Monday, December 3, 2012


LUCY BURDETTE: First of all, before I forget, our Jungle Red newsletter is going out this week. If you haven't already, sign up to receive very occasional news from our gang--fill in your email in the box to the right and hit send!

Now onto today's business. For the last two weeks I've been immersed in revising and editing TOPPED CHEF (coming next May!) For readers who haven't been through the process, this means reviewing my "completed" manuscript and incorporating (or at least considering!) the notes my editor has made. And by the way, I consider myself really lucky because I love her editing. She understands so well what I'm trying to do with the characters and the plot, and she's able to put her finger on the places where the story isn't completely working. This time one of the big questions was whether the way the victim was killed (public hanging in costume) fit with the motives of the killer. Pretty important to get that right!

I also see things that I didn't notice when I was sunk up to my eyeballs in the book. For example, in one of the scenes Hayley Snow and her Key West buddies are talking to her mother on Skype. I'd put her mom's new boyfriend at the kitchen table chatting away and eating Chinese food with everyone else. Second time around, it occurred to me that Hayley had never met this man--virtually or otherwise. So I needed to slow down, include an introduction and use the resulting tension to good effect.

How about you Reds? Do you like the revision process? Any horror stories or happy ending?

RHYS BOWEN: I'm really happy with both my editors. They make excellent suggestions but usually like what I do and don't try to change too much. It's in the area of copy-editing that I sometimes have gripes. Copy editors who don't ever want me to have an incomplete sentence, who put in too many commas or who add words of their own. I confess that I do need a good proof-reader as I type very fast to keep up with my thoughts and can't often see my mistakes. Like the time Katy Kellgren (whom I interviewed last week and who reads my audio books) emailed to ask whether I really meant to call a character Huge Beastly-Bottome. I didn't. His name was Hugo Beasley-Bottome. That had slipped through editors and proof readers!

HALLIE EPHRON: Laughing, Rhys! Reminds me of a salad I once tossed in a bowel.

Over and over I hear people say, "Too bad editors no longer edit books." I don't know what editors they're talking about. That's never been my experience. I love my editor at Morrow, Katherine Nintzel. Her eagle eye frees me to go over the top because I know she'll tell me when I should dial back the ick. She also keeps me from repeating myself. Like a heat seeking missile, she asks all the questions I don't want to hear but need to address.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:I love revising. LOVE. Oh, my goodness,  it's my favorite.  The story is all there, hurray! And I get to make it better.There are moments when you see the way to make it shine--that's such a treat. Moments when you realize--oh, THIS is what I meant! And that's so exciting. It's like when the real statue comes out of the piece of marble. The way the story was meant to be.

My editor is brilliant, too.  She really sees the themes, and the big picture, and pushes me on motivation (the characters', not mine) and points out that I have too many people whose names begin with "S."

Rhys, the comma thing. Grrr. My battles are usually over hyphens.  I love them. Copy editors don't.

JAN BROGAN: I live to revise. Or maybe I write to revise.  LIke Hank said. It's where the fun and the magic happen. But you guys, I don't consider commas and hyphens revising. I consider that copy editing.  Although certainly it needs to be done, it's not my happy time.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, I think you should have left Huge Beastly Bottome in!!! I can just see him...

I'm with Hallie on the "editors don't edit anymore." Mine does! Not only big thematic or structural edits, but lines edits. (I've had three top editors with US publishing houses in my career, and they have all edited.) My current editor's favorite margin notes are: "Cut." ""Tighten." "Too much sat nav." (referring to my tendency to give detailed descriptions of how the characters get from one place to another.) And her favorite: "Show, don't tell!"

And the thing is, she's always right. She's especially brilliant at seeing  how to increase the tension in a scene.

I'm an obsessive self-editor as I write, and I think knowing that my editor is so good has allowed me to relax and enjoy the writing process a bit more.

So, back to Lucy's original question--I don't mind revision. It's usually fast. Because I revise as I write, I don't do endless drafts, and the editorial revision really gives me a chance to see the book as a whole.

 HANK: Oh, my editor for the "TIME" series was SO terrific and SO polite. Her favorite was "please address." As in "The reader will not be clear on where  Charlotte is. Please adddress."  (So now I say that to Jonathan all the time. "The dishwasher is full. Please address.")

LUCY: Hysterical Hank! and does he hop right to? How about you JRW readers? Any glitches you wish had been caught in the books you've read? (Cartoon courtesy of Writer's Digest)


  1. Between Hank's "please address" and "Huge Beastly-Bottome" via Rhys I don't think I'll be able to stop laughing long enough to get to sleep.

    Lucy, I don't find little glitches very troublesome. I don't care to read perfect English in my mystery novels. I want the words I read, what they say and what they look like on the printed page, or what they sound like on audio, to show me who the characters are and what they are experiencing... all that.

    What I find most annoying are endless discussions or dialogue that have the characters talk and talk about the background, the history, about other characters, instead of just writing the story. Also I don't like miles and miles of wrap-up that explain what happened and why. It's a huge let down. A little kitchen talk can be fun, à la Spenser and Susan, but I like the "what happeneds" revealed in the unfolding drama.

  2. I don’t mind things like sentence fragments [people really do talk that way, after all] or “incorrect” grammar that is actually the way a particular character speaks. I don’t mind expository paragraphs or “wrap-up” conversations. Those are the sorts of things, after all, that are part and parcel of the story-telling details I expect to find in a well-written book.

    So what makes me wish I could grab my red pen and “attack” the written page? Blatant copy errors: misspelled words, sentences that don’t make sense because they are missing a word or have extra words in them, sentences where the subject/verb agreement isn’t in agreement, spelling a character’s name two different ways . . . that sort of thing. I think those copy editing issues bother me so much because they interrupt the flow of the reading. I can be cruising along, engrossed in the story and they become stumbling blocks over which I mentally trip . . . and that pulls me out of my immersion in the story . . . .

  3. Reine and Joan, such excellent points! Anything that pulls the reader out of the story should have "please address" written in the margins!

    I know I repeat myself sometimes and as Hallie said, bless my editor for pointing that out!

  4. I am so glad to hear other writers say they still have editors who edit! Lately, I had begun to wonder if perhaps I am the only one? I encourage my editor to please, please be ruthless. She's the person who prevents me from looking stupid. (Although, how "high dungeon" got past all of us, I do not understand. Yeesh!)

  5. Since I've been both a line editor and a copyeditor, errors, especially typos and grammatical blips, jump out at me when I'm reading for pleasure. It's a curse. I used to enjoy one prolific novelist's work in the 70's and 80's (not a mystery writer), but after dozens of books it seemed as though her every word was too precious for editors to change. I had to stop reading her work after one especially horrific mess of unedited dreck.

    Another author lost me with a description of some action that took place "he took a small step in a small alley, where there was a small door, leading to a small courtyard, where there was a small tree..." and so on. Bah. As Joan says, it pitches you right out of the story.

    Immersion in story requires suspension of disbelief. If there are too many typos or stoppers disbelief has a way of sneaking right in and taking over. Once you've lost that perfect communication with an author's work it's over, and it's hard to get it back.

  6. Right now I'm deep in edits for Laced With Poison, the second in my Sweet Nothings series, and my editor,Faith, did a splendid job of finding all the missed opportunities not to mention downright inconsistencies!

  7. I am clearly an example of the old adage that one cannot edit one's own work! :-)

  8. What is it about dishwashers that make women act helpless? My wife can drive a truck, use an electric trimmer, and run a successful small business, but no way she knows how to put a clean glass back in the cupboard. Have I fallen victim to the old "rope-a-dope?"

  9. Jack, it's called "division of labor." My husband's excuse for not putting dishes in the dishwasher is that he never knows if they are clean or dirty.

    Reine, my writer's group used to refer to the endless dialogue passages as "talking heads," and the miles and miles of explanation as "info dump." Both unacceptable!

    Nancy M, still cackling over "high dungeon." :-)

  10. Being SO new to this whole thing and having written my very first novel ever, I have to say I do not love the revision process. BUT - I love how much better my story is after each round of revisions. So, I guess I have to say I don't like revising, but I love having revised. (with ONE more round of revisions yet to go. But that's it. ONE more)

  11. As an editor (and writer), it's a real pleasure to work with a manuscript that needs only "a lick and a promise" as far as line edits go. That way, I can really focus on the bigger questions of story line, character development and such. As a reader, typos are the most annoying thing; they tend to walk up and slap me. I am no fun with the menus at Chinese restaurants...

  12. I love editing. So much more fun than the actual writing part and, for me, a lot less pressure! As for "please address'? OMG, I gotta use that at home, too. Let's see if it actually works, though.

  13. And don't forget--we figured this out yesterday late in the comments for Oh, Kaye!, so FYI:

    We're dong a holiday card list! Send your address to me, h hryan at wndh dot com if you want a list of addresses. Put JRW cars in the subject line.

    NO PRESSURE! And no deadlines for sending cards. January is good.

  14. And our blog pals at Crime Writers Chronicle did a pretty funny interview with me--come leave a comment there and be entered to win THE OTHER WOMAN!

  15. I share an editor with Peg/Meg, and she has promised me edits for Christmas. Sure hope I've been good!

    Best Typo Ever (tie): 1) a discovery response saying "objection, calls for legal confusion" (instead of 'legal conclusion'); 2) a student moot court brief submitted to the Supreme Court of the Untied States of America. (Happily, these were typos I received, not ones I made!)

  16. Diane, Chinese restaurant menus! Too funny! I felt really sad when my fav local cafe changed its menu and offered home fries instead of home fires.

  17. Hank...yesterday the email address you gave had one less "h" in it than the one you gave today. I sent an email to yesterday's address. I hope it was the correct one! (Did you do this on purpose?!)

    Lines and lines of dialogue with no indication of which character is doing the speaking can be exasperating. And like others, I have noticed that occasionally the spelling of a character's name changes. I saw that in a book I just finished reading. There are a couple of ways to spell the name, and once or twice the alternate spelling was used.
    Sometimes I will read a book in which the wrong character's name is used. I like to think that the author, like a parent, has called the person by another character's name. But I don't know why it got past the editor! Maybe the editor is so good at understanding what the writer meant that he or she never noticed!

    Our local library puts out a calendar of events on a monthly basis. A few years ago the library sponsored a "Red Cross infant and child choking training session"! I wonder if the police showed up!

    And a local Chinese restaurant featured a dish that was recommended "for spicy lovers"!

    No time to check for my own errors; lunch break is almost over!

  18. OH whoa, TYPOS. Thanks, DebRo for catching.

    h ryan at whdh dot com


  19. Oh my goodness, this post is hilarious! What have I encountered? I definitely feel everyone's pain with "comma-itis" and the hyphen problem. I tend to hyphen as well, and my editors slap me each time.

    My issue is when I'm referring to a Justice of the Supreme Court and the editor makes ALL of my "J"s lowercase. Leslie can understand my annoyance with that as I write legal thrillers (so there are a LOT). In many cases the j would be lowercase, but most people don't realize that when we are talking about the US Supreme Court, it's a whole different ballgame. Being an attorney myself, I have to have that right! My eyes still shake with exhaustion after the last go 'round and that was back in June.

    A funny recent editorial faux pas occurred during my latest book, "Advice and Consent." In one scene I had a Boston cop say "wicked pissah" just to be silly. The editor highlighted it immediately and said that she had no idea what the phrase meant so perhaps I should consider removing it.


  20. Dishwashers? I load them, John re-loads everything according to his theories. Or...he rinses things off so completely that I'm not sure if they are clean or dirty.

    Didn't we just have a discussion on little things our partners do that could lead to divorce or murder?

  21. Yes we did have that discussion Rhys!

    Jack, you? Rope a dope? Never!

    Leslie, love the home fires!!!

    Hank and Kaye, really, have you lost your minds? more holiday cards? i send you all, each and every one, my love and best holiday wishes right here and how...xoxo Lucy

  22. "Please address"? I love that! I have a few of my own, but I can't wait to use that in my next mystery.

  23. I'm lucky to have two editors who definitely edit. They make whatever I've written much better. They catch errors in logic and plot holes that zipped right by me.

    When I'm reading what annoys me is the past perfect tense not being used when it's needed. I also get a little crazy when pronouns are used and I can't tell which he or she did what. The latter happens a lot in the novels of a certain prolific thriller writer (male) who I won't name to protect the guilty--so much that I've stopped reading his books.

  24. A few years ago I read a mystery in which one character is described as leaving either her home or her place of employment (I can no longer remember which), getting into her car and driving to an appointment. The scene then shifted to somewhere else and some other characters. Then the story picks up again with the woman arriving at her appointment all flustered and out of breath - because when she left her house (or office) her car was not out on the street where she left it, she didn't have time to call the police and so she had to walk to the appointment!

  25. I like revising after my beta reader (grad school prof who has remained friend and mentor for 40 years) reads what I write and points out that obvious. But I had problems with my editor in Wales--she didn't get some Americanisms--like big-box store. My newest title is Trouble in a Big Box, and she thought it mean a large package. I'm like Hank--fast but lots of typos.

  26. Yup, Judy. I simply never learned to type. In typing class, instead of touch typing, I'd memorize the paragraph, then look at the keys.

    And I think my brain goes faser than my fingers can.

    Oh, my gosh--it's one of the few decisions in life I regret. xoxo But if that's as bad as it gets, I guess that's okay.

  27. Judy, I don't know what a big box store is. I'd never heard the term before reading a recent JRW blog.

    Hank, I learned how to type in grad school by playing a Mac typing tutor game. I can't type anymore, but the good thing is that my disability forced me to try out different speech to text programs. The one that is built into the iMac is fantastic. I love it, and it makes writing books possible for me now. It's much faster than typing, for me at least.

  28. Okay, yeah. That was supposed to be funny.Right. Because I can't type anymore. xoxo

  29. Lack of editing is probably the most common complaint against self-published ebooks. And all those misspellings, grammar errors, repetitions, contradictions,etc. that could be caught easily by a decent editor are often a give-away that an ebook is self-published. But it’s errors in books published by big five houses that burn me. I’m tempted to name names. Top authors, industry gurus. Major NYC publishers. The errors are shocking, assaults on the readers’ sensibilities and insults to the author.
    How can self-respecting publishers let formatting code slip through as text? Even if no one bothers to take a last look before hitting “send,” they could still make corrections when readers bring problems to their attention. Ebooks are written in e-ink, not stone.