Buy books by AWers

If this site is helpful to you,
Please consider a voluntary subscription to defray ongoing expenses.


 

Welcome to the AbsoluteWrite Water Cooler! Please read The Newbie Guide To Absolute Write

Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: what does polished/unpolished look like?

  1. #1
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    The land from whence the shadows fall
    Posts
    896

    what does polished/unpolished look like?

    Just curious from those who might know (or are published).

    It feels insurmountably difficult to self-edit up to published standard, pre-submission. Do you think it's possible to do this on your own?

    one of the things I struggle with is not being able to gauge how much publishers/editors improve a MS, and what a "polished" submission looks like when acquired (as opposed to a publication ready novel).

    Hope that makes sense as a question.
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

  2. #2
    Rewriting My Destiny Cyia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Brillig in the slithy toves...
    Posts
    17,866
    Just make it as clean as you can get it. Get rid of every possible typo, but don't sweat the possibility that you might have misused a comma or dropped a word or two. I know MS word marks misspelled words, but run spell / grammar check anyway. DO NOT let it auto-correct; most of its suggestions for grammar are wrong. Just take the time and examine its suggestions. Read it out loud.

    Once you've done as much as you can, then send it. Agents are looking for clean, competent, and coherent. Hit that threshold, and you're good. The final polish comes from the agent and then the editor.

  3. #3
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,410
    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    It feels insurmountably difficult to self-edit up to published standard, pre-submission. Do you think it's possible to do this on your own?
    What kind of editing are you talking about?

    If you're talking about grammar and typos - yes, a publisher will generally have a copy editor who'll look for such things, but it's a really good idea to make sure you've handled as many of those as you can find. If there are too many, you risk the errors being such a distraction that an acquiring editor isn't going to have the patience. Fortunately, there are tools out there for this - even Word, for all its flaws, does a decent job of catching more egregious grammar and spelling errors.

    If you're talking about wordcraft, pacing, and narrative: yes, you need a publication-level manuscript. That doesn't mean an agent and/or editor won't have suggestions or changes, but you're much more likely to sell your work if you've shown you're capable of writing to a publishable standard.

    (IMHO, based on my personal experience, YMMV, etc. etc.)

  4. #4
    No, you're the grease monkey. Fruitbat's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Swinging from the tree tops
    Posts
    11,471
    I think it is very difficult to do it all on your own because when we write, what really goes on is an interplay of what we're actually putting on the page and what's in our minds. (Not sure where you're at on your journey, Harlequin but I'll say this is especially true for newer writers).

    Competition is fierce and those who submit rough work are likely to just lose their chance.

    Then you have to develop a whole new set of skills, (again, the general "you" here) knowing what to use or discard in critiques/beta reads. My process is make the changes I definitely agree with as I read the crit/beta read. And cross out the definite "no thanks" suggestions, too. That only leaves the "maybes" to deal with, maybe on a different day. But in the end, I don't make any changes I'm not sure about, even if I only use a small percentage of the suggestions offered.

    Another thing that helps me hugely is to have someone read it out loud to me. My reader and I usually stop in the same places, both feeling like something didn't sound quite right. I fix it as I go, with that in-person help. The ears catch what the eyes miss.

    One more thing, I don't think it's a substitute for getting other eyes on it but I swear, every damn time I actually print something out and read the paper rather than the screen, I find an error or two.

    Good luck!
    Last edited by Fruitbat; 07-27-2017 at 04:44 AM.
    Story Prompts That Work: 52 Detailed, Tested Story Starters for Short Stories and Flash Fiction (for Adults and Teens)
    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_n...mpts+that+work

    Writing Flash Fiction: How to Write Very Short Stories and Get Them Published
    http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Flash-...0670797&sr=1-1

    Coffee House Lies: 100 Cups of Flash Fiction:
    http://www.amazon.com/Coffee-House-L...fee+house+lies

    Blog: http://carlyberg.com/

  5. #5
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    The land from whence the shadows fall
    Posts
    896
    Heck, *I'm* not sure where I am on this journey :p when every pitstop is new, how do you gauge the end point?_?

    I guess technically out on submission (?) sans agent, although I anticipate both being rejections because I have a sense I'm not there yet.

    @liz and cyia, yeah more like pacing and narrative. However, everything can always be better, so I don't know what done "enough" looks like if that makes sense.

    I self aware.enough to acknowledge the gap in quality between the people I like reading and my own stuff ;p but also wish I could see how they read at submission stage. I suppose it doesn't matter much in the end.
    Last edited by Harlequin; 07-27-2017 at 04:59 AM.
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

  6. #6
    Whittling Away My Writer's Block D.L. Shepherd's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    269
    Quote Originally Posted by Fruitbat View Post

    One more thing, I don't think it's a substitute for getting other eyes on it but I swear, every damn time I actually print something out and read the paper rather than the screen, I find an error or two.

    Good luck!
    I find the same thing. I think my eyes get tired reading stuff on a screen, and I tend to miss more errors than if I print something out.

  7. #7
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,410
    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    @liz and cyia, yeah more like pacing and narrative. However, everything can always be better, so I don't know what done "enough" looks like if that makes sense.
    There's certainly a subjective element to this, because "enough" is high enough quality for someone to offer you money for it. And we've all read published novels that have made us think uh, what?? although our individual lists would probably not have a lot of overlap.

    It's one of those things that just takes time to develop, I think: becoming objective enough about your own work. You're never going to be really objective about it, but with enough practice, enough distance, enough reading of other books that you like and admire, you'll eventually get to the point where you can read your own words and catch most of what is and isn't serving the story you want to tell.

    Yes, outside opinions are also useful, but ultimately you've got to have a solid enough sense of what you're trying to accomplish to be able to pick and choose what you listen to from critics. If you're not clear enough about what you're trying to say, you may find yourself jerked back and forth between conflicting critiques with no real sense of where you want to go.

  8. #8
    Becoming a laptop-human hybrid Fuchsia Groan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    The windswept northern wastes
    Posts
    1,831
    I would always strive for clean copy (grammar, finding typos, etc.) and the very best ms. you can write by your own (and some trusted betas' or CPs') standards. But beyond that, try not to torture yourself about this.

    I edit for a living. I catch typos, use commas consistently, know my usage rules, all that stuff. I can produce mss. that are incredibly clean and presentable on a sentence or paragraph level but unreadable on an overall story level. Pacing is the demon I struggle with.

    Here's the thing: you would not believe how many stages of revision there are. A really good editor can push a book beyond anything you envisioned. If my goal were to write books so clean they didn't need any editing from anyone but me, I would invariably be horribly disappointed by the publishing process.

    When an editor offers on your book, they tend to write a letter full of lovely compliments. What a wonderful book! Your head gets swollen. Then, weeks or months later, you get the editor's notes, and suddenly there's SO much wrong with this wonderful book. Why did they even buy it? you wonder. It's an incredibly humbling moment.

    But you use the notes and keep revising. And the book gets better. And then a copyeditor comes and questions every single tiny thing that hasn't already been questioned. And then there's maybe another copyedit, and a page read, and more questions. And then someone writes a review tearing the book apart, and you're humbled yet again. And maybe years later you're reading your own printed book and still wishing you'd reworded this or that sentence.

    All this scrutiny and second-guessing does have a purpose. I've read books from small, understaffed presses that were painfully under-edited. Basic errors, inconsistencies, poor pacing not good things.

    My advice would be to get input from trusted readers on issues like pacing, and to proofread carefully, but not to imagine that you can really know what's "polished" or "publication-ready." Prose can be polished, in a relative sense easy and pleasant to read, etc. But readying a book for publication involves collaboration and the input of a team. All you can hope to do is make your book attractive enough for that team to want to get involved, then benefit from their wisdom.

    This is another way of saying that the entire process is humbling, at least in my limited experience, but also incredibly rewarding. If I self-published, I probably wouldn't hire an editor, because I know I can copyedit my own work. Using CPs for rigorous developmental input, I think I could produce a reasonably "polished," easy-reading book. But I would miss the input of that professional publication team really, really miss it. It takes things to a level I can't reach alone.

    ETA: I think I wrote a ton and didn't really answer your questions. Let me try:

    No, it's not possible to self-edit to "publishable standard," unless you're just talking about clean copy. "Publishable standard" is the product of an interaction between an individual book, author, agent (probably), and editor. Sub in a different editor, and it changes.

    A book that gets acquired is a book that was polished and readable enough to make a team of people want to read it all the way to the end. As far as I can tell, that's the only constant. People enjoyed reading it. People believe others will enjoy reading it. A book can be enticing in that way and still have pacing problems in certain areas, or characterization that needs to be worked out, or a whole ending that has to be rewritten according to that team, anyway. That doesn't mean you should give up on fixing such problems on your end, while you still can, just that you can't anticipate all the concerns that other people even huge fans of the book! will have.
    Last edited by Fuchsia Groan; 08-04-2017 at 03:28 AM.
    YA thriller The K1ller in M3, out now from D1sn3y-Hyper1on

    "Taut storytelling and believable characters make this a standout mystery" Publishers Weekly (starred review)

    Website | Twitter | Goodreads

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    The right earlobe of North America
    Posts
    35,435
    Rocker Bob Seger, one of the best wordsmiths among lyricists in the 1970s, has a great single line in his hit "Against the Wind":

    What to leave in, what to leave out

    Those are the things editors look for. Know those things, and you'll know the difference between polished and unpolished.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  10. #10
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    The land from whence the shadows fall
    Posts
    896
    Here's the thing: you would not believe how many stages of revision there are. A really good editor can push a book beyond anything you envisioned. If my goal were to write books so clean they didn't need any editing from anyone but me, I would invariably be horribly disappointed by the publishing process.
    Thanks Fuschia (and blacbird, and others; sorry to lump you all in!).

    Clarity of setting/world building/politics has always been and continues to be my biggest struggle in early chapters. I guess that's not too bad, since the biggest problem used to be character engagement (a killer for a MS), but it's nearly impossible to assess myself. I know all the answers, all the meta, so obviously it makes perfect sense to me.

    Betas help, but each beta is only good for one read in regards to clarity. Betas who've read all the way through no longer find the beginning a steep cliff, as I don't, cause they've lost the "fresh eyes" they had before. That means more and more and more betas are needed...

    One year, fifteen+ betas, and a dev editor later, I'm still chipping away at the clarity problems, while also simultaneously losing the will to live. On the plus side, the other two projects are much less of a headache and seem easier to gauge re being done.
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

  11. #11
    figuring it all out bin_b0x's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    51
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyia View Post
    Just make it as clean as you can get it. Get rid of every possible typo, but don't sweat the possibility that you might have misused a comma or dropped a word or two.
    That's a relief to read. I can't even guess the amount of panic attacks I've had with previous books upon discovering a single gap or misused word buried in a later chapter. These discoveries, of course, happened well after I'd sent them to agents.

  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Posts
    389
    One thing that helps me enormously is to play the text out loud to myself. I'm more likely to catch dropped words. Places where I used "of" instead of "on." Misspelled words that Word didn't catch. Awkward dialogue. Scenes that feel rushed and other places that drag and need to be cut. It feels like looking at the same thing through a different lens, but for me it's very helpful.

  13. #13
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    The land from whence the shadows fall
    Posts
    896
    In terms of technical quality I don't worry so much. I tend to write very clean first drafts and go from there.

    I guess when I talk about polished and unpolished, I mean things like--is there enough interior world, does the ending fall apart, is there enough clarity, is there enough engagement, do I have the right dialogue/narrative balance, etc etc.

    For spelling, grammar, and general craft I have no problem making it read smooth. But no amount of typo fixing can make a dead plot breathe, or a dull character pop.

    To be a little crude, my concern is that I can't always tell if I'm polishing a gem or polishing a turd.

    Does that makes sense?
    Deferential, glad to be of use,
    Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
    Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
    At times, indeed, almost ridiculous
    Almost, at times, the Fool.

  14. #14
    All the nopes. lizmonster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    3,410
    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    Does that makes sense?
    Yes, I think it does. And that's a hard one. I think there are two things that can help with this:

    a) time/distance
    b) other eyes

    The first one is really subjective, and will depend on both you and the work. I need to be away from something for a couple of months before I can read it with anything resembling objectivity. I don't always have that kind of time to give it, and I don't always want to, if I'm in work mode.

    The second is far more useful, but the key is in finding eyes that are useful to you. The best betas, IME, are people who get engaged with the story, and can explain coherently the places that shove them out of the narrative or make their interest flag. You can't always know if someone is a good beta for your book until they've finished it (and often neither can they).

    The most useful critiques I've had make me see the obvious, like a character reacting in an unrealistic way, a setting that's just an amorphous blob of backdrop, or a chapter that may be full of juicy stuff but doesn't move the story forward at all. But even with that, the beta's personal taste is always going to be your first hurdle. It's common for some people to dislike a story that others love and find beautifully written.

    It starts with you, though, and it's kind of a circular thing, I think. Revisions and edits can take a long time. If you've got the energy and desire to go through all of that, you've probably got something workable. But sometimes you have to put a lot of time into a piece before you realize that you just don't love it enough.

  15. #15
    I write weird stories. phantasy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Location
    The Moon
    Posts
    1,881
    Good thread. Going through this myself, atm. Though for me it's mostly the pacing and writing. I'm often trying to describe strange events and people find them confusing. It's really tough to be sure that I'm doing it right without extra eyes, and those eyes are hard to find.

    It's really frustrating because there's so many subjectivity between what's good writing and pacing. I'm also worried that even a clean MS won't get bites, because there's some mystical amount of experience you have must have for your prose to be consider decent, so there you go. You can only do your best, I guess.
    Last edited by phantasy; Yesterday at 10:29 PM.
    Looking for Betas for Speculative Fiction Betas 100k Adult Novel



Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Custom Search