Monday, April 26, 2010

An Editor Speaks Out

An Editor Speaks Out
by Judy Griffith Gill

            How to Kill Your Chances Without Really Trying

·      Don’t bother with a hook to grab the reader’s interest right away. If she’s bought your book, she’ll read beyond the first sentence, even the first paragraph and the first page whether it captures her imagination or not. She’ll think, This book was published. It has to get better sooner or later. Or, if she’s an editor, she’ll think, This writer cared enough to finish a whole three chapters and write a synopsis. She must have something good to say.

·      If your book has not been published, the word “writer” above applies also to agents and editors. If they’ve asked to see your work (or even if they haven’t) the fact that you think enough of them to share your work with them and offer them the chance to admire it

·      Don’t worry about internal and external conflict in the protagonists. Just tell the reader (agent, editor) that they have them. No need to waste time by demonstrating (showing) what they are and how they will be resolved. This applies to the synopsis, too. Don’t ever let the editor know how it comes out. Say something like: “If you want to know more, you’ll have to buy my book.”

·      Keep the reader guessing as to whose point of view you’re in. Go ahead and blend them, it keeps the reader on her toes. Write something like, She felt the wind whipping her long, glossy tresses  around her face and stinging raindrops pelting her camellia-like skin he as he thought, she’s beautiful, even when she’s soaking wet and her nose is red from cold.

·      Mechanical errors aren’t important. If your story is good enough, the agent or editor will ignore spelling and grammatical errors and poorly constructed sentences, so don’t bother taking the time to learn the basics of writing and self-editing before submitting. Just write. Don’t let the creative flow be stifled by attempts to get it right. Technique is of no value to the truly gifted writer.

·      Give lots of back-story information right up front. Use long, involved sentences full of  adverbs and adjectives that will impress the editor with your erudition. Don’t force the poor soul to keep turning the pages to find out why things are unfolding the way they are. Let her know right away and save her the time and effort of reading the rest of your story.

·      Keep things interesting for your editor. Make her open her eyes and gasp with astonishment when your historical character from the 1700s says, “Jeez, Louise, that’s cool!” Or have a four-year-old speaking like a short adult--that’s sure to get her attention: e.g. “Mother, I think the pink blouse would be much more becoming on you that the blue one. It brings out the color in your cheeks. The blue one gives you a certain, shall we say...sallowness?”

·      Remember to stereotype secondary characters appropriately: For instance, everyone knows that all Vancouver taxi drivers are East Indians who speak very little English, just as all New York taxi drivers are Iranians with secret plots to blow up something big and important.. All ships’ skippers are keen-eyed seamen accustomed to seeing long distances and they all have crinkly corners around their blue eyes. All grandmothers are chubby and gray haired and smell of cinnamon cookies. All grandfathers smoke pipes.

·      Don’t concern yourself with too much research. Historical accuracy is a waste of time. Most editors have no idea at all what went on in the American Civil War, or the War of 1812, or that Potlatches were banned in BC for many years. And if someone else notices, too bad. Blame it in the typesetter.

·      Just let yourself go. Write as it flows from your heart. If you wrote it, it must be good. One run through is surely enough. If you go over it again and again, you’ll start second-guessing yourself and probably screw up the next great novel that should be gracing the shelves of every home and library in the world.

Judy Griffith Gill, author of 50 published novels in both print and electronic format, edits for Champagne Books, offers free-lance, online editing services, and manuscript evaluation. Contact her through her editing site,

Judy appears on Twitter and Facebook, and loves to communicate with readers. and You can find her latest e-books on Kindle and Smashwords


Tabitha Shay said...

Well said, bravo!!....Tabs

CJ Parker said...

LOL Gee, I'm breaking all the rules. Great blog. Loved it.

Victoria Roder said...

Great post!

Linda LaRoque said...

Great post. We can't hear this info too much.

Melissa Blue said...

LOL! Love this Judy.

Angelica Hart and Zi said...

This was great! A refreshing reminder.

Ed Williams said...

How true your words are, Judy.

Major cooleth!


Eve Langlais said...

What no stereotypes! There's one rule that I know I break sometimes. But at least I'm a stickler for POV. Great set of rules Judy.

jellybelly82158 said...

Great post!!!!

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