Monday, 29 February 2016

My Kindle Scout Kirkus edit

On Saturday I received the Kirkus-edited typescript of Time Rats 1. The editor says kind things in his summary about my plot, characterization and dialogue - and also praises my accuracy in keeping track of time, a major concern when writing about time travel. But I have to say I was not expecting the massive number of edits, up to two dozen per page.

I'm pleased that Amazon allows me the final decision as to whether or not to accept the editor's advice. I always want to make changes that will improve the book. Many suggestions, however, I considered and rejected - this is my seventh novel, and I'm confident in my writing. I believe unnecessary edits run the risk of losing the writer's voice. 

Don't think I'm not grateful. I know how expensive a Kirkus edit is, it's extremely thorough, and I appreciate Amazon wanting - and paying for - Kindle Press books to be the very best they can be. It's good to have a professional pair of eyes going over my novel, and some of the notes I seized on with cries of glee - Jace doesn't have a penknife, then a page later he's looking for it. Duh. There's the occasional suggestion of more felicitous phrasing or a better word. I am ashamed to own up to an errant apostrophe. And I spelled tesserae wrong.

I am entirely confident this editor pored over every word, and no error escaped him. Had there been any plotholes, he'd have found them.

Suggestions I've ignored:

Americanization of my prose.

Dates and times as specified by the Chicago Manual of Style.

Chapter titles with capital letters - now, I use chapter titles because otherwise, the first thing the reader will see in the ebook sample is a boring list of Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 etc.. Quirky titles for each chapter are more inviting. But capitalize them, and they become much harder to read. I don't want that.

Correcting colloquial speech in dialogue. Replacing all brackets with dashes. Replacing many semi colons with full stops - I like semi colons, having acquired them in my youth from Mary Renault.

Replacing all third person observations from a character's POV with first person italics on a new line, as if it was silent speech, which in my opinion is just weird and reads strangely. Do any writers do this?

Padding my prose - inserting words like clearly, just, still, somehow, simply, even, though, really, usually, anyway. I've spent years decluttering my prose, dammit. Ready and waiting is not an improvement on waiting. Just enough is not better than enough. Aren't editors supposed to take this stuff out, not put it in?

Altering a sentence for no obvious reason, sometimes making it worse. Reading this example after Jace has removed the locked TiTrav from Quinn's wrist once he was dead, I began to entertain a dark suspicion that this editor is tinkering with sentences just because he can:

My version: “So how did you get it off Quinn, then?” Pause, while Floss realized how he had got it off Quinn, and imagined him doing it. “Oh.”

Editor's version: “So how did you get it off Quinn, then?” Floss paused as she realized how he had done it, and then visualized him doing it. “Oh.”

This was my first experience of a professional edit. Have any of you had one, and how was it?


  1. My editor would agree with you about the redundant words, she's also very firm about consistency of my style rather than imposing another upon me. And she uses a British style guide, which is nice!

    Good effort getting your book in though. Nice going.



    1. Yo MTM! Tricky business, editing, I can see that, especially with a UK/US divide. I refer to London as a city, and also mention the City, which must seem inconsistent to a foreigner.

      Kindle Scout/Kindle Press is a very exciting venture, and I'm thrilled to be part of it.

  2. I have had professional edits done on my own work and work as a professional editor. I try very hard not to tinker with the author's writing style while editing. The last thing I want to do is change the unique voice of the work. I never accept all changes nor do I expect an author to accept all of my changes. It's always nice to have a second set of eyes on my work. I would definitely recommend using an editor whose style is consistent with your own. Congrats!

    1. So you are both gamekeeper and poacher, Kimber :o)

      I've always used beta readers before, which works for me because they react as readers rather than publishing professionals, and it's readers I'm hoping to please. I'm able to proofread my own writing (though the popular opinion is that this is not possible).

  3. My officious suggestion: "Floss paused as she realized--and visualized--how he'd done it. 'Oh.' "

    I confess there's at least one book of mine in which I used first person italics on a new line to indicate the thoughts of a third person character. It's not too unusual in American novels, or at least wasn't back when I had time to read (a four year-old and a two year-old currently under my roof, after all).

    1. Your version's neater, but I like the two stages to Floss's thought. I don't think the editor quite realized how much I rewrite sentences to make them convey exactly what I mean. I'm not saying my prose can never be improved, just that generally by the time anyone reads my writing, it's the way I want it. Not just the way it first hit the page.

      I use first person italics for thoughts, sometimes on a new line, but I also like observations in third person from the character when we are in his POV.

      A four year old and a two year old - you must be exhausted :o)