What Do Editors Do? Bouncing from Head to Head

What do editors do?     Mom_Porch_3072_R

Editors do edit, but first they find manuscripts and proposals to read.  I spent an afternoon last week and this afternoon working with an author who has stories we want to publish. She had already given me manuscripts to read and pass on to Nancy Knight, our main acquiring editor. This author has worked to make revisions Nancy suggested to make a manuscript more ready for the real edits.

Since this author and I are friends, I read for her and make suggestions to polish her work. We were old critique partners and now we’re at it again.

Why am I helping her polish? Each author needs to make his or her book as polished as possible. Seriously, polish your writing.

Head hopping or bouncing from head to head.

If you shift points of view too much readers get lost. Point of view (POV) is important. What if this means nothing to you,  but you have a wonderful story? We’ll look at it and see if your voice, characters, and story speak to us or at least two of us. THEN, we’ll toss you aside because your manuscript has problems.

NO WE WON’T! We’ll try to show you what your book needs and how to “fix” it.   If you commit the crime of head hopping,  worthy of life in exile with no books to read, will we lock you away and take away your library card? NOPE, we’ll explain  how to let your readers feel what one character feels long enough to make your readers want to be part of each scene.

Example:

Sam watched Sally eat her spinach. Usually he loved to watch her enjoy her meals, but today she shoveled the nasty mess into her pretty mouth like she hadn’t eaten in days.

“Sam, what’s wrong? You look ill?” Sally hadn’t tasted such delicious spinach in ages! She couldn’t stop eating to listen to what Sam was saying. He wasn’t happy with her and found her disgusting, but she couldn’t help it.

“Want more spinach?” he asked, though he didn’t think he could watch her take one more bite. He’d never eat spinach again.

Sally knew Sam was looking down on her for loving spinach. She’d never eat it around him again.  He’d be happy then.

Can you make this read better by choosing one character’s thoughts to share?

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “What Do Editors Do? Bouncing from Head to Head

  1. If an author wants to write a work where the point of view shifts, that’s perfectly fine, but they’re well-advised to pick the most appropriate one to advance the plot and then stick with it for the entire scene. It’s a common mistake for neonate authors to try to show everything that is going on at once, which usually ends up ruining a lot of the mystery you are trying to build. Leaving questions at the end of each scene advances the plot and piques read interest.

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  2. In you example it is difficult for the reader to know who is talking because one character is speaking while the others thoughts are shown. Makes it difficult to follow.

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  3. Hmmm, very interesting! We’ll see if anyone wants to try writing the scene from either point of view. Let us know if you have questions for our editors to answer. Now that summer is almost over, we’ll be here for you more.

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  4. I think it’s terrific that you help other aspiring authors. I am a firm believer in passing it on and supporting others. You are amazing MM!

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    • Mary R, you are the kind of person who makes me want to do what I can for others. I’m trying to follow your example.

      We want the wonderful stories that aren’t edgy or exactly what the other publishers want. We want to take the time to find the real gem that just needs work.

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  5. Andrea

    His disgust growing with every bite she took, Sam watched Sally eat her spinach. Was it only yesterday that he’d stared as she delicately spooned soup into her pretty mouth, only yesterday that he’d been aroused when her tongue darted quickly out to her lip? Now he could only watch in revulsion as she shoveled progressively larger bites of the green mess past her teeth.

    Sally paused, fork in the air. “What’s wrong? Are you ill?” Before he could reply, she attacked the pile of spinach again. Her eyes flicked toward his several times, but she never stopped eating.

    Sam felt the tension emanating from her body although she tried to look relaxed. Sally even smiled at him between swallowing and taking another bite. “Want more?” he asked, but she should know better than to continue, because he couldn’t watch another moment of her repulsive

    Sally abruptly put her fork down. “I’m sorry. You don’t want me to eat that. Never again. I only want you to be happy. Look. I’m done.”

    (Because Sally is clearly Sam’s prisoner, she only gets fed sporadically, and he’s losing interest and is going to kill her any day now. )

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  6. Andrea

    Ha! And only a few words seem to have fallen off when I pasted it! 🙂

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  7. You are the only person who tried to rewrite the short scene. Good work. (I can always edit, but you made my point.)

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  8. Mary,
    Thanks for reminding us that head-hopping is never good for the reader. Often it is difficult to know who is speaking. We enjoy a scene or story from one POV. Also, thanks again for helping us hone our craft. You’re the best.

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