PDA

View Full Version : A question for agents/editors about italicized inner dialogue



Katana
03-13-2013, 06:19 AM
I have a few questions for any agents and/or editors who might happen by:

How do you feel about italicized inner dialogue (IID) in a submitted manuscript? I recently had a retired professional editor and writing consultant look at my manuscript, and she said not to italicize this. I mentioned that I did this because I not only find it easier to read, but that it gives a clearer understanding of what's what. Well, the retired consultant went off on me, saying (I'm paraphrasing here) that it's NOT a book, it's a manuscript, that I'm not the one printing it, that lazy, poor writers do this, also adding that if I wasn't going to take her advice, I could go elsewhere. Ouch. Yes, it's probably more professional to not do it, but if it's now perfectly acceptable, and if it suits my writing style, then is there a reason not do it?

She also criticized that my internal thoughts are in first person present tense, but the narration is in third. This one I don't get at all, as I've seen this done in countless books, with much of the inner dialogue in present tense, regardless of the POV or tense of the narration. I'm now afraid to ask her for clarification, because she's quite prickly.

So...have times changed from when this consultant was in business, with IID now accepted in formatting? Is fiction writing less formal in general than it was ten or twenty years ago? In other words, is a person's 'voice' and a looser writing style now taken into consideration more than it was a decade or two ago? Thank you for any assistance you can provide. :)

katci13
03-13-2013, 06:37 AM
Not an agent or editor, but as someone who has read a ton of books, it doesn't sound like this person knows what they're talking about. Italicized internal thoughts are very common. You already know this. And if you're POV is in 3rd person, of course the internal monologue would be in 1st person. Sane people don't talk to themselves in third person.

Do what you want. Do what fits the story. Italicize internal dialogue is not standing in the way of your book getting published.

Don't get confused. There's nothing to get confused about. The confusion is coming from you already knowing the answer to your question yet trying to respect the "professional" and their opinion.

There are no rules in writing. (Outside of basic grammar rules of course.) ^_^

LillyPu
03-13-2013, 07:12 AM
Looks like you're between a rock and a hard place. Did you hire this editor? You're paying her? She probably has a lot of really good advice from years of experience. Follow that.

And yes, it's a manuscript. Until it's published. Then it's called a book -- and so it goes. But times have changed. Take her good advice and use it to your benefit. I'll bet she has a lot more good advice than bad; things she's unwilling to bend on (internal dialogue in italics, 1st person). Anything you doubt, secretly Google--so as not to rile her.

Katana
03-13-2013, 07:25 AM
Thank you for your response, katci13, and you're right, italicized thoughts are very common in printed books, but the consultant seems to be making some kind of distinction between the manuscript and the printed result, and I don't follow her reasoning. Either you can do it, or you can't.

As for internal thoughts and POV, she writes that first person, present tense thought would be ok, if the whole thing was in first person, but Iím writing in third, so I'm doing it wrong...which makes my head spin. I don't understand where she's coming from on this.

The consultant is a respected go-to on another site, and states that she was an up-to-$150 an hour professional editor, offering fee-based services and mentoring, though she does for free now in her retirement. Some of her advice to me has been spot on, but the above has me scratching my head, as it doesn't seem logical.

If I follow my gut and not take all of her advice, she isn't likely to continue to offer that advice, so I'm sure going to have to tread carefully for the moment.

Katana
03-13-2013, 07:51 AM
Hi, LillyPu, I spotted your reply as I was posting the above. I didn't hire her, as she does offer free advice, but doesn't seem to like it if you don't take all of her advice. Some of which is quite archaic, as she isn't up on email query format, and suggested that a query should only be a single paragraph, just for example. I thought that it can be as long as three or four, and between 250-300 words.

I guess if she at least points me in the right direction, that's all I can ask for. Much obliged. :)

wishflower
03-13-2013, 07:59 AM
How would she know if you didn't follow all of her advice before querying your manuscript? I'd thank her very politely, take the good, leave the bad, and send it off.

Katana
03-13-2013, 08:22 AM
How would she know if you didn't follow all of her advice before querying your manuscript? I'd thank her very politely, take the good, leave the bad, and send it off.

She wants me to respond to all of her critiques and suggestions within the manuscript, so she would see how (and if) I was following her advice. Since I'm keeping the italicized thought, this is could be a short relationship!

Old Hack
03-13-2013, 11:49 AM
If she really were an editor of many years' standing she'd know that an editor's suggestions are only suggestions, and that the author gets the final say on whether or not any of those editorial suggestions are implimented.

Also, she's talking nonsense.

Listen to her good advice and ignore the rest, and be wary of her. Good editors don't attempt to control authors in the way she's trying to control you.

And for what it's worth, I charge more than $150 an hour.

bearilou
03-13-2013, 04:19 PM
I'm just floored that she's being so heavy handed about it. 'Either take all my advice or I'll stop'?

:Jaw:

Stacia Kane
03-13-2013, 04:31 PM
I have a few questions for any agents and/or editors who might happen by:

How do you feel about italicized inner dialogue (IID) in a submitted manuscript? I recently had a retired professional editor and writing consultant look at my manuscript, and she said not to italicize this. I mentioned that I did this because I not only find it easier to read, but that it gives a clearer understanding of what's what. Well, the retired consultant went off on me, saying (I'm paraphrasing here) that it's NOT a book, it's a manuscript, that I'm not the one printing it, that lazy, poor writers do this, also adding that if I wasn't going to take her advice, I could go elsewhere.

I'm going to address her tone later, but is it possible that you're overusing the italics?

I write in a tight third. Almost all of my exposition is the MC's thoughts, but I very, very rarely italicize; only when she's directly talking to herself. I'd say you might find itals like that once every ten chapters or so; it's just not something I do a lot, and most if not all of the books I read also use it very rarely. It can be jarring and/or annoying to find itals all over the place.

So it's worth considering if the problem isn't the italics so much as that you're using them as a crutch instead of deepening your POV.



And if you're POV is in 3rd person, of course the internal monologue would be in 1st person. Sane people don't talk to themselves in third person.


I do, all the time. "Geez, dumbass, what were you thinking?" or "Make sure you do this or that tomorrow."



She wants me to respond to all of her critiques and suggestions within the manuscript, so she would see how (and if) I was following her advice. Since I'm keeping the italicized thought, this is could be a short relationship!

As OH says:


If she really were an editor of many years' standing she'd know that an editor's suggestions are only suggestions, and that the author gets the final say on whether or not any of those editorial suggestions are implimented.

Also, she's talking nonsense.

Listen to her good advice and ignore the rest, and be wary of her. Good editors don't attempt to control authors in the way she's trying to control you.




Thank her for her time and thoughts, and end the relationship. She has absolutely no business being rude to you or insisting you let her double-check your work to make sure you're following her Perfect Advice. It's rude and it's controlling, and your book is not HERS. (Never mind that nonsense about how it's not a book it's just a mss or whatever the hell she thinks she's saying there, which sounds to me like a deliberate attempt to make you feel inferior.)

Whatever good advice this woman may have is lost in attitude, and I'd get out of there fast.

Again, it's definitely worth checking the mss to see just how much of it is italicized inner thought, but if you want to write a whole book that way it's your business and not her place to tell you you're not allowed to. She can tell you no one will want to buy it--which is likely true--but that still doesn't make her your Mommy who has to check behind your ears before you're allowed to go outside and play.

I'd love to know this woman's name, if you care to PM or reppie me with it. She sounds like someone I'm vaguely familiar with.

Old Hack
03-13-2013, 04:55 PM
I'd love to know this woman's name, if you care to PM or reppie me with it. She sounds like someone I'm vaguely familiar with.

It wasn't me, honest.

Stacia Kane
03-13-2013, 05:06 PM
It wasn't me, honest.


LIAR.

;)

KVL
03-13-2013, 05:30 PM
She wants me to respond to all of her critiques and suggestions within the manuscript, so she would see how (and if) I was following her advice. Since I'm keeping the italicized thought, this is could be a short relationship!

I knew someone who sounds quite similar to the woman you're talking about. If/when you do decide to part ways, beware of potential lashing out. I was involved with someone similar a few years ago and I think one of her last lines to me was "You'll never be published."

EMaree
03-13-2013, 05:57 PM
"Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/180467.Self_Editing_for_Fiction_Writers), which I'm reading just now, advises against using italicized inner monologue or thoughts, and offers a few alternatives (e.g. using plain old non-italicized font, or tagging it sparingly with 'she/he thought'). Maybe this editor is a fan of that guide.

Their reasoning is that long stretches of italics are irritating to read and take the reader out of the story.

Agreed that the editor's attitude sounds awful, though, and she shouldn't be forcing you to change it.

I prefer not to italicize inner monologues, but it's just a style choice. I have no problem with italicized thoughts in third person stories, though I do slightly prefer close third person where italics aren't used (Stephen King comes to mind).

Susan Littlefield
03-13-2013, 06:36 PM
Self Editing For Fiction Writers is an excellent guide to editing your own work. Overuse of italics is darned annoying. Used sparingly and properly, the italicized passages are practically invisible.

Also, what Stacia and Old Hack said.

Man, that editor does have a horrible attitude, and she sounds very controlling and like she thinks she's Ms. Golden Freelance Editor. It's situations like this where take what you like and leave the rest, bye, bye works best.

katci13
03-13-2013, 08:00 PM
I do, all the time. "Geez, dumbass, what were you thinking?" or "Make sure you do this or that tomorrow."


Well, I may be a tad guilty of doing this. Lol! Actually now that you bring it up, if my character is beating themselves up, they'll think, "What were you thinking?" or something like that. That's so funny.

It's weird the things that never cross our minds until someone else brings it up.

Roger J Carlson
03-13-2013, 08:22 PM
Sane people don't talk to themselves in third person.



I do, all the time. "Geez, dumbass, what were you thinking?" or "Make sure you do this or that tomorrow."I think you missed the qualifier. :D

Roger J Carlson
03-13-2013, 08:23 PM
It wasn't me, honest....says the kitten firing the rifle.

Stacia Kane
03-13-2013, 08:25 PM
I think you missed the qualifier. :D


Ha, I was wondering when someone would mention that. :D

Siri Kirpal
03-13-2013, 09:48 PM
Sat Nam! (literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

I've got a top NY editor who I pay well. And she asked me to ADD italics. So, I think your editor is both heavy-handed and wrong.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal

Nawlins
03-13-2013, 09:48 PM
Forgive me for butting in, but I'm so confused now. I'm not sure how to handle a situation in which the MMC reacts to what he is told and the reader gets into his head, so to speak.

EX:
"No one has ever shown any interest in that old diary. Lucy seemed curious, so I gave it to her. "

Lucy. Of course she'd have found a way to get her hands on it -- but not for long. "Glad you found a home for it," he said. "Now to get rid of the rest of this." He picked up an old, tarnished mirror. "Why do you keep this junk?"

Personally, I don't care for books where sentences like the ones beginning 'Lucy' and 'Of course' are intalicized, but I will go back and put them all into italics if that is the preferred method.

Is it?

willietheshakes
03-13-2013, 10:16 PM
One factor could be the nature of italics themselves.

It's easy, using a word processor, to italicize, but italics, in and of themselves, are hard to read/differentiate from non-italicized text.

In manuscripts, I don't italicize - I underscore, which indicates italics (for the finished product). This might be where the distinction between manuscript and book is important.

Or not. What do I know.

JessH
03-14-2013, 12:00 AM
Wow - she sounds harsh. Not sure how correct she is, though, as IID is something we see regularly. I agree with Old Hack and Stacia. You're paying her for professional advice, not to belittle you.

Axordil
03-14-2013, 12:44 AM
Doesn't the "no italics in manuscripts" rule go back to the days of typewriters?

Anything beyond basic typography is better reserved for the actual book, although as Susan pointed out above, in *small* doses italics are pretty inoffensive. Big blocks of anything other than the standard text in the standard font you're using are probably not a good idea. This was gently pointed out by the person who eventually became my agent.

The only person in the whole fiction supply chain indispensable to your story is you. Find someone who doesn't think they're the second coming of Maxwell Perkins.

kaitie
03-14-2013, 12:56 AM
I don't know...I've seen plenty of writers abuse the thought-italics. I personally think that's the sort of thing that shouldn't be used more than a couple of times in a manuscript. Most of the time it's not necessary, and I can see what she means about it being a lazy writer technique. In my opinion, you should generally be able to tell that it's the character's thought without the italics (sometimes they're necessary), and adding the italics is, in a way, like a person adding "she said angrily" to a bit of dialogue.

I can't say if that's what she's referring to, just that I've seen a lot of writers overuse italics and/or "he thought" phrases.

Katana
03-14-2013, 05:03 AM
I appreciate the conversation that's taken place here. It's been interesting and informative. I just wanted to make clear that I didn't pay the retired consultant. This lady offers mentoring for free, and charges a fee if you need extensive help. So, no, it didn't cost me anything for her to offer her comments on the few pages I sent her. Maybe the reason she's so cranky is that her undies are too tight. :D

And I don't feel I overuse italicized thoughts, just one or two lines, once or twice a scene, if at all. I italicize to avoid the 'he thought' style of tags that are unnecessary clutter and add to word count. I also like the closeness to the POV character that it gives, while making it obvious that it's not part of the narration.

I'll let a future agent / editor decide whether or not the IID stays. And I hope that they don't reject because it its presence.

victoriastrauss
03-14-2013, 05:40 AM
Personally, I don't care for books where sentences like the ones beginning 'Lucy' and 'Of course' are intalicized, but I will go back and put them all into italics if that is the preferred method.

Is it?
God, no. You're describing the character's reactions/thoughts here--this is your authorial voice, not the character's own inner dialog. You'll drive readers nuts if you put this kind of thing into italics.

Quoting Stacia, because this is what I do too:

I write in a tight third. Almost all of my exposition is the MC's thoughts, but I very, very rarely italicize; only when she's directly talking to herself.I think a distinction can be made between more literary fiction--which less typically uses italics, even where the character is talking directly to him/herself--and popular fiction, where italics are more common. I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way to do this (other than over-using italics)--it should be your own stylistic choice.

- Victoria

Roger J Carlson
03-14-2013, 04:08 PM
--it should be your own stylistic choice.Well, that and the editor's who is buying it. :)

Donna Pudick
03-15-2013, 12:47 AM
Internalized thoughts are not expressed out loud, so italic is fine. If a person talks to himself out loud, no italic and use quotation marks. I personally don't like a lot of italic in any manuscript. I find it hard to read. I'd rather let the pub-co editor or designer make that call.

Nawlins
03-15-2013, 09:49 AM
God, no. You're describing the character's reactions/thoughts here--this is your authorial voice, not the character's own inner dialog. You'll drive readers nuts if you put this kind of thing into italics.

Quoting Stacia, because this is what I do too:
I think a distinction can be made between more literary fiction--which less typically uses italics, even where the character is talking directly to him/herself--and popular fiction, where italics are more common. I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way to do this (other than over-using italics)--it should be your own stylistic choice.

- Victoria

Thank you! I am finishing my first draft, so at this point I'm just writing it the way that feels natural to me. I figure I will have lots of rewrites to get the particulars down.

ironmikezero
03-16-2013, 12:36 AM
One factor could be the nature of italics themselves.

It's easy, using a word processor, to italicize, but italics, in and of themselves, are hard to read/differentiate from non-italicized text.

In manuscripts, I don't italicize - I underscore, which indicates italics (for the finished product). This might be where the distinction between manuscript and book is important.

Or not. What do I know.


I agree... and underscore to indicate italics in the manuscript.

Lately, I've been hearing that this is no longer as popular a standard as it was when publishing meant solely print media. Perhaps I'm a bit old-school, so I'll follow the more established (and conservative?) standard.

As for too much italicized text, I may be somewhat guilty - especially in the scifi & fantasy genre. Entire telepathic conversations between characters are couched in italics (underlined in the MS). However, it works - for me anyway - so I'll just call it style and keep writing...;)

Debbie V
03-18-2013, 10:52 PM
[QUOTE=ironmikezero;8047403
As for too much italicized text, I may be somewhat guilty - especially in the scifi & fantasy genre. Entire telepathic conversations between characters are couched in italics (underlined in the MS). However, it works - for me anyway - so I'll just call it style and keep writing...;)[/QUOTE]

I italicize this too, but I know the final book may use a different font of other means of visual to note thought conversation. I also have internal monolog in italics, but those are brief sentences and I make it clear the MC is thinking to himself. (Well, the critique group hasn't said it's not clear yet.)