Friday, June 28, 2013

Shaking Up The Writing World

I have a question to all those editor's out there...why is head-hopping okay in your view? Not to mention, telling, instead of showing? I question why this is acceptable? I don't mean to write a negative blog post, and that is not my intention, but this is a big problem. I would like to feel good about what books I read.

I haven't seen it too often from books with the big publishers, but from the smaller one's I see it all the time, and self-publishing more often than not. I know I have discussed these two subjects before, but I have recently read some books that this is the norm throughout the entire novel(s). 

I know that you can't always "show", but I would at least like to read a few scenes that aren't "telling". It takes away from the story, no matter how good it is. It also tells me the author needs to brush up on creative writing skills.

Now, I know nobody's perfect, but come on, I would think if they are publishing books they would know better. I know my editor, Susan, pointed out to us when we were "telling", do these other editor's just not care, or don't even realize it?

Yes, it can prove to be a pain because of all the rewriting they would need to do, but don't they want their book to be as close to the best as possible? I don't understand. 

And, the head-hopping! I lose track if their are too many characters as to who's POV I am reading now. Do they not have main characters anymore? It's supposed to be the main character's story. Not that you can't have other POV's, just separate them with scene breaks at least. 

It amazes me that some editor's think that anything goes. I think it ruins a potential good book. I know most readers don't know about these things, but I'm sure they can tell the difference between a well written book and one that sounds more like a laundry list. The story doesn't flow when you do these types of writing.

Okay, I had to vent, but I hate purchasing a book and find I can't even finish reading it. Or don't want to. There is so much potential for the story, and I want to write the author and tell them they need to fix their book(s). I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but it's bound to effect their sales eventually. 

If it's good, people are usually willing to pass it on, which creates more sales. Now that I've gotten that off my chest I feel better. I'm just curious, have any of you ran into this issue? Have you bought books and couldn't finish them because you found yourself skimming, instead of reading, and wanted to leave a bad review?

I understand your plight. I know all books won't be your cup of tea, as it were, but if you don't like a book because it's "telling", then you find yourself skimming, and that's not fun.

A book should be enjoyable. It should take you away to other worlds and you don't want to put it down. I'm sure there are plenty of my followers on here that aren't big Fantasy fiction fans, and that's okay, you don't have to read Fable, but you know that before you buy it. If you are a big fan of a certain genre and you purchase a book of that type, then you want to feel good about it, not wish that it was over.

Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts on this. And Susan, if you read this, I would love to hear your's especially. You are an editor, and you do follow the creative writing "rules", why do you think some editors don't? And I want to clarify, I'm not saying ALL editors.

Well, I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend! I have my granddaughter over today and I'm looking forward to a fun day filled with swimming and going out to lunch!

Love, Lisa


  1. I can't think of a reason why head hopping would be OK. I really can't. It just leads to reader confusion.

    Now telling instead of showing. Well, as I am reading the Harry Potter books right now (again; light and fun summer reading), I can tell you there is so much telling in those books it's ridiculous. But, it in no way detracts from the reading experience. Now, J.K. Rowling, bless her heart, is not the best writer in the world. She's pretty average when it comes to writing quality. But she's a world-class storyteller and world-builder, and that's why it works. In the hands of a great storyteller, telling works just fine. I think you'll find it more often in scene transitions than anywhere else, though. Obviously you don't want to detail every little thing, so you tell to move from one location to another or to introduce the next chapter (otherwise the reader won't know how the characters got from A to B, or why for that matter).

    When it's over used? I honestly don't know what to tell you. I've never seen it. But then, I haven't read too many self-published books. I have too many traditionally published titles I still need to get through, I really haven't gotten around to it.

    But there's one thing I can say. Thrillers have a fair deal of telling because it helps with pacing, and thrillers are supposed to be fast-paced. Thus, an amateur might think, "why show this lengthy section when I can tell it instead?"

    That's my best guess, I don't really know. At any rate, it's my opinion that anything you know as a writing "rule" is a guideline. One of the things the masters often tell people is that once you know the rules, you're free to break them.

    Oh, and ask for people wanting to put the best work out there ... There is a line of thinking that when you get feedback that amounts to a massive rewrite, you ignore it. Because you shouldn't rewrite anything. That's a great way to edit your work down into a voiceless white paste. Instead, you internalize the feedback and use it to improve your future works.

    That's not to say you shouldn't tweak things here and there, and in my opinion, if it's bad enough. Redraft. That's where you just toss it all out save for your outline and write it again from scratch. Because people and their critical brains. Man. Critical analysis has no place in the writing of creative fiction. The critical brain is dull and uninspired.

    But that's just my opinion. :D

    1. I will have to relook at the Harry Potter books. I don't remember it being that bad in the telling. I know you can't always show, but you can show more often than some of the books I've read lately! I don't read many thrillers. I do read action packed historical fictions and mystery sometimes. Some are written professionally and some aren't.

      As far as ignoring critique, that's why their books suck! If they don't learn how to write properly, they shouldn't try to sell it!

    2. I never said they were bad in the telling. I just said there was a lot of telling. Whole paragraphs of it (3, 4, 5, and 6 of PoA Chapter 8, for example). But they work. Even if a few things could have been shown, you don't really feel like you missed out on much, and it moves the story along. Like all writing tools, it served its purpose well.

      And I worded the above very poorly regarding critique and re-writing. It's what happens when I make comments before I can think clearly for the day. But rather than launch into lengthy clarification that would not doubt mention Heinlein's Rules, I will simply point to an exceptionally well-written and insightful (albeit long) article on the topic that was written last year:

    3. Oh, well there is a difference too if your audience is YA. Kids don't have the patience to read long descriptions.I will read this article in the morning. I have to run and spend time with my granddaughter! Thanks for your insights!

  2. And there's a reason I love e-books. I don't ever buy something (save for the next entry in a well-enjoyed series) without reading the sample first. :)

    1. True, but sometimes I don't have the time to sit here on the computer and read and several of them that I've downloaded are writer friends. I don't kow how to say, man learn how to write already lol!

  3. Hi Lisa, I'm not quite sure as to the terms, "telling, and showing." I need some explanation on these two. How are the newly published authors doing? Blessings.

  4. Hi Johnny, We are doing great! I hope you are as well! Showing something through the character's eyes, is different that just telling what they are doing. For example: He entered the room and found that it was small and cramped. His things would not fit with the stored things left in here.
    He entered from the left of the hallway to a room filled with boxes, and old chest, two chairs and the musty smell of dust and dirt from years of neglect. He could walk across to the other side in five steps easy and knew the stored furniture and cartons of memories would have to be kept elsewhere for him to rent the space.

    This is about as good as it gets in short notice lol! I hope you get the idea. You can google show don't tell and it will give you several examples!

  5. Hey Lisa... your post is blaming *editors* for all these writers. But the editors didn't write these things, the writers did. And there's no guarantee these writers even *had* an editor. If they did, did they accept the things the editor told them to do or the edits the editor made?

    For instance, in our editing relationship, I suggested edits, but _it was up to you to accept them_. If you hadn't, I had nothing to say about it. You could have left multiple errors - like the POV head hopping you're complaining about (not that yours had any!) - and it wouldn't be my fault if I pointed them out and suggested they be changed.

    The editors who work for the big publishers make the edits, and authors only received a LOCKED document back for review, without the option of making any changes at all. Whatever their editor did, they are forced to accept it unless they kick and scream very loudly and for a long time. :)

    So please, don't blame the editors. :)


    1. That's provided the books even had any copy editing done. From what I've heard from some major authors, these days that's often not the case with the large houses. Never mind all the horror stories about terrible copy edits (introducing more errors than they fix).

      Also, as a rather amusing anecdote: I work as a clerk in an insurance office, and one of our clients some years back was trying to get insurance for her publishing company. Due to some lawsuits the companies had been tangled up in at one time or another, lawsuits from authors whose works their editors altered against their wishes, none of our markets were interested in insuring a publishing venture of any kind.

  6. Oh, well I do blame the writers, too, but I would think the editors for publishers would want to make sure that the book was "up to Par" as it were before publishing it. My bad, didn't realize that they have no say in the matter. But I did go to a mini-conference with Angela James, big time editor, and she said anything goes pretty much. I just figured that was all their train of thought nowadays! As far as self-editing, i do blame the writers for not taking the time to make it right, or hiring an editor before submitting their book for the public. It's obnoxious!

    I know ours was in that form, and I appreciated all your critiques, and took them to heart! Yes, there were a few places we didn't change because of emphasis, or the different way the Djen talked, but other than that we took the time and made all the changes. We wanted our book to be a great read!

    1. If you have inside publishing info that contradicts my "hearsay" knowledge, then I definitely bow to your greater knowledge! :) And as for independent freelance editors, I hear many tales of woe from those who see a copy of the "finished" work and find many of their edits weren't implemented.

      Whoever is to blame, though, the goal should be the best possible book. I know that's what you and Toni strove for and what you encourage other writers to aim for. :)

    2. Exactly! We would like to see more writers take actual writing seriously, and work on their craft. Although I am still a work in progress too, I, at least try to learn and implement. No one is perfect, but we need to strive for the best!

    3. I think one of the biggest problems is that writers don't like listening to criticism and half of them don't seem to learn from it. They don't acknowledge that repeated errors are usually a sign that they are missing something fundamental. They'll continue head-hopping until they understand that it confuses the reader (especially when done in first person).

      Having said that, I realized one time head-hopping seems to be called for: omniscience. If the narrative is from an omniscient viewpoint, technically the narrator can pull from anyone's head. Personally, I think omniscient viewpoints are lazy, but that's just me. I suppose someone could make good use of it. I wouldn't recommend it to a novice, though.

    4. Yes, that is exactly what it's called and basically it is "playing God" with your characters. It is the way I originally wrote my rough draft, so because I didn't know any better, I figure that is what's happening with these writers. The best thing I ever did was hire a writing coach, I learned so much. I didn't know about these types of writing mistakes. The writer that write this way don't like to be told they are doing it wrong. Their ego interferes with their sense. No one likes to be told they have to do it all over again and that's where the lazy comes in. I really believe that no matter how skilled a writer you are, this never sounds good in a novel.

    5. I thought the Harry P's were quite good on showing...considering that the original target audience was from 9 and over....far wider age-group actually devoured them though !!!

    6. I agree Susan. Actually i read a chapter to my granddaughter the other night, and she did a great job showing, I thought. I know you have to have "telling" too, especially with a younger audience, but I didn't find that much. Thanks for the comment!