it. You need to check anywhere you have a long chain of dialog.

Where I have indicated paragraph breaks within blocks of dialog, you also need to insert an action or description that marks it as that character's.

2. Rep. - indicates repetitive. I skipped over these at first, giving them the benefit of the doubt. They felt like you were doing them intentionally. The more this pattern was established, the more it became a flaw. Repetition can work like a mental refrain. It should be used sparingly however. A stylistic rule of thumb is to limit the sequence to three rhythmical repetitions.

When it is not a rare stylistic choice repeating the same words makes the writer seem limited. (Which you clearly are not.) Many editors would frown on using the same word twice on the same page.

There are also instances where you say the same thing twice in different ways. Redundant information isn't intriguing.

On a similar note, you often string together a multitude of adjectives, examples, or phrases. Brevity is the sole of wit.

"T.M." indicates "too much." This again was a flaw that wore less well with exposure. The beginning needs heavier editing on these lines, although I do think the problem with it increased further into the text.

Pg. 172 is an example of inconsistent treatment of articles.

Now for individual items.
 
1. Format - The cover page and text are not in standard ms. format. I'm lending you a text for reference. It also includes editorial markings and copyright clearance requests. I thought you'd find it of general interest.

2. You note the copyright info. for the poem on the cover, but do not mention the chapter heading quotes. Are all of them in common domain?

3. Prologue - This does a good job of establishing the hero. The difficulty is that it creates an expectation of him as the central character. This is exacerbated by heavy blocks of direct exposition as you introduce the other characters in Chapter 1.

Authors often need to prime the pump. That's what you seem to have been doing here. What would suffer in the story if you totally dropped the prologue? I hate to kill one of your children, but I fear this goes in the category of one of the darlings you should murder.

When you get to the point of enjoying ripping out material, you'll know you have reached the point where you can trust your own judgement on cuts.

4. You occasionally use a catch phrase within the narrative and the dialog. Eg. "Don't you know." The narrative and each character need to have their own voices.

5. I didn't think the "best of times, worst of times" allusion worked.

6. The block of physics surrounding page 15 stops the action cold. It is well written and relatively easy to read, considering the subject, but it pulls the story way off track. I kept wondering how well I was going to need to understand this to follow the rest of the story.

It would only take a few paragraphs of this to establish what you need in terms of the villan's thought processes and the background of the story. No one wants to feel like they are cramming for a physics exam in the middle of a novel.

7. pg. 24 - I wasn't sure what the markings on Likelike were. I think you need to trim off any unnecessary frills to establish more clarity. Although I generally believe akinas should be used, I'd skip them in this context.

8. There are no scented pines in Hawaii. Do you mean eucalyptus?

9. Reference my markings: arrows simply indicate a change you might not see. Stars and good are equivalent praise. Happy faces, inane though the symbol is, indicate I enjoyed the humor. "Translate" means I think you need to do just that although I understood. A "?" means I did not get it. "AWK" = awkward. Underlining without comment means, take another look. "Stop" means I stopped reading at that point. It may be attention span, or may relate to structure and content. It's always worth checking.

10. The drowning flashback worked particularly well.

11. The character on pg 72 is interesting, but comes across as on odd combination. The mix of fluent French and dropping his g's is incongruent. Most of this made him seem local, but then he end up having a southern accent. You slid way into southern dialect with him after a long block of the Southern charater. (check around pg. 199)

12. pg. 74 is an example of over-done style being distracting. The alliteration in paragraph one serves no purpose.

13. Ref. pg 57- POV = the point of view got lost here

14. pg 105 "chic-ism" doesn't work

15. pgs. 117, 119 missing

16. pg 245 This is the second time you use "downdrifting." The first time was pleasingly poetic. Repeating reduces the impact.

17. The dream sequences are particularly well done.

18. pg 263 "zophic" or "zophtig"?

19. pg 286 - everything in a ms. should be double spaced to allow for editing

20. pg 284 - This whole segment on Christ is interesting but extraneous. I know the character has some relation to this, however, unless you are going to bring it in very directly later, cut it.

21. His speech on pg 92 is too literally a transcription of dialect. It is cumbersome. The first dialog of his is reasonable. Then it gets heavier and heavier. Mixing in jargon like "Burg" makes some parts nearly indecipherable. Just use an occasional indication and increase the regionalism. The word pattern alone can give the flavor.

22. pg 313 - A few place names provides specificity. This is over done.

(Additional comments deleted to protect author's privacy)
--

You can be proud of this. I know it's difficult to roll up your sleeves for a re-write, but this is so good, it's worth the work to make it great.

If you'd prefer to concentrate on the end of this and would like my help in editing this more, let me know.

Keep in mind that many authors have so much vested in a work that finishing it is threatening. Some writers become morose and even come to believe they will die after the completion. It's like post-partum depression. Some feel they've completed their life's work. If you are really stuck on the end, try working on chapter one of the next book. Even writing the chapter heading works for some people.

I suggest you take a week or two to absorb this and play with the suggested changes. If you'd like to get together to discuss this more, let me know. Give me a call if you have any questions. I'm tentatively in this Saturday in the afternoon and am usually here weekday mornings.

I really value the work you have done. Although this needs polishing, I think this is a diamond.


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