Editorial Letter

This is me, pirateaba. Prefacing to say this is the editorial letter sent to me after the 8.11 E chapter. I wrote the chapter as I normally do over two days, livestreaming on Twitch (although one VOD was deleted and the other won’t last because Twitch doesn’t keep them), with readers providing typo-finding and some feedback.

That is my process. I posted the chapter to Patreon about an hour after finishing the chapter. Also, normal for web serials.

I don’t go through a strong revision process unless I feel something is really wrong, and I have not worked with an editor before. So it was a pleasure and uncertainty to hire a professional editor, Rebecca Brewer, and have them look at a chapter.

Since I had no idea what she’d make of the chapter, getting feedback is nerve-wracking. I had nightmares for three days before the chapter about being in school again or something. Never about actually writing, which is weird.

I had my birthday around writing the chapter, so I was relieved it felt strong; it could have been bad and a bad birthday gift from me to me. Like punching myself in the face. Also, I realized I have to do my taxes. (I still do, March is stressful). Stress became me, but as chapters went, 8.11 E the ‘first draft’ still feels like one of my better chapters.

With that said, I always do first drafts, so I feared a true editor used to polishing would sandpaper off my bad writing and the skin of my hands. V-verbally. Or in writing. Not literally.

Also, it’s a 28,000 word chapter so asking an editor to do that in what was about three days is why I offered a big reward for a contest. Yes, it’s a lot of money. But I am hoping to get the best in the business. Not paying $5000 (or more) for someone who hasn’t got a degree and years of experience!

The wait was still scary. However, I can now share the editorial letter she gave me (along with notes on the chapter) which I’ll be using to revise!

I’ll post the entire letter here, with some thoughts since it’s interesting. Editing is interesting. Here’s the letter:

 

 

 

 

Hello Pirateaba,

I’m so happy that I was able to work on this project with you! I rarely get to help with a story in such an immediate way. I was very impressed with your writing as well! I’m not sure how you’re able to write so well so quickly! Perhaps a pact with some sort of demon? Of course, I kid!

In the manuscript file you’ll see that I’ve turned on track changes so you can see the tweaks that I’ve made to the text itself. You can just go through my line edits and accept or reject any of my changes as you see fit. Because this chapter comes later in the story, you’ve solidified your voice and style. You might very well decide that you don’t like my suggested changes because it doesn’t fit your style, which is totally fine! My edits are merely suggestions.

Now, a little bit about how I go about editing a book: the way I think of it, I play your first and “dumbest” reader and I will point out areas that might trip up others. Of course, I’m at a disadvantage with prior knowledge compared to most of your readers, who have read all of your previous work. I read a few chapters scattered throughout The Wandering Inn including early stuff and late stuff, and researched characters online. In some instances, you might feel like the average reader will know stuff so you won’t need to tweak the chapter to answer those questions in the text.

I’ll also show you what I wanted at particular times as a reader. This might take the form of a question in the comments. That way, you can just make any changes in the manuscript that you think will help answer that for future readers.

Many of the comments will tell you my reactions at that point in the manuscript, and they are just there so you get a sense of a reader’s response. Though, you are already very lucky in that your fanbase is so invested and interactive. So few authors get that immediate reaction and discussion to their work!

Of course, some of my edits or suggestions on how to improve the story, might not be what you want to do. Instead, you can take my suggestion, and find another way to revise it that you prefer.

 

Now, time for my notes!

 

Beginning

First off, this was an excellent choice of chapter to bring a new editor in! Because Erin is starting from a new place, it made it easier for me to get into the story as well. Nicely done!

 

As a rule of thumb, I recommend people not staring a book, chapter or scene with someone waking up. Starting in media res (in the middle of a scene) tends to work better in getting things started quickly. However, it might work in this instance!

Does Erin literally wake up for the first time in the beginning of the chapter? If so, it would be the reader immediately picking up right where she left off. However, it seems like she might’ve been awake in that world for a few months before this. If this is the case, it might be more impactful to start off with something happening instead of her waking up. Perhaps you could start with her mother trying to get her to go to work?

At the beginning of this chapter, readers will have emotions about seeing Erin again. It seems like it has been a while, and she was “dead”! Dig into her emotions and reactions to things! What is her emotional reaction to not remembering things and then getting glimpses? Does she just brush it off or does her realization of the situation freak her out? This is such a weird situation for her to be in. Showing more of her reactions to things will make it easier for the reader to experience these things along with her.

 

Once we moved onto a different reset, it wasn’t clear to me if she remembered the other resets. When she realizes things are fake, does she suddenly remember the other resets?

 

 

Dialogue

I love how dialogue heavy your writing is! Personally that is what I gravitate to as well, and I think that is one of the reasons why your readers love this story so much. Dialogue really makes characters feel authentic, and you are particularly good at it.

However, I did notice that you don’t really use dialogue tags. Dialogue tags are the things that attribute the speech to a certain character, like “she said’. This might be a result of the way that you write in your head, or it could be a strong writing preference.

I would recommend putting some more dialogue tags in, particularly in scenes where multiple people are talking. However, if you don’t like dialogue tags, there are other ways to help the reader parse the dialogue and picture who is speaking.

For instance, you can include actions or descriptors of the speaker in the same paragraph as the dialogue. For instance, a paragraph could read:

 

Kasigna’s face turned wrathful. “He has no authority here. You would choose him over me? There is no choice here. Enough.”

 

Doing this gives description while also letting the reader know who the focus of that paragraph is, and who is speaking.

 

That same section could also read:

 

“He has no authority here. You would choose him over me? There is no choice here. Enough,” Kasigna said. Her wrath was evident.

 

As you go through my line edits, you’ll see that I tried to tweak paragraph breaks to better indicate who is speaking where. Don’t be afraid to have dialogue and descriptions in the same paragraph!

 

If you are in a scene where there are just two characters speaking, of course you won’t need to do these things as much. Readers will assume that the two characters are taking turns. However, if the scene has multiple people, you’ll want the reader to immediately be able to picture who is saying what.

 

Setting up scene

Especially later in this chapter, we get larger groups of people interacting. In those scenes the dialogue tags will be helpful, but you’ll also want to consider “establishing shots”. Think of it as a movie where we pan over a scene so that you know where we are and who is there. Whenever you’re starting a new scene, you’ll want to set it up. Clue the reader in on where they are at, and who is there. That way, there isn’t the surprise when a character we didn’t know was present starts to speak. (Of course, the exception being when you purposefully want to have a big reveal.)

Having these establishing shots will allow the reader to get a better picture of the scene in their head and get more immersed.

This was frequently an issue with me because I couldn’t quite picture Kasigna when she appears. Is she appearing in one body, or two or three?

Having establishing shots in scenes can also be very helpful in fight scenes!

 

Details

I also wanted to cover some small writing details. Of course, you’ll see small tweaks I’ve made throughout the manuscript, but I wanted to touch on these here. I try not to be too heavy handed with my changes for small things that the author might feel strongly about.

For instance, you tend to use the word “but” frequently. I didn’t want to just remove all of them because it might be something you really love. I would recommend doing a search in Word, and seeing how many uses of the word “but” could be removed. Some of them you will need to keep, some you will want to keep, and some you’ll be able to get rid of fairly easily. Sometimes this might mean you slightly rewrite the sentence.

Particularly towards the beginning, be wary of the overuse of “memory flooded”. It was something the struck me a few times.

You will see in the comments in my line edit that I’ll have written “intentional” at various points. This indicates that a sentence or word indicated something specific to me, that I wasn’t sure if you wanted that or not. Some times, that is exactly what you intended, but I like to point out those places where I thought that might not be the case.

You’ll also see “Rephrase?” in some comments. These are usually for sentences or paragraphs where the wording is such that it is hard to follow. Rephrasing it can hopefully help alleviate the confusion.

One thing that came to me was, when referring to the three forms of the shadow with Kasigna, would it make sense to capitalize Three? Calling them The Three would almost feel like a title and might make things more clear so you don’t confuse them with three other people.

Throughout, I’ve made tweaks to wording to make them more clear or concise in my mind. However, don’t feel like you have to accept all of my suggestions! It won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t take those edits. My goal is to help you while retaining your unique voice.

 

And with that, those are my notes! I do hope they are helpful. Of course, if you have any questions for me about what I meant at certain points, or if you wanted to ask questions about possible changes you are considering, I am more than happy to help! You can either email me or bring it up in our Discord chat.

 

Best,

Rebecca Brewer

 

 

 

Author’s Notes: That’s a great letter! I was worried, but that was a lot nicer than I expected it to be! Way nicer, in fact.

The fact that an editor can walk on and edit a chapter without knowing the story is also nice. In fact, it has some things going for it. If a chapter is so convoluted someone can’t follow it even without knowing all the plot details…there may be a problem.

With that said, I’d almost stand by the first line for emotional impact. But going more into having reactions and emotions is something I realized myself was lacking.

(As an aside, the notes have much more detailed comments and line-edits or whatever the term is. I’m just going off the letter here.)

Dialogue echoes a lot of reader’s points. I never add dialogue tags since I realized I hated them one day, but the confusion has struck Andrea, the audiobook reader, as well as readers. Sometimes the ambiguity is nice, but I more like the action-descriptor suggestion as a neat fix. Maybe I should try it going on? I don’t want to do dialogue tags, but I didn’t consider this.

Scenes–I am bad at these. And that’s a good point because my lack of descriptors does seem obvious…now someone points it out.

I use but a lot. I use even, paused, stared…it’s shorthand since I’m not stopping or going back to change it up. All those notes in those areas will be very helpful because uh, that’s the most basic problems a draft could fix.

Finally, what I like is that at no point do you see Rebecca tell me to cut the entire chapter down, as a lot of readers believed she would. She’s editing my writing style, not telling me it ‘has to be under 20,000 words’ for an arbitrary reason.

I’m going to revise based on her notes, go back and forth with her on any last changes, and then post the better chapter. If anyone’s curious, they can check the Patreon chapter and this one and see how the revision and editing make it different and hopefully better.

Thanks to Rebecca for the fast work too! If any other authors are curious, hopefully this was interesting to you too. Don’t be afraid of editors…unless you should be.

I dunno.

–pirateaba

18 thoughts on “Editorial Letter

  1. In my experience good editors try to guide authors out of bad style habits. They don’t try to hack them out, but rather try to play whack a mole as they edit more of your work and get more familiar.

    That being said, your first draft is better than most third of fourth drafts. Far better than my own third drafts at least.

    Are you looking for someone to edit as you go, rather than retroactively editing like eight books to catch up publishing as your write here?

  2. As someone who reads alot and has horrible grammar I found this intresting.

    I honestly expected more “hey this is wrong as is this, this, and this!!!”

    Very cool to see this thank you for sharing it

  3. The dialogue tags point is true enough. I often get confused when multiple new characters are talking… but only new characters. It wouldn’t be needed for the Horns for instance since they have a strong voice and there’s plenty of context. Howrever, when that Earl and his retinue arrived at the inn I had no idea who was talking half the time.

    If you start adding a bunch of dialogue tags all over the place though I think it would detract from everything.

    Just my opinion. I’m not a qualified editor or anything. Keep up the amazing writing :)

  4. I love your dialogue. I love the lack of tags. Descriptors do sometimes help, especially in larger scenes with multiple people in a group discussion, as often happens in the inn. Even then, I’d say that you have a tendency to give your characters distinct voices, so even then I rarely get lost – but still, when there are multiple teams of adventures, it can be hard to track.
    It’s something to keep in mind, and balance, but overall yours is my favorite dialogue style, of any author.

  5. This was really interesting to read.. when I have done editing I am way more mean you could say. she wasn’t trying to change the story just bring out the story.

    I have read books where they over use dialog tags and I feel like I am reading a kids book. The voice of the character should stand out to know who is speaking. At the sametime, I have found a few times where I had to reread a section to figure out who is speaking the inn example above is a good one. I personally do not like them except in cases where you have multiple points of dialog. The idea of action tag is good.

  6. To keep this concise:
    * I assumed confusion about Kasigna’s form was intentional. But perhaps slightly too well executed.
    * Dialogue tags: I agree with previous commenters that they are not needed, if the characters have distinct styles of speech
    Perhaps distinguishing is needed more when establishing said voices, perhaps by the action tags describing the body language.

  7. Thanks for sharing this letter! Very inciteful and interesting to read. I agree with everything Rebecca had to say. I’ll be curious to see how this impacts your writing going forward.

    Her first suggestion of an action tag is far more appealing to read than the second which included a dialogue tag. I’d love to see more of that as well as the scene setting.

  8. Your dialogue style is one of the main draws for me. It makes the scenes flow so much easier. Having a descriptor or two wouldn’t hurt it too much when setting the scene so to speak but when you get into the flow of dialogue listing out the fact that someone is wrathful feels clunky, we can infer from what is said that she is wrathful.

  9. I really enjoyed reading Rebecca’s insights. She has some very good points, as you mentioned in your thoughts above.

    Mostly, her philosophy is what is important. And, it seems, that her goals match the goals I would hope for: she wants to polish and put a shine on your writing, your story, your unique voice.

    I cannot adequately express how very, very much I am enjoying your stories. You are one of only two authors I have ever felt that I needed to support. And in the last year your stories were a shining beacon of story telling, since I first discovered the Wandering Inn early in 2020.

    I enjoy the characters – except for the clown, he creeps me out – and, I’m not that fond of Flos. However, contrast is needed to provide depth to the happy, so ultimately he becomes the character I love to hate! So, yep, I love them all!

    Thanks for what you do, thanks for sharing. I am so happy to have found your work.

    Shine on, my friend, shine on!

  10. Wow, I had no idea how editing was supposed to work but I am impressed. It does seem like a great idea to have an editor check an important chapter every so often for the professional advise. Glad to see my patreon money is of some use

  11. I think tags at the end of speech is a good spot most of the time. You already have very distinct voices and dialects for different characters that helps identify the speaker in group convos easily, such as gnolls saying ‘yes’ at the end of sentences, and the matter of fact antinium speech.

    With it at the end of speech, readers who get to that bit and already know who was talking from the speech itself can kind of ‘gloss over’ that bit, but it helps otherwise to understand who spoke. Having it before text feels even more clunky, and I think only fits if they’re saying something that can have different meanings depending on the tone.

    But I do agree that they feel awkward to write and I hate adding them in too.

    Overall congrats on taking the jump and getting an editor to review your work, as always I look forward to reading more.

  12. Am I the only one who hates dialog tags? Used occasionally they’re fine , but so many writers bog down their writing with too many

  13. Obviously it’s pirate’s decision on how to digest the editor’s thoughts, but here are my own.

    “As a rule of thumb, I recommend people not staring a book, chapter or scene with someone waking up. Starting in media res (in the middle of a scene) tends to work better in getting things started quickly.”
    I can’t think of any reason that this advice should be followed besides taste. In media res might also feel weirdly artificial given how TWI is normally very “slice of life” in moving from event to event in a linear fashion.

    I would disagree on the clarity of Erin’s emotions and the resets. They seemed clear to me.

    Dialog tags I have a mild agreement with. There are times when tags could bring clarity to the story. Usually the dialog is so strong and the characters so well defined that it does an excellent job of clarifying who is speaking on its own. As noted though, that kind of style struggles as more characters are added to the scene.

    I agree with establishing shots in principal, but there’s a caveat. Being a very long form story, TWI visits the same places a lot. So establishing shots should be used, but used sparingly. Otherwise you run the risk of those descriptions becoming staid from overuse. I.E. there’s only so many times you can describe Chandrar’s desert before people get tired of it–they know it’s a desert. So those descriptions should be spread over multiple apperances. I’m not sure on how well TWI does these with locations, but for characters they don’t often feel very relevant. When characters change appearance pirate tells us, such as with Magnolia and company in Pallas. Otherwise they either look the same and/or their appearance isn’t relevant; their appearance was established earlier.

    “For instance, you tend to use the word “but” frequently.”
    I can’t say I’ve ever noticed this. This chapter has 351 “buts” in over 28000 words. Barely 1% of all words. That might be a lot relative to other words, but it’s not what I’d call particularly noteworthy given the length.

    Particularly towards the beginning, be wary of the overuse of “memory flooded”.
    No idea what this means.

  14. Interesting read, thank you for sharing and to Rebecca for being ok with it being shared.

    I also felt the chapter was strong, especially the beginning.

    I am one of the readers who has occasionally been critical of dialog being difficult to follow. So I’m optimistic that you’re considering some of the non-‘said’ approaches in the dialog section.

    I’d also have to agree that you could do more descriptive scene setting (though it’s never bothered me). As others have warned it would quickly become ponderous if done to excess, but on occasion it would be helpful to avoid a minute or two of headscratching on a scene shift. (Sometimes exactly that is clearly the intent and that’s still cool)

    Glad you’re finding the process worthwhile and am eager to see the results !

  15. I have on occasion struggled with the lack of dialogue tags, but it’s extremely rare, like once a book, because each character’s way of speech is sufficiently distinctive that it’s clear who’s speaking.

  16. I do like the lack of dialogue tags, which tend to break up thoughts, and fill up pages with nothingness. occas might be useful. and clarification w clues, as to who is speaking.
    rebecca’s great! whatever fears, i had of editing your writing, disappeared! cuz i enjoy the story, the writing so much, incredible first draft! love it!

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