Wow, So Fast: or, observations about editorial comments

So, everybody got comments about TANO back to me super fast, for which I thank you all. I’m going to try to get entirely through all the revision before Monday, then start the proofing process. If I wind up being able to release this on March 1 rather in late in March, I will bless all your names.

Which leads me to the next comment:

This doesn’t surprise me one bit, in fact I would absolutely have predicted it, but I thought you might be amused to know that once again everyone picked out almost entirely unique typos. Proofreading was not the focus, of course. Nevertheless, even after all this time, I’m still amazed to see that (a) I can miss so many totally obvious typos, and (b) so can everyone else. Those of you who noted typos each got a reasonable number, and, as I say, almost all different.

Other comments:

I hate the way M-dashes look on the computer screen. There’s no other reason that you may see a draft from me with N-dashes and spaces rather than M-dashes with no spaces. I just like the way that looks better. So I do a Replace later, during the formatting process. I have a list of things to do so that I don’t forget, and this is one of those things.

This wasn’t an issue this time, but if you see anything bolded, that is never, ever supposed to be bold in the final draft. That was a note to myself. I ought to catch and remove everything bolded before anyone else reads a draft, but sometimes I goof. This is also just something to ignore, as I’ll catch it during the revision process.

Let me see, what else?

Five people have read TANO so far. Every single one of you pointed at one, occasionally two, important elements of the plot that didn’t really work. (Plus many less important details, of course). However, much like the typos, most of those important elements were unique to the reader. That was a surprise to me. I thought everyone would say THIS RIGHT HERE, I’M NOT BUYING THIS. This was the element I personally thought was weakest. Three of you did point at that, but the other two didn’t. Instead, they pointed at something else. Different things.

Once several readers confirmed that the plot element I feared might be weak actually was weak, it took like maybe five minutes to think of how to shore up that weakness. Heaven knows why I didn’t think of that before. Well, no, I know exactly why. That’s because I was thinking maybe it was passable until three of you said NO. After I had to acknowledge the weakness of that plot point and sat down and actually considered the problem properly, boom, it was not at all difficult to solve. I did that part of the revision last night and this morning and now it’s fine, or I’m pretty sure it’s fine.

This should be a lesson to me, but I expect I will continue to feel like various plot elements are possibly okay until a reader makes me acknowledge that they’re not okay.

I will add, in my opinion, one of the most crucial revision skills in the universe is the ability to read editorial comments and be able to tell whether they’re accurate. Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with that. Mostly I either think, “Alas, I suspected that was weak,” or “Wow, I didn’t see that weakness at all, but it’s obviously weak now that you point to.” Then I fix whatever it is.

At other times, of course, I consider a reader’s comment, but decide not to revise that element. It depends, and again, the ability to decide not to change something is an important revision skill.

Let me see, what else.

Oh! One more thing.

TANO contains the very first epilogue I’ve ever written. It takes place only a few days after the close of the story, but there is that several-day gap and that’s why it’s an epilogue.

Everyone totally approves of that epilogue, and every single reader had something DIFFERENT to say about why it worked for them. I loved all the comments about this and I now I feel that the back of my brain did a really good job, because I didn’t necessarily have all those things in mind when I wrote it. It just seemed right to me.

Anyway, TANO is, I believe, well in hand, and again, thank you; you were all super helpful.

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10 thoughts on “Wow, So Fast: or, observations about editorial comments”

  1. I enjoyed doing it so much, and hope it was helpful! Your books are so fantastic, always. Sometimes I can be critical (eg, Invictus!) but my intentions are good, and I hope respectful. Certainly your talent and creativity are qualities I admire so much!

  2. I promise you, Alison, very helpful.

    Yes, everyone is quite nice about pointing out weaknesses, often much kinder than a problem deserves. I have a robust ego and don’t mind analytical critiques, though I may be dismayed to realize I will need to do more revision than I expected.

    Also everyone took the time to point to things they loved and I GREATLY APPRECIATE that.

  3. Wonderful that you have such clever people who can give you good editorial feedback!
    If I can be of use for the proofreading round, I expect I will have time for doing so, though I don’t have those editorial skills.

  4. Hanneke, yes, I was certainly hoping you’d have time to proofread. You definitely have a knack there.

  5. I had so much fun doing the early read on Tano! I am excited to see the changes, and I think everyone’s really going to love the book when it comes out.

  6. Isn’t it amazing how different people bring different perspectives? I mean, duh, obviously they do because they’re different, but it doesn’t matter how much you try to live in other people’s heads while you write, you’re still living in your own. Every reader brings their own lives to the table and catch different things.

    I remember a professor in college talking about showing some kind of hygiene film to some native tribe somewhere back when he was doing anthropology fieldwork, and at the end of the film, he asked for their thoughts, and they all shouted, “The chicken!” Chicken? What chicken? What does a chicken have to do with proper dental care? Well, he said, later that night he went through the film frame by frame and at one spot, there’s a glimpse of a chicken flying across the background–something he had never noticed in any of the many times he’d watched the film. To the tribesmen watching, though, that was SUPPER and they spotted it instantly. He said it always reminded him to try to remember that his perspective is his OWN and he can’t really know anyone else’s.

    Thanks for explaining about the em-dash, because I wondered.

    I bet I’m not the only one who’s curious about what other people mentioned, either! Thanks for letting me read for you–hope my comments were helpful.

  7. It’s kind of killing me not to be able to say, For example, Deb pointed out This and Alison pointed out That and Elise pointed out The Other, but obviously there’s no way because wow, spoilers.

    Your story about the chicken is reminding me about something a lot like that, about someone reading one of the Narnia books to very young children and they were all talking about the guinea pig afterward. And the reader was like, “What guinea pig? There was a guinea pig?” Yes, a brief mention of a guinea pig and that was what really caught the attention of the children, for reasons that … I mean … maybe they’d all had pet guinea pigs or something? Who knows?

  8. I once asked my husband if he’d ever read Wrinkle in Time. “You mean the one where the kid can’t sleep, so they make hot chocolate?” Uh, yeah, I guess? We don’t know if it’s because he never got past the beginning, or if that really was the part that was most memorable.

  9. I found out my brother was reading like that when he started to have to read books for school and make exerpts or book reviews; he was at least 10 or 12 years old. He too focussed on some small detail, like “that person in the book had red shoes!”, and couldn’t explain the through-line or plot or whatever.
    Dad has read to us every night for all our lives, age-appropriate childrens books, and he enjoyed that – so it’s not as if he had no experience with books and how stories go.

    I had to read all his books along with him, and talk them through with him in detail, chapter by chapter, so he could start to learn to see how actions led to consequences, how the words and actions of one person could influence another, and how the plot fit together, and how to find what the clues and hints were in how people were described behaving and talking.
    That made all the subtle patterns and reactions explicit, and he started recognising them on his own.
    Once he learned how to see the patterns emerging, in a year or two he didn’t need my help anymore.

    Looking back, it was probably part of his undiagnosed autism/Aspergers – he only got his diagnosis 15 years later. He’s intelligent enough, but doesn’t recognise subtle interpersonal stuff, and even very instinctive basic human interactions need to be explained to him explicitly and verbally before he can learn to recognise them and react appropriately (like not leaning over a female coworker’s shoulder the way he did with his mum and sisters – I really had to forcefully explain the idea of personal space to him in words, and mark the boundary to as far as I can stick my elbow out to the sides and back, and armslength in front, and explain that getting any closer can feel threatening to a woman, even if he intends no threat and just wanted to help with something).

    Not being able to recognise the subtleties and connections in his teenage booklist books is in hindsight quite a pointer to the underlying problem, now I write it down!

  10. That’s really interesting, Hanneke. I’ve seen suggestions for elementary teachers to do that and always sort of felt like, well, why? But here we are, this is why.

    One more data point for the notion that, really, People Can Be Surprisingly Different In Many Fairly Invisible Ways, a lesson that we all need to keep in mind because it’s so difficult to wrap one’s mind around that fact.

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