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Thursday, February 18, 2016

On editing

The SF-SJWs at File 770 are appalled at the fact that Tor Books and Castalia House author John C. Wright is willing to go on the record and state that, in his opinion, I am a better editor than the late, Hugo Award-winning editor David Hartwell:
These are the recommendations of my editor, Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, the most hated man in Science Fiction, but certainly the best editor I have had the pleasure to work with.
- John C. Wright

Charming. Take this and go home, David Hartwell, as we would say in Italy.

- Anna Feruglio Dal Dan on February 17, 2016 at 3:51 am

JCW is a writer convinced that his every work is a glittering jewel of exquisite literary craftsmanship. VD is an editor who doesn’t meddle with his writers’ texts. (For an example of this, see “Shakedown Cruise” in Riding the Red Horse, where Campbell nominee Rolf Nelson makes *ahem* many interesting and innovative aesthetic choices when it comes to things like verb tenses and punctuation, and VD lets them all stand.)

That sort of writer is bound to get on well with that sort of editor. Bit rough on the readers, of course, but, pffft, what do they know?

- Steve Wright on February 17, 2016

I suspect that what he was good at was being edited by David Hartwell.
- Peter J on February 17, 2016

JCW, while styling himself as a coldly-rational intellectual, reveals that he’s actually a fool whose opinions are driven entirely by ignorance, arrogance, and emotion. Every thing he’s written over the last year has made it very apparent just how much his career is owed to the efforts of the editors at Tor who transformed his usual drivel into something coherent.
- Aaron on February 17, 2016
It is hard to decide whether I am more flattered by the estimable Mr. Wright's high regard or amused by the level of ignorance demonstrated by the usual suspects. The former, I am finally forced to conclude, as I have come to expect the latter from the low-IQ denizens of an otherwise very good site.

You see, I have perspective that they do not. Unlike them, I have seen Mr. Wright's unedited prose. I know exactly what it looks like. And as it happens, it looks very much like the prose that appears in Mr. Wright's novels that are published by Tor Books. John is an excellent writer; he is one of the greatest SF/F writers alive. But he writes very, very quickly and he is prone to what one might describe as an exuberant approach to writing. Last year, Castalia House offered him a contract for a 60k-word book. I am now reading the manuscript, which clocks in at nearly 200k words.

Even those authors who don't like Mr. Wright or his style might well contemplate suicide if they truly understood how speedily and effortlessly the man writes... and writes well. When I say he is a great writer, I do not do so lightly, nor do I do so because I am fortunate enough to publish some of his works. I say it out of pure envy and awe.

Now, I am not privy to the details of the editing process at Tor Books. I have not discussed it with Mr. Wright or anyone else. But it would not have surprised me in the slightest to learn that it frequently consists of sending the manuscript directly to the proofreaders, correcting any infelicities of grammar and typos, then publishing the book without any real editorial activity at all. And I wouldn't be surprised to learn that David Hartwell had not even read all of the books that he "edited" either.

As Castalia House authors know, I either edit a book or I decline to edit it. If I edit it, I decide whether I will apply a scalpel or a machete to the text. In the case of certain authors, I ask them if they would prefer a scalpel or a machete, and honor their preference even if I think it is mistaken. In one recent case, I removed one-third of the manuscript's word count. In another case, I had the author cut out more than 20,000 words. I suspect that I have excised more words from a single novella by John C. Wright than Mr. Hartwell did from Mr. Wright's entire oeuvre. So, not only do I "meddle in my writers' texts", I do so much more heavily than the average editor does.

The mistake that these File 770 commenters are making is thinking that one can reasonably judge the quality of an editor's work by the final product. You cannot. You can only judge it by comparing the submitted draft of the manuscript to the final product. For example, my book The World in Shadow is a MUCH better book than The War in Heaven. It is better in every way. But the editor at Pocket Books did a brilliant job on The War in Heaven, because the first draft was a disaster and she made me rewrite the entire book twice, with lots of hands-on advice and examples.

But she did nothing on The World in Shadow, she did literally nothing. Her entire editing process consisted of telling me that the book was good to go as submitted. The published book is nearly word-for-word identical to my submitted manuscript, so much so that we were later able to create the ebook from the unedited submission.

It is true, for example, that Rolf Nelson takes a uniquely creative approach to verb tenses and punctuation, but it is very, very far from the truth to claim that I let them all stand. Why do we publish him, then? Because Rolf is an excellent storyteller, and if you are more interested in grammar than story and characterization, then you are not part of Castalia House's target market. Literary style is only one of the four major aspects of writing; one of the reasons that Castalia House exists is because the mainstream publishing houses have become overly obsessed with style and ideology at the expense of story, characters, and ideas.

And I will go so far as to say this: I am a much better editor than whoever is supposed to be editing George RR Martin's books. Had I been the editor, A Dance with Dragons would have been 700 pages shorter and it would have been considerably more enjoyable.

UPDATE: It appears my surmise about the extent to which Mr. Wright's books were edited at Tor Books was correct, as per L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright
Just in case anyone wondered: John has tremendous respect for Mr. Hartwell, whom he admired, appreciated working with, and liked as a person. But Mr. Hartwell almost never made any changes to John’s manuscripts.

Labels:

78 Comments:

Blogger Gaiseric February 18, 2016 8:10 AM  

Editing careers in epic fantasy are non-existent. Martin's books are at least readable; whomever is supposed to have been editing Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson are simply not doing anything at all. Those books certainly suffer from a dearth of good editing.

Blogger Gordon February 18, 2016 8:12 AM  

Hah! a chainsaw, indeed. Of the first thing I wrote for paying publication, I recognized three words in a row that were mine. The rest was a spaghetti plate of red pencil marks, cut-ins, and deletions.

I got better.

Blogger Nate February 18, 2016 8:16 AM  

Hands off editor?

Peak midwittery.

Anonymous Tom Joad February 18, 2016 8:20 AM  

Someone is editing George RR Martin's books?

Anonymous Steve February 18, 2016 8:24 AM  

JCW is a writer convinced that his every work is a glittering jewel of exquisite literary craftsmanship.

Dunno if JCW believes this, but in my opinion he's the greatest living writer in SFF.

His Golden Oecumene trilogy is an incredible achievement of creativity and wordcraft.

Awake In The Night Land is an epic masterpiece, almost painful in its bleak beauty.

Somewhither was a fantastic romp, easily the best novel of 2015.

There are lots of authors whose books I enjoy and admire, but very few whose lexical dexterity and grandeur of imagination make me jealous.

John C. Wright is such a wordsmith.

I've never read anything by Steve Wright. I thought he was a teatime radio DJ.

Anonymous NeedMoreBooks February 18, 2016 8:26 AM  

What's holding up 'Iron Chamber of Memory'? JCW posted that it was due weeks ago, and nothing since. Hope it is due soon, I can't wait.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 18, 2016 8:26 AM  

It's astonishing to see how much of an original manuscript lands in the discard bin when good editing tightens up the story.

An author often has a difficult time recognizing what doesn't move the plot, for sure while pouring out the words.

That said, it's been well known for decades that most fiction receives almost zero editing for content, which is why "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" was published.

If a raw manuscript doesn’t shrink by a good 20% or more, something unusual is probably in play.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 8:36 AM  

What's holding up 'Iron Chamber of Memory'? JCW posted that it was due weeks ago, and nothing since. Hope it is due soon, I can't wait.

Me. I'm not doing more of that "hands off editing" that I don't do. We're getting there. I have a few of these tiny little projects that are taking up an amount of my hands-off-editing time.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan February 18, 2016 8:36 AM  

I just put my first Nelson book in my Kindle can't wait to find the time to read

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright February 18, 2016 8:45 AM  

Vox, you are spot on here.

Mr. Hartwell did give John one or two suggestions during his career as John's editor that John really appreciated. But for the most part, John was usually surprised at how few comments came back from Tor. This is not in anyway a criticism of Mr. Hartwell. He was a busy man, and he liked a lot of what John wrote as it stood.

You, on the other hand, seem to take the time to seriously examine each work.

For which he is grateful.

@NeedMoreBooks. John was working on Vox's comments on Iron Chamber last night, so hopefully they'll both be happy with it soon.

Blogger L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright February 18, 2016 9:00 AM  

Todd, should you see this, we are quite sorry we missed you last time you passed through the area.

Hope you will let us know when you next return.

Blogger pdwalker February 18, 2016 9:08 AM  

Vox,

Where in heck do you find the time for everything? Does your personal time field run at a tenth the speed of the rest of the world?

Blogger bob k. mando February 18, 2016 9:10 AM  

VD
estimable Mr. Wright



*heeee*

the proper phrasing is "the estimable Mr. John C. Wright" though. Esquire, if you're feeling really sporty.

middle initials are for important people.

full middle names are for presidential assassins.

the middle name "Wayne" is for full on whackadoodles, like Bobbitt or Gacy.

thus, if you want to pull John's leg, you'll call him "John Wayne Wright" sometime or other.

Blogger Jack Ward February 18, 2016 9:12 AM  

Vox: As I read this I remarked to the wife, 'when does this guy sleep'? I know you read while riding an exercise bike. If I tried this with the typical ereader it would not take long to lose my place.
Question: Do you have some sort of projection system off an ereader that puts the text onto a large, easily viewed, screen? With remote page controls? If so, would you, as Dark Lord, grace your minions with the knowledge?
Or, maybe you just have eagle eyes?

Blogger Charlie Martel 7359 February 18, 2016 9:14 AM  

Petty.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 9:15 AM  

Where in heck do you find the time for everything? Does your personal time field run at a tenth the speed of the rest of the world?

I drink SJW blood. It does wonders for one's time management skills. Also, when you're smart enough, half-assing something tends to work out more like three-quarters assing it. I could do practically everything I do better than I do, but instead I do a lot reasonably well.

Anonymous Trimegistus February 18, 2016 9:16 AM  

The 770 crew don't appear to understand what David Hartwell's job actually was. He picked books for Tor to publish, and cultivated new authors. The detail work of massaging manuscripts was handled by assistants. Mr. Hartwell's time and skills were too valuable for that. Heck, most of the manuscript editing is done by freelance copy-editors rather than Tor employees anyway. An editor in Mr. Hartwell's position might perhaps suggest large-scale structural changes in order to make the book acceptable to publish (on the order of, "you need another main character" or "get rid of the Franco-Prussian War"), but he's not going over the manuscript with a red pen.

Anonymous Baseball Savant February 18, 2016 9:17 AM  

I'm pretty sure Vox is a speed reader. I don't know if this makes editing go faster.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 9:18 AM  

As I read this I remarked to the wife, 'when does this guy sleep'?

I don't need much sleep. And my work and my play are essentially the same thing, so I don't require as much downtime as most people do.

Anonymous Instasetting February 18, 2016 9:22 AM  

WIS better than WIH? Really? I don't see it. More challenging topic, to be sure. And if that's the one with angelic fight with Jehuel on their side, then that was a very impressive fight scene.

You guys need to publish the Somewhither Megadungeon module for 5e of DnD.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 9:24 AM  

I'm pretty sure Vox is a speed reader. I don't know if this makes editing go faster.

I am. It does. I read at 985 WPM with 75 percent comprehension.

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 18, 2016 9:29 AM  

Mr. Wright's normal level of output is "good" to "very good". But on occasion he can dip deep into the creative well and pull out something transcendent. "Awake in the Night Land" was that book. And "Pale Realms of Shade" comes shockingly close. That final scene contains some of my favorite imagery in all of fiction.

Anonymous Rolf February 18, 2016 9:33 AM  

I tell you, keeping track of verb tense is a real pain for us time-travelers. Past and present tense all sort of run together, don't'cha'know. :-)

That said, I'm getting better. Well, more consistent, anyway. But if you read for grammar rather than story, you are doing it wrong.

Blogger bob k. mando February 18, 2016 9:42 AM  

23. Rolf February 18, 2016 9:33 AM
But if you read for grammar rather than story, you are doing it wrong.



Grammar Nazi casts a jaundiced eye on your prol ( ix / etarian ) sensibilities.

http://weirdrussia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/grammar_nazi.jpg

Blogger John Wright February 18, 2016 10:00 AM  

"What's holding up 'Iron Chamber of Memory'? JCW posted that it was due weeks ago, and nothing since. Hope it is due soon, I can't wait."

As Vox says, I am somewhat exuberant. After I posted my announcement, I realized the manuscript needed more work, so I did not send it when I said it was done. The fault here is mine.

Blogger John Wright February 18, 2016 10:03 AM  

"full middle names are for presidential assassins."

Actually, as a Roman Catholic, I have FOUR names: John Charles Justynmartyr Wright.

Blogger Jeff Wood February 18, 2016 10:05 AM  

@24

Bob, as your friendly neighbourhood Grammar Nazi, I thank you kindly. That becomes my personal standard at once.

Blogger Doseux February 18, 2016 10:06 AM  

Had I been the editor, A Dance with Dragons would have been 700 pages shorter and it would have been considerably more enjoyable.

This sets the amateur apart from the professional. The amateurish approach isn't necessarily wrong, but it puts a lower value on time (more material, less quality). Many people will find more value spending their time doing something else than reading your book, but your fanatical readers will love the extra content.

Also, if you're giving away you work for free (as in fan-fiction), there's usually no reason to cut down low-quality content. That's how you get 4-million word "books".

http://www.dailydot.com/fandom/proust-longest-fan-fiction-super-smash-bros-teen-titans/

"A Song of Ice and Fire" is 1.7-million words at the moment.

Blogger Rabbi B February 18, 2016 10:10 AM  

"I say it out of pure envy and awe."

What's ironic is that these sniveling, cowardly, mid-witted dolts level their so-called 'criticisms' and say what they say for precisely the same reason. They are just much more loathe to admit it and choose to package their admiration as snipe instead.

I am sure if G-d Himself edited a book, they would be no less generous in their criticisms and baseless accusations and for the same reason: They obviously don't know how to read, let alone think.

They so despise the man, in this case JCW and VD, that they simply refuse to make an informed judgment based on the merits of their works. They are clouds without rain who aren't really saying much of anything; have no real accomplishments of their own to speak of; and their only real value lies in serving as examples of how not to behave.

Blogger bob k. mando February 18, 2016 10:24 AM  

26. John Wright February 18, 2016 10:03 AM
Actually, as a Roman Catholic, I have FOUR names:



extra middle names kills pagans dead.

just like to point out, "WainWright" is a real surname.

Anonymous Cassie February 18, 2016 10:31 AM  

"But he writes very, very quickly and he is prone to what one might describe as an exuberant approach to writing."

So, what I'm hearing is that Mr. Wright should set up a Patreon account posthaste so that his legion of fantasy/scifi-starved fan readers can pay him to quit his day job, thus freeing him (and his lovely wife!) to write more. :D

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau February 18, 2016 10:58 AM  

I'm always admiring the high quality of the writing on Mr. Wrights blog.

Blogger Marc DuQuesne February 18, 2016 11:00 AM  

The Queen of the Tyrant Lizards, dashed off in a single afternoon handily supports the speed and quality Mr. Wright is capable of. The comments indicate the nature of editing he tends to need.

Anonymous Anonymous February 18, 2016 11:06 AM  

Apologies for posting Anonymous here, but I don't want to out myself and JCW ought to be able to ID me from the specifics.

As one of his volunteer editors, I have seen John's output.  He writes at blazing speed and it's obvious that his fingers sometimes fall behind.  There are a few other characteristic glitches here and there, such as not checking the definitions of scientific terms (he wrote "intron" when he meant "exon" in one of the CTAT series, for instance) but this doesn't affect much except when it involves a major plot device.

I, on the other hand, write so painstakingly I have great difficulty doing anything more than a short story.  Without the JCWs of this world, I'd have nothing to read and enjoy.

If JCW says someone is a good editor, that is fine endorsement indeed.

Anonymous A. Nonny Maus February 18, 2016 11:11 AM  

Apologies for posting anonymous here, but I don't want to out myself and JCW ought to be able to ID me from the specifics.

As one of his volunteer editors, I have seen John's output. He writes at blazing speed and it's obvious that his fingers sometimes fall behind. There are a few other characteristic glitches here and there, such as not checking the definitions of scientific terms (he wrote "intron" when he meant "exon" in one of the CTAT series, for instance) but this doesn't affect much except when it involves a major plot device.

I, on the other hand, write so painstakingly I have great difficulty doing anything more than a short story. Without the JCWs of this world, I'd have nothing to read and enjoy.

If JCW says someone is a good editor, that is fine endorsement indeed.

Blogger John Wright February 18, 2016 11:19 AM  

No, Intron was correct: Introns are noncoding sections of an RNA transcript, or the DNA encoding it, that are spliced out before the RNA molecule is translated into a protein.

An exon is any part of a gene that will become a part of the final mature RNA produced by that gene after introns have been removed by RNA splicing.

In the story, if I am remembering correctly, I was referring to genetic information that does not get passed on and does not act as a blueprint.

I got that part right.

Oh, and thanks for the compliment. I write quickly because the muse like me; it is not any merit of mine.

Blogger TheRedSkull February 18, 2016 11:28 AM  

Thanks for this insight into the scientific process. Hope you win the Nobel Hugo.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 11:32 AM  

Apologies for posting anonymous here, but I don't want to out myself and JCW ought to be able to ID me from the specifics.

No need. Anonymous comments are fine as long as they are not literally made by "Anonymous". We like anonymity, we don't like being unable to distinguish one commenter from another. Any name is fine.

Anonymous Bz February 18, 2016 11:38 AM  

A Dance with Dragons, along with large parts of A Feast for Crows, and also parts of the upcoming book, should it ever arrive, could charitably have been edited into three words:

*** Five Years Later ***

Seriously, read the articles and interviews where GRRM dithers about the exquisite complexity of moving the chess pieces to just the right positions. (Colloquially known as writer's block.) For example:

"Now I can explain things. It was a confluence of many, many factors: lets start with the offer from Xaro to give Dany ships, the refusal of which then leads to Qarth's declaration of war. Then there's the marriage of Daenerys to pacify the city. Then there's the arrival of the Yunkish army at the gates of Meereen, there's the order of arrival of various people going her way (Tyrion, Quentyn, Victarion, Aegon, Marwyn, etc.), and then there's Daario, this dangerous sellsword and the question of whether Dany really wants him or not, there's hte plague, there's Drogon's return to Meereen...

All of these things were balls I had thrown up into the air, and they're all linked and chronologically entwined. The return of Drogon to the city was something I explored as happening at different times. For example, I wrote three different versions of Quentyn's arrival at Meereen: one where he arrived long before Dany's marriage, one where he arrived much later, and one where he arrived just the day before the marriage (which is how it ended up being in the novel). And I had to write all three versions to be able to compare and see how these different arrival points affected the stories of the other characters. Including the story of a character who actually hasn't arrived yet."

http://m.westeros.org/index.php/Meereenese_knot

But (predictably) nobody asked "okay George, while you're demolishing that plate of cronuts, explain this: what's really the point of all you just told me?"

Blogger Zeke OF Confettii February 18, 2016 11:46 AM  

As I hope I told John at LibertyCon last year, his was one of the voices that rekindled my interest in a genre that I _had_ enjoyed ... and now enjoy again.

Blogger John Wright February 18, 2016 11:48 AM  

I would have trouble editing George RR Martin's books. Most of the comments here mock him, but he is an exquisitely skilled writer, a consummate writer. His writing is a little dark for me, but reread the opening prologue of GAME OF THRONES: the text establishes a fullfledged three dimensional character, a man who is realistic yet sympathetic, and who is snuffed out as a redshirt a few paragraphs later to show you how the monster works -- and it comes as a surprise because usually the redshirts are not given a backstory. What in other hands would have been a boring B-movie horror scene in Martin's is a masterful, and even moving, establishing scene.

Now, to be frank, I have not read his last two volumes, and I may never, because he has killed off too many likable characters and is taking too long to get anywhere: but once the series is done, and I know it reaches a satisfying conclusion, I may revisit that decision.

So Mr. Martin may be suffering from the victory disease, where some of his discipline lapses due to his popularity. Or he may be, as I am, an exuberant writer who likes his digressions.

Blogger Dexter February 18, 2016 12:00 PM  

if you read for grammar rather than story, you are doing it wrong.

Nah. Bad grammar jars the reader right out of the story.

Anonymous VFM #6306 February 18, 2016 12:00 PM  

Martin can't write football, though. Run to Starlight portrays a sport he allegedly enjoys very much with atrocious, game-breaking principles and preposterous game outcomes. Even in 1974 or whatever, outside speed absolutely trounced a massive but plodding attack. The slow but superstrong aliens would have been slaughtered by a Tarkenton, much more by a Don Coryell approach. The old school Packers of the 60s would have outrun the bastards to the gap.

His satirical "The Last Super Bowl" is funny and well-written, but scatterbrained in its prediction that computer generated sports would kill the live version. The truth is way more interesting of an SF concept than his otherwise funny tragic-comic satire is.

Anonymous VFM #6306 February 18, 2016 12:06 PM  

Nah. Bad grammar jars the reader right out of the story.

People say this, but...

Twilight has been read by hundreds of millions of people. Never once heard one of those readers say that grammar jarred them out. Those who hated it hated the shallowness of story and characters. Those who loved it never even notice that the grammar is junk...absolute junk!

Grammar matters to me on principle. I think at the margins, it may help retain an odd grammar-sensitive reader or two, it may prevent an easy-out for a hostile reviewer so they can't play the grammar card and stop reading, and using good grammar never hurt anything...so I do it.

But I've never known a good writer whose bad grammar wasn't overlooked almost entirely by their readership.

If it is important, it certainly is way down on the priority list.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 12:09 PM  

Now, to be frank, I have not read his last two volumes, and I may never, because he has killed off too many likable characters and is taking too long to get anywhere: but once the series is done, and I know it reaches a satisfying conclusion, I may revisit that decision.

You cannot judge the last two volumes by the first three. The first three were very good, although in retrospect the signs were there. The fourth was mediocre. The fifth was nigh unbearable.

Nah. Bad grammar jars the reader right out of the story.

Are you always this ludicrously solipsistic? Or are you simply unaware that tens of millions of people clearly had no objection to the grammar in books like 50 Shades of Grey? The fact that it jars you out of the story does not mean it will have the same impact on everyone.

Blogger lowercaseb February 18, 2016 12:13 PM  

>mainstream publishing houses have become overly
>obsessed with style and ideology at the expense
>of story, characters, and ideas.

THIS! This simple sentence needs to be shouted from the mountaintops!

Anonymous Dedicating Ruckus February 18, 2016 12:17 PM  

Reading fanfiction as a hobby, I have become something of a connoisseur of bad grammar. (And I suspect I am more sensitive to it than most; some quirk of my brain both reliably prevents me from making grammatical errors in my own writing, and makes those of others stand out as if in lights.) My experience is mostly as follows: An engaging story, and prose that is competent at the paragraph level, can make bad grammar disappear into the background. But if either of the above factors are merely acceptable, grammatical errors can tip the balance from "immersed, barely" to "book flying across the room". (Usually metaphorically, since usually prose of this quality is published only online.)

Also, for what it may be worth, I read Twilight and found it stupid and boring, but not notably ungrammatical. Perhaps a closer reading might find worse problems, though I suspect paying such close attention to the prose might damage my brain.

Anonymous BGKB February 18, 2016 12:19 PM  

I wonder if any rape scenes got edited out of GRRM's writing instead of people being nice to each other.

Blogger Rabbi B February 18, 2016 12:25 PM  

@40 and @44

You see. Just consider the character of these two men who can objectively judge and even express sincere admiration for another man's work on it's merits, though they may not admire any number of things in the man's character or nor share the same values.

Just exemplifies and highlights what makes JCW and VD such great people. Bravo. Your examples are a refreshing inspiration, commendable and worthy of imitation.

Blogger Student in Blue February 18, 2016 12:36 PM  

@VFM #6306

If it is important, it certainly is way down on the priority list.

Exactly. I'd rather read, and have read, Filipinos who have atrocious grammar, but the story's entertaining and it's not nearly as poisoned with feminism as most better-grammar Westerners.

Characters are important. Story is even more important. Grammar is just icing.

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 18, 2016 12:46 PM  

It's also good to remember that writers don't always WANT to use good grammar. Writing language that sounds natural doesn't necessarily mean focusing on your whos and whoms. Writing language that sounds lyrical has even less to do with proper grammar.

And dialogue has nothing at all to do with it per se but rather the speaking style of the characters.

Anonymous Mr. Rational February 18, 2016 12:51 PM  

Dexter wrote:Bad grammar jars the reader right out of the story.

Grammar, punctuation, all those things convey meaning with less effort.  If I have to stop and back up to try to figure out what the author meant, I am instantly out of the story.  I can't speak for Twilight readers, but I have seen what looked like a self-published SF book on the shelf at a small local chain, read the first two pages and put it back down again because the grammar and spelling were so awful.

The sad part is that the author probably could have gotten free cleanup from English students at the local college.

@50 A character's words and thoughts are different from the rest of the prose.

lowercaseb wrote:>mainstream publishing houses have become overly

>obsessed with style and ideology at the expense

>of story, characters, and ideas.

THIS! This simple sentence needs to be shouted from the mountaintops!


If I could write fiction worth a damn, I've got a plot idea that is so opposite to the current SJ paradigm that it would cause strokes at 50 paces.  I would love to see it in print even if someone else has to put flesh on the bones.

Anonymous Bz February 18, 2016 12:57 PM  

The first three volumes were quite good, a shot in the arm for epic fantasy at a point when it needed it, but the most recent two were numbing to read. The literary equivalent of circling the airport. I'm not sure I'll even continue reading the series at this point; it might be enough to recap the TV show to get the spoilers.

Also, it seemed fairly clear after reading vol 1 that the three main events (civil war, dragons invade, zombies invade) should get one book each, forming a trilogy. It was not to be.

Anonymous Bz February 18, 2016 1:06 PM  

Regarding grammar, I shall diplomatically sympathize with all sides. Breaking the rules inadvertently just seems amateurish and sloppy, up with which I will not put. On the other hand, editing out every trace of poor grammar can make the prose awfully leaden. I'm quite inclined to forgive if the author has shown he knows what he's doing. (Not to mention some famous examples that make a point of language like Feersum Endjinn or Ridley Walker or A Clockwork Orange.)

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr February 18, 2016 1:12 PM  

Mr. Rational:


"If I could write fiction worth a damn, I've got a plot idea that is so opposite to the current SJ paradigm that it would cause strokes at 50 paces"

Then you must write it! At least try! I'm trying fiction myself, which is something I have no experience in whatsoever.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr February 18, 2016 1:18 PM  

I will say that Mr. Wright's vocabulary is the most extensive I've ever seen - and I was raised reading Doc Smith's works. His phrasing is often exquisite. But I can understand Vox seeing a need to edit, for no other reason than to keep the plot moving.

Blogger dc.sunsets February 18, 2016 1:19 PM  

because he has killed off too many likable characters and is taking too long to get anywhere:

I read for entertainment and to some degree edification. If I want to peruse tragedy I turn on the News. It's wall-to-wall.

I viscerally detest authors who work hard to get a reader emotionally invested in a character only to murder that character as a means of cheap manipulation.

It is far, far superior when an author can evoke that kind of deep emotion via timing or incomplete information, eventually settled. My poster child for this is The Forever War, when Mandella is handed his military records and a 200 year old handwritten note falls from the folder.

If that scene doesn't rip you up, you're not human.

But Haldeman didn't spend 200 out of 203 pages setting you up just to rip your heart out.

That's a story.

Blogger VD February 18, 2016 1:26 PM  

If I could write fiction worth a damn, I've got a plot idea that is so opposite to the current SJ paradigm that it would cause strokes at 50 paces. I would love to see it in print even if someone else has to put flesh on the bones.

So if I write it, we can split the profits?

Blogger Student in Blue February 18, 2016 1:28 PM  

I viscerally detest authors who work hard to get a reader emotionally invested in a character only to murder that character as a means of cheap manipulation.

It's relatively easy to read author intent when you're practiced in it. If an author is just setting you up for cheap manipulation, it's very easy to guess who's going to die in a horribly tragic way, and the manipulation falls flat. If the author is telling a story and tragedy is a byproduct of that, you get a vague notion but it's not so easy to pin what's going to happen.

Blogger John Wright February 18, 2016 1:42 PM  

"If an author is just setting you up for cheap manipulation, it's very easy to guess who's going to die in a horribly tragic way, and the manipulation falls flat."

Just so we are clear on this point: when George RR Martin does it, you do not see it coming, and it does not fall flat. I, for one, did not see the 'Red Wedding' coming, but in hindsight the politics and human passions involved made sense.

Mr.Martin's manipulation is not cheap, but masterful.

I hope no one find fault with me for preferring his earlier science fiction works to his famous fantasy work, particularly those set in his " "The Thousand Worlds" future history. (Dying of the Light, With Morning Comes Mistfall, The Way of Cross and Dragon, A Song for Lya, and the Tuf Voyaging)

Anonymous Holmwood February 18, 2016 2:23 PM  

"I hope no one find fault with me for preferring his earlier science fiction works"

I was quite young, but enjoyed his Wild Card anthologies. (I've not since revisted them). He was talented then; his time in Hollywood strengthened his ability to write dialog.

Ultimately, I have to shy away since Mr. Martin's work is too consistently nihilistic and the last volume in particular didn't live up to the promise of the previous ones.

I would agree his writing can rise to the level of masterful.

Blogger Mr. B.A.D. February 18, 2016 3:03 PM  

Maybe John should finish The Arts of Dark and Light...

Blogger Mr. B.A.D. February 18, 2016 3:03 PM  

Maybe John should finish The Arts of Dark and Light...

Anonymous Emperor of Icecream February 18, 2016 3:21 PM  

*22. OpenID malcolmthecynic February 18, 2016 9:29 AM
Mr. Wright's normal level of output is "good" to "very good". But on occasion he can dip deep into the creative well and pull out something transcendent. "Awake in the Night Land" was that book. And "Pale Realms of Shade" comes shockingly close. That final scene contains some of my favorite imagery in all of fiction.
*

Amen, brother.


GRAMMATIK MACHT FREI!

Blogger BunE22 February 18, 2016 3:32 PM  

VD wrote:Nah. Bad grammar jars the reader right out of the story.

Are you always this ludicrously solipsistic? Or are you simply unaware that tens of millions of people clearly had no objection to the grammar in books like 50 Shades of Grey? The fact that it jars you out of the story does not mean it will have the same impact on everyone.


Do we want to hold up novel porn as an example of why bad grammar doesn't have the same impact on everyone? If people read it for the sex I don't imagine they even cared much about the story, let alone the grammar.

Personally, I am *occasionally* jarred out of a story by bad grammar, but then I don't read trashy bestsellers like Twilight or 50 Shades so that might be why.

Blogger BunE22 February 18, 2016 3:39 PM  

Personally, I am *occasionally* jarred out of a story

I should clarify that. Occasionally isn't the best description, seldom or rarely are better choices.

Blogger stareatgoatsies February 18, 2016 4:08 PM  

> Just so we are clear on this point: when George RR Martin does it, you do not see it coming, and it does not fall flat.

It was masterful. As I was reading the chapter, I went from suspiciously altert to concerned to having to suppress this little growing ball of terror as I frantically read on... One of the very few times I've been caught up enough in a book to speak outloud - 'no.. no.. no'.

Question for Mr. Wright (big big fan of The Golden Oecumene): Have you read any of RS Bakker's work? Opinions if so? He's a bit too rapey for some folk, and his plotting is suspect but I enjoy well-written horror-tinged fantasy, and I'll hang around to the bitter end if the set pieces are good enough.

Cheers.

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 18, 2016 4:23 PM  

My story of editing Mr. Wright: He has a short story in an upcoming anthology I edited, "God, Robot". I read the story and literally had nothing to change.

I showed it to a proofreader who made comments about basically every story. His only commentary on Mr. Wright's?

"That was brilliant."

That was his whole comment.

Vox isn't kidding.

OpenID malcolmthecynic February 18, 2016 4:40 PM  

(Okay, I'm lying. I did ask him to add a couple of lines to fit it into our overall continuity better. It had absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the story itself.)

Blogger SciVo February 18, 2016 7:19 PM  

Mr. Rational wrote:If I could write fiction worth a damn

If you like roleplaying games at all, join a play-by-post somewhere such as the Paizo forums. They typically require a commitment of at least one post a day. After writing a paragraph or three (or more -- sometimes much more) every day for a year or two, you should be competent to begin writing your story. Start practicing now and you could be done with the real thing by, say, 2020. Just a thought.

Anonymous Mr. Rational February 18, 2016 7:52 PM  

@57 Maybe Wright, and you should be the editor... then again, the notion may be too hot for Wright to touch.  I've got to work out the orbital mechanics and physics first, Andy Weir-style.  I've got an unrelated analysis I need to finish and I've been distracted by small stuff.

The funny part is that the most offensive, most triggering bits of verbiage would be pulled straight out of the mouths of actual beloved-by-progressives people here in the USA, from the streets of Philly to Obozo himself.

Blogger GK Chesterton February 18, 2016 10:03 PM  

Martin is a talented writer. Even the last few books have good stories _in_ them. The problem is after all these years caring is difficult since he hates people that are good. He can't imagine that good might prevail. And I'm not sure why since it _often_ does.

Every day traffic lights prove this. If we had people at the level of what is in ASoIaF we couldn't even go through an intersection safely.

Anonymous Dyskord February 19, 2016 6:32 AM  

Im a fan VD but saying ASOIAF should be edited more, that Dance should be 700 pages less is blasphemy. It should have been a 1000 pages longer. I may not agree with Martin's politics or views but the man is a brilliant writer and I am an ASOIAF fanboy.

Blogger B.J. February 19, 2016 1:11 PM  

VD is correct about GRRM's work; Martin gained Protection From Editors long ago and has suffered for it. But at the same time you can't polish a turd.

If you read Martin's earlier work, the two recurring themes are 'War is Bad' and a general dislike of traditional heroes. Traditional heroes and war sell; but obnoxious, pretentious, sanctimonious drivel does not, so his stories languished in obscurity.

What happened with Game of Thrones is GRRM accidentally wrote a Shakespearean tragedy without realizing it. He thought he was subverting romance tropes, but he was actually closely following formulaic tragedy. Ned Stark is a classic tragic figure; a great man whose hubris and hamartia inexorably lead him to his doom. Tragedy is almost as compelling as romance so the novel still resonates with people, but Martin clearly has no clue as to why. He thinks it was because of "ZOMG SHOCKING DEATH!!" and the underlying message of war is bad and warmongers never prosper.

The books are really a lost cause at this point. Too many side plots, too much self-indulgent meandering, too many pages about food. Just read the first book and pretend the rest do not exist.

Blogger JaimeInTexas February 19, 2016 1:40 PM  

@65. BunE22 February 18, 2016 3:39 PM

"Personally, I am *occasionally* jarred out of a story"

I was going to suggest for you to personalize the statement but beat me to the punch.

It seems to me that it does prove, to a point, the importance of grammar in conveying proper meaning.

But I am somehat of a nazi grammer.

Blogger JaimeInTexas February 19, 2016 1:42 PM  

What happened to my grin at the end of my post?

Here it is (GRIN)

I do know where my grammar sin is, BTW.

Blogger John Wright February 19, 2016 1:48 PM  

"Question for Mr. Wright: Have you read any of RS Bakker's work?"

I have not had that pleasure, no. I have not read anything by the gentleman.

Blogger Kathryn Cramer February 22, 2016 10:02 AM  

Hi. Yes, actually, David did go over manuscrits himself and mark them up. While he shared some of this responsibility with more junior editors working under him, he was a very productive editor who did most of this himself. His approach to editing varied widely by author, and the extent to which he did or did not make editorial changes was based on whether he felt the changes would affect the outcome of publishing the book. He enjoyed working with JCW and together we counted John & Jagi as friends.

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