What I’ve learned, relearned, and inferred from my editor.

Got a deadline in a week, then off to copyedits. Now that I’ve made my first pass through the wringer, I wanted to share four major things I’ve gathered along the way. Things y’all probably already know, but if you’re like me, never hurts to be reminded. In mathematical terms:

  • Action > Dialogue > Introspection

Have confidence in your subtext and confidence in your reader. Most people don’t speak directly. They say one thing while thinking another. If you can show/imply their internalization without saying it, with less dialogue, that’s the best course of action. Trust your reader to infer.

A very straightforward example:

He lifts the pilot’s head by the scruff and turns him so I can see the carnage. “Well done, Twenty-five. You have helped us deal with a dangerous security threat.”    

Bile rises in my throat. I swallow it back, breathe through my nose, force a smile. “Glad to be of service.”

  • Less > More

Have confidence in your readers. Have confidence in yourself. Kill introspection. Trust that you’re showing what you want to show. Let the reader infer your meaning. Readers might disagree on the meaning here and there, and that’s okay. That’s life. Open yourself to interpretation. This will also amp up your pace. (ABC: Always Be Pacing)

  • 1 > 2 > 3…

Kind of like less being more, eliminate repetition. SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS (Browne and King) has an excellent section on this. Repetition weakens effect. On a paragraph level, this is more obvious. For me, repetition occurred more at a scene level. The scenes were different, but the take home was similar. Not only does this weaken the effect, it    weakens the tempo (ABT as well).

  • More Dragons > Fewer Dragons

Not really my editor’s feedback. Just my personal belief =D




JM AP Close_StraightJoshua McCune is the author of the Talker 25 trilogy (Greenwillow). Dragons, war, romance (though not with dragons – I don’t do bestiality). First one drops in early 2014



Filed under Advice, Editing and Revising, Editor

18 responses to “What I’ve learned, relearned, and inferred from my editor.

  1. Well stated. Well said. Well done. 😉


  2. Mike Jung

    Best t-shirt ever.


  3. Good reminders. I’ll keep them in mind as I start on my 1st round of editing my book.


  4. Love the t-shirt. Reminds me of a time when I was trying to convince one of my teenage sons to read something outside of his preferred fantasy genre and he just looked at me and said, “Mom, there is no plot that can’t be improved by the addition of a few dark elves.”


  5. Josh, ths Anne McCaffrey fan adores your t-shirt.


  6. This. This post right here. YES.
    If I could add one thing, it would be Close > Far.
    Actually, it would be Dragon T-shirt > Non-dragon T-shirt.
    Actually, that should be first on the list.


  7. You know, speaking of T-shirts, because obvs, THIS GIRL got a soot sprite (a la My Neighbor Totoro) T-shirt in the mail today. We should totes do an EMUs Awesome T-shirts post. I’m thinking T-shirt contest at the retreat. (Dragon tees prohibited; see rule re: dragon tees vs. non-dragon tees.)


  8. Bryan Russell

    I give all my dragons at least three heads, so that’s like dragons cubed. Booyah.


  9. Excellent points. Excellent tee shirt.


  10. Josh, this is just the post I needed to read this week. I’ll be jumping into a major revision soon, and really needed reminders about each and every one of these points. Thank you, thank you!

    Any other craft books you recommend other than the Self-Editing one?

    Congratulations on almost being in copyedits. I can’t WAIT to read your book!!


    • Joshua McCune

      Tara, a great one – as given to me by my editor =D – is STORY by Robert McKee. Written for screenwriters, but very apropos for novelists, too.


  11. Excellent post. I repeat, excellent post. And, yay, on nearing copyedits. Looking forward to the read.


  12. “Have confidence in your readers. Have confidence in yourself. Kill introspection.” Great advice. I need to take this to heart.


  13. The whole trusting my reader and myself is something I have trouble with. I actually, I’ve had trouble with that in real life, too. Once, when I was training some new associates, I started narrating EVERYthing I was doing, including the obvious. Like, “And then you put the lid on the box.”

    Right. ‘Cause they couldn’t have figured that one out on their own.


    • Joshua McCune

      A.W., it’s definitely a tricky balance. Some people need more step-by-step instructions. Lol. Then how much do you put in for YA vs MG, etc? This process has definitely given me a much greater appreciation for writing, editing, and editors.


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