I love my editor. She is patient, understanding, and only kicks me in the ass when I absolutely need it.
She’s also hilarious. Since we’ve finished all but one final copy edit on Strange Cosmology, I thought it’d be fun to share some of her greatest quotes from the editing process.
General Writing Quirks of Mine
“You have a delightfully scattershot approach to punctuation.” This is in reference to, specifically, my use of apostrophes for possessives, especially on names that end in “s.” In Strange Cosmology, Horus plays a major role, as does a character named Evans. When using possessives, Horus was used both as “Horus’” and “Horus’s”, and Evans got to be Evans’, Evans’s, and at some points Evan’s. The absolute pinnacle was when I referred to a character as having a “mad-eye’d look.” That…that isn’t how anything works.
Something else I do far too often in first drafts is over explain. Characters frown in anger as opposed to just frowning. One on one fights often involve people swinging swords at their opponent. The absolute worst example of this was when I had Ryan “pull a spear out of his nanoverse to throw at his enemies,” prompting the comment: “Yes, because there are so many other uses for a spear! Like mixing a souffle, or playing cricket!”
Also, from time to time, when writing too quickly I have a tendency to forget words in my draft as my brain gets ahead of my fingers. In one particular instance I managed to skip about three words in a single sentence, resulting in the majestic line “and then he the door.” The comment here was “Please, for the love of all that is holy, make it very clear what he did to that door.”
Fight Scene Mishaps
A particular fight scene early in the book was giving us both conniptions. It had to be rewritten at least three times. Because of that, there were some…janky moments early on. In one particular instance, Ryan dove to the floor, and then – in the space of three paragraphs – dove to the floor three more times without ever getting up. Her observation? “For this to make any kind of sense, he has to be doing the worm in the middle of a battle.”
In that same fight, characters were blasted out of a window, then stood up inside the building, then walked through the door to reenter the building. At the same time a cloud of tear gas was cleared out of a room, then reappeared inside the room, then was cleared out again only to immediately obscure vision inside the room. This prompted her to point out that “this scene reads like a glitchy video game.”
Since that fight scene, she’s taken great delight in pointing out every instance where I have characters dive in the middle of combat, which I was doing with distressing regularity. There should be less of that in the final draft, because if there isn’t, they will never find my body.
Writing consistent characters is always tricky. However, when it goes badly, it does provoke some wonderful snark. In response to a brilliant scientist ignoring all basic safety protocols, my editor looked at me across the room, raised her hand to get my attention, and calmly asked “Just to clarify, is this character supposed to be a moron?”
No. No, he was not.
Another problem I had was grins. I had characters emoting heavily through their grins in the first draft of the book: wry grins, smug grins, sympathetic grins…prompting her to comment at one point that I “have eleven grins in two and a half pages, and all of them are different kinds.” I laughed and said, “How bad could it be?”
This is what we call tempting fate. She read those two and a half pages to me, and by the time it was over I threw myself on her mercy.
Specific Comments I Just Loved
You ever write something and then look back at it, wondering what the hell you were thinking? I don’t, because I have my editor to ask me what the hell I was thinking. Some particular instances were, “Alex, you wrote ‘everyone alive was dead’.” When I tried to explain, she raised a finger and asked, “Is any of this going to make the phrase ‘everyone alive was dead’ any less stupid?”
I just hung my head in acknowledgement.
Another one: in Small Worlds, gods can retrieve small objects from their nanoverses, most often weapons. I make a point of saying “retrieve” there, because throughout book 1 and 2 I constantly used the phrase “Pull out”, as in “Pulled a sword out” or “pulled a spear out.” My editor patiently said, “You know, it would be great if there was some word for pulling a weapon out of a location. A specific word that existed just for that purpose. Something that started with the letter ‘d’ and rhymed with ‘raw’.”
I then edited a scene to say “drew out a sword”. I think she tried to kill me with her brain when I wrote that.
And, last but not least…
“When you stop laughing, I’ll stop snarking.”
My editor makes the jokes at the expense of my writing because she knows it means I’ll remember that mistake and never, ever make it again (she wants me to note that she knows “never, ever” with me is “for at least the next three weeks or ten to twenty thousand words, whichever comes first”). But she also does it because we can laugh about them together.
And yes, I let her look at this post before I put it out for everyone, because she just makes everything I write a thousand times better. (Editor’s note: Alex, there multipliers other than a thousand. Try some variety.)
If you want to see the result of our hard work, pick up Strange Cosmology! It’s coming out 09/10 and can be pre-ordered now!