Thursday, April 26, 2018

W = What, Exactly, Just Happened?

Welcome, A to Z bloggers, visitors, and of course all my faithful regular readers! This year's theme for my A to Z:
Short & Sweet Reasons Why You Need an Editor

So without further ado . . .

What just happened here?

Have you ever said that to yourself while reading? I’ve said it plenty of times, though I will be quick to tell you that most of those times were during the editing process. That’s when it should happen, to be honest. You don’t want your readers wondering what in the world is going on in the paragraph they’ve just read, when you swear you’ve written it clearly.

Part of an editor’s job is to remove confusion from the manuscript, whether the confusion arises from typos, verbiage, or descriptions of people or actions. When I’m editing something that’s a little rougher than usual, I enjoy the process of figuring out how to make it clear so that someday down the road, a reader won’t be left scratching his head and wondering what, exactly, just happened.

11 comments:

  1. My beta reader catches those beautifully. She gets one chapter at a time (I only send her finished and polished work, according to me), and reads it several times. If she's confused, she notes it immediately. And it gets fixed immediately, with my apologies.

    If all I get back is that she loved it, and forgot to take notes (which occasionally happens to the scenes toward the end of the chapter), I figure I'm good to go.

    Every writer needs someone who can do that - get really picky - for them.

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    1. Don't you love an exceptional beta reader? And feedback of "forgot to take notes" is a wonderful reassurance that the story took her away.

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    2. She confessed as much - and I would not be nearly as confident if I didn't have her - she's an entirely different demographic from what I would have expected, except she's in the omnivorous reader category, which is a good indicator for this particular book.

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  2. Hi Lynda - things need to be clear don't they ... good point though - cheers Hilary

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    1. If I can't picture what's going on, I've found it helpful to tell the author what I've *pictured* happening, based on the description. If it's way off, then they'll know other readers may have issues, too.

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    2. That's a wonderful technique! I'll remember that one - a good thing to ask someone who says you're confusing.

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  3. I recently read a novel written by a friend, and all through it he made references that seemed to be coming from an actual person, rather than an all-knowing narrator. The author used colloquialisms that an omniscient narrator wouldn't use (like "the stuff hit the fan" [sic]), made references to himself or herself as "I," mentioned reading papers written by one of the story's characters... Things like that. But the author ignored my pointing out how simple it would be to justify all the personal remarks by establishing that he was a so-called observer-narrator.

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    1. Hoo, boy. That sounds super confusing. And such a simple fix, too, that seems logical. Why are people so resistant to advice?

      I tried reading a particular book a few years back that looked interesting and was in a genre I enjoyed. I gave up after realizing that half the time, I had no idea who was speaking. The author used first-person POV, but kept switching who that first person was, in a group of four women who had been somehow transported to another dimension/world. It was so jarring—I'd finally get into the speech pattern of the speaker, what was happening, and who she was dealing with, and all of a sudden, none of it made sense. A few pages later, I'd realize Woman #2 was the speaker, and I had to backtrack to reassign who I'd given what portions of dialogue. Before I knew it, Woman #3 was the speaker and again, I had to go back . . .

      There were no scene breaks to show the change, no chapter breaks titled with the new speaker's name. Nothing. Zip. I only put up with it for a couple chapters and realized it was NOT worth the effort. I couldn't keep track of anything.

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    2. Wow, what an experience! I would have chucked that book in a hurry.

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  4. What just happened here? What am I trying to say here? These questions often go through my mind when I read parts of my story weeks later...
    I think confusion in the manuscript is one of my weaker areas.

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    1. You're not the only one. I think this is an area that most writers have to deal with. We see it in our heads, and we assume that others can see it the same way by our descriptions.

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