No Matter What, You’ll Always Need an Editor

I’m currently on my third reread of the Harry Potter series. I came to the series late, my first readthrough being in 2014; and while I’m not a superfan, I love the series. It’s a great story across seven books, with wonderful characters and world-building. I also admire anyone who can write that much and have it all come together and make sense.

With the third reread, and thus the story well-settled into my memory, I’m starting to notice more little things in terms of style. And one thing I’ve noticed is that, around the time the series truly exploded — from what I recall, after Goblet of Fire was released — the tightness of the editing waned.

This struck me during Order of the Phoenix, which I’m almost done with. Now, it’s a good story, like all the rest. Its length isn’t a huge deterrent to me, though Harry doesn’t even arrive at Hogwarts until almost 200 pages in. It’s more the stylistic choices. A popular style choice in the book is to end every other sentence with ellipses. Almost everything Harry does or thinks trails off, especially after the halfway mark. It was okay the first 50 times, but after, oh, the fifth paragraph in a row with three sentences ending in ellipses, it starts to get irritating.

I won’t use this post to air all my style grievances with Order of the Phoenix (though seriously, the all caps yelling could also stand to take a chill pill). But as I noticed this sudden hard left turn from Book 4 to Book 5 — one that coincided with what I remember as the rise in the series’ popularity — I wondered if the series’ increased popularity, and J.K. Rowling’s subsequent increased clout, had the negative effect of the publisher taking a step back in terms of editing. Rowling’s books were immensely popular, and now that her work was proven — and rightfully so — perhaps there was less insistence to change or edit her work too much. But as I’m seeing in Order of the Phoenix, that isn’t always for the best.

I can’t say for sure that was the case for Books 5-7 in the Harry Potter series, since I wasn’t in the publisher’s office when the book was finished (though my Potter-loving friend said in response to my tweets about this, “No good editor would have let 400 fucking pages of idling in the damn woods stand. Also, the epigraph.”). But I can site a similar example that was in fact a documented case of a creator receiving little to no editorial interference: George Lucas and The Phantom Menace.

According to a book I just read and loved, Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery; George Lucas had earned the right (and money) to tell the studios that he wanted complete creative control over the return to the Star Wars universe. However, this led to a movie that many fans consider the worst in the series — it’s slow, the acting is wooden, it misses the forest for the trees in terms of lore, and the dialogue is god-awful. To the latter point, Lucas even admitted he wasn’t good at writing dialogue. And yet, he didn’t want assistance with dialogue — and the studios allowed him that freedom because of his clout.

I saw The Phantom Menace when I was 13. Even then, I knew what I was seeing was bad. George Lucas is a creative genius who has devised a modern legend that will live beyond any of us. That doesn’t mean he didn’t need an editor.

Everyone needs an editor, and yet almost no one wants to admit it. Editors are for amateurs, some think; or are deployed by anxious big-wigs who don’t trust their creators or anyone’s vision that’s different from theirs.

Yes, there may be publishers who overstep and edit to their expectations as opposed to the writer’s voice. But just because that happens, that doesn’t mean an author outgrows the need to be edited. It just means they need a better editor — one that respects them as a writer and wants to encourage their growth.

I know both the temptation to go at my work alone, and the sting of being told what parts of my creation need to be fixed. When I get my memo and edits back from Evelyn Duffy, I use them to learn and remember them as I write my next piece — and I’ll admit, I occasionally think, “Ha! I remembered to do [blank] this time! I’m doing one better!” I submit my work to her and wait to see if she notices and remarks on any improvement. I don’t kid myself into thinking a piece won’t need to be edited, but I feel a special sense of glee with the piece that only needs a few copy edits.

Still, those pieces are few and far in between — and lucky for me, I’ve found an editor who doesn’t let improvement on my part diminish any editing on her part. Evelyn even remarked that one of my short stories she recently edited “made me step up my editing game.” This is good for both author and editor, but in my mind, it’s especially good for the author because it challenges the author to keep growing and improving with each piece.

Even if one doesn’t have an editor like Evelyn (and I pity those who don’t, because she’s amazing), it’s still important to remember that, no matter where you are in terms of writing experience, popularity, or clout, you should always be edited and you should always consider the input of others. And if you’re an editor or publisher, you should always maintain that role over your authors’ work, even if they’re established and popular. It results in better outcomes for everyone involved.

I’m all for giving creators more freedom, especially when they’ve proven themselves. But there’s also such a thing as giving a creator too much freedom because they’re so popular. Everyone needs an editor. Everyone needs advice. Everyone needs oversight.

To bring this point home, I present a tale of two creators, as shared anecdotally by friend and fellow beer writer Will Gordon. On one hand, we have David Foster Wallace:

I won’t add much of my two cents, since I haven’t read Infinite Jest; but from what I’ve seen online, the general consensus seems to be that, at best, it’s an ordeal to finish.

On the other hand, we have David Sedaris:

David Sedaris has one of the most distinctive voices in literature. He is edited, and he listens to his editor.

New Poem: “Metal Meticulous” [reblog]

I have a new poem on Spreading the Writer’s Word for the monthly flash picture prompt challenge. Check out “Metal Meticulous” below. Thanks for reading!

Spreading the Writer's Word

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

Image_03_JulyLOH

Metal Meticulous
by Sonora Taylor

Metal meticulous,
Wire to frame.
He held her aloft
And he made her his way.
“I won’t have you staring,”
He said with a sigh
As he wrested a wrench
From a belt on his thigh.
“I won’t have you glaring,
Or speaking too harsh.
I’ll set up your wires
To blight out the dark.”
He crafted and tinkered,
Creation so fair,
But when he was finished
She stood with a glare.
“So much of your craft is
Attempts at control,
But you forgot something:
To give me a soul.
“But never you mind,
I know just where to look.”
And her fingernails pierced him
As all his bones shook.
The wires he’d crafted
To guide all her moves
Helped her to drain him
And fill all her grooves.
His blood swam to her
Through his sweat and his…

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Listen to my Short Story, “Salty Air,” on the Ladies of Horror Fiction Podcast

Looking for a quick piece of horror to listen to? The latest episode of the Ladies of Horror Fiction podcast, “Stories of Horror — Creature, Pt. 1,” features my flash piece, “Salty Air.”

“Salty Air” is a beachside flash piece about a mysterious well and a pervasive, briny scent. It’s read by LOHF podcaster and contributor Toni, and she does a wonderful job with the piece. Give it a listen below!

The episode also features flash pieces by Hailey Piper and Alyson Faye.

Thanks for listening!

Charity Anthology: Give to “Horror for RAICES” and Receive a Free ebook!

horror for raices

In response to the horrific conditions for asylum-seekers, refugees, and immigrants at the U.S. southern border, Nightscape Press is releasing an anthology called “Horror for RAICES: A Charitable Anthology.”

From the anthology’s GoFundMe page:

Nightscape Press is putting together an emergency charitable anthology for RAICES called Horror For RAICES. RAICES is a major player in the fight for immigrant and refugee rights in the United States.

Horror For RAICES will be edited by Jennifer Wilson and Robert S. Wilson and all net proceeds from the book will go to RAICES. If you donate $10 or more via this fundraiser, you will get an advance uncorrected eBook copy of the book as soon as it’s ready.

Our aim for this publication is to have the ebook officially available by August, 2019 with the trade paperback edition coming shortly thereafter.

Our aim for this GoFundMe is to raise at least our goal before the official release. Please help spread the word!

Horror For RAICES will include stories by Paul Tremblay, Laird Barron, Ramsey Campbell, Christopher Slatsky, Paul Michael Anderson, and more fantastic authors still yet to be announced.

I hope you will consider making a donation for this excellent cause. And, you’ll get an advance ebook copy for any donation of $10 or more – a bargain for the good this anthology aims to do.

Please also share the fundraiser with your family and friends.

Thank you!

New Story, “The Girl Who Couldn’t Scream,” in the Latest Issue of The Sirens Call [reblog]

Looking for a good scream to round out your summer reading? Check out the latest issue of Sirens Call Publications’ The Sirens Call, “Distant Screams!” – which features my short tale, “The Girl Who Couldn’t Scream.” Free to read and available at sirenscallpub.com, as well as the blog post below. Thanks for reading!

The Sirens Song

Sirens Call Publications is pleased to announce the release of the latest issue of

The Sirens Call

The 45th issue of The Sirens Call eZine features eighty pieces of dark fiction and horror prose from seventy different authors and poets. It also features an interview with, and twelve monster/creature images by, our featured artist NOISTROMO. This month’s spot-light author, Tim Meyer, schools us on why ‘Fear Is Fun’ and also offers an excerpt from his short novel, The Switch House!

Click on the cover for your #FREE download!

2019_June_ezine_cover

Visit the web site to check out the other The Sirens Call issues!
www.sirenscallpub.com

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Giveaway: Win a FREE Kindle Copy of “Without Condition”

Are you looking for a new book to read this summer — and one that’s free?

I’m running a Goodreads giveaway for “Without Condition,” my second novel. You can enter to win 1 of 10 free copies of the book for Kindle!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Without Condition by Sonora Taylor

Without Condition

by Sonora Taylor

Giveaway ends July 12, 2019.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

“Without Condition” tells the story of Cara Vineyard, who lives a quiet life in rural North Carolina. She works for an emerging brewery, drives her truck late at night, and lives with her mother on a former pumpkin farm. Her mother is proud of her and keeps a wall displaying all of Cara’s accomplishments.

Cara isn’t so much proud as she is bored. She’s revitalized when she meets Jackson Price, a pharmacist in Raleigh. Every day they spend together, she falls for him a little more — which in turn makes her life more complicated. When Cara goes on her late-night drives, she often picks up men. Those men tend to die. And when Cara comes back to the farm, she brings a memento for her mother to add to her wall of accomplishments.

Cara’s mother loves her no matter what. But she doesn’t know if Jackson will feel the same — and she doesn’t want to find out.

“Without Condition” has a 4.5-star rating on both Amazon and Goodreads. It’s been described as “a murderous mayhem of revenge and fix culminating in horrifying shows of unconditional love” by author Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi, and “like an episode of Six Feet Under mixed with Dexter” by author Steve Stred.

Laurie at Horror After Dark describes “Without Condition” as “endlessly fascinating,” and Toni from The Misadventures of a Reader says, “If you haven’t gotten this in your brain you are missing out.”

Enter the “Without Condition” giveaway today. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Without Condition by Sonora Taylor

Without Condition

by Sonora Taylor

 

Giveaway ends July 12, 2019.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

New Flash Piece: “Hear No Evil” [reblog]

I have a new flash piece up on Spreading the Writer’s Word! Check out “Hear No Evil” and start off your week with a little wickedness.

Spreading the Writer's Word

The Ladies of Horror
Picture-Prompt Writing Challenge!

Image_04_June2019

Hear No Evil
by Sonora Taylor

Father Marvin couldn’t get it right. No matter how much he worked the flesh, evil could still slice its way through.
He sighed as he washed the blood off of his hands. When he’d first seen the trio as a boy – see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil – he found a perfect trinity, one even holier than the three he’d hear about in church as he sat next to his mother on Sunday mornings.
Sadly, though, the people around him seemed more than happy to let in one (or more!) evils. Evil soaked their eyes, drenched their ears, and filled their mouths, leaving no room for the blood that Father Marvin offered in communion. He often grew so frustrated that he imagined stuffing the parishioners with wine, holding their mouths and nostrils closed until…

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Progress Report: Plugging Away

If anyone’s working on their first book and wondering if each subsequent book gets easier to write, I’m here to tell you now that this is not true.

I almost couldn’t stop writing my first book, Please Give. I slowed down on Without Condition. Now, I’m on Book #3 — tentatively called Seeing Things — and I’m typing more slowly than molasses moving uphill on a cold day. Some days are faster. For instance, I wrote over 1200 words the other day (woot!). But other days, I’m lucky to write a paragraph; and I’ll only do it after I’ve exhausted my social media loop of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

But, it’s being written; which is better than the alternative. The words are coming a little faster now that I’m getting closer to the meat of the plot. I’ll be taking a break from it once I get Little Paranoias back from Evelyn with her edits, but when that happens, it’ll be good to have a nice foundation to return to and give my undivided attention.

Speaking of Little Paranoias, it’s out for edits, as I mentioned above. I’ve been working on other parts of the book, namely the back cover description. I write my own descriptions (which Evelyn reviews as well. Cardinal rule of self-publishing: always have someone else review something you’re putting together yourself, even things like the back cover description), and let me tell you, they’re hard! You don’t want to give too much away, but you also don’t want it to be too vague. Short story collections can be especially tough, since you need to pick and choose which elements you want to highlight.

I’ve been working on a few short stories as well, though I’m trying to keep my focus on Seeing Things. I submitted a poem and a short story to two different journals for consideration, and entered my Pi Day tale, “Crust,” in a contest (read it here). I also discovered a call for submission for a Penny Dreadful issue of a horror journal. Each story has to be 19 words exactly. That was a fun challenge to partake in, and I hope at least one of the five stories I submitted is accepted.

I will keep all of you posted on these pieces as they come together (heh). Have a great week!

Join Me for an Amazing Poe-themed Event in D.C.

What do you get when you combine Poe, tarot, a reading, and cabaret? No, not my living room — you get Quoth the Raven: A Cabaret Tribute to Edgar Allan Poe!

The event will take place at the Crown and Crow in downtown D.C. Per the organizers …

Join storytellers, musicians, costume enthusiasts, tarot readers, magicians, and more for a tribute to a true DMV original: Edgar Allan Poe.

Your ticket gets you into the two-act show and access to drink specials, private tarot readings, and other specials from our partners.

While I’d be excited to attend as just a guest, I will be participating as one of the performers! I will be reading an excerpt from my short story, “Hearts are Just ‘Likes,'” which appears in Quoth the Raven: A Contemporary Reimagining of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe. My story puts a modern twist on “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and while I’ll be leaving out magic tricks (can’t do them) and dance (I can dance, but not while I do a reading), I will be putting my all into telling this macabre tale.

I’d love it if you came to the event and supported many great local artists and performers! Tickets are available online. You can also get a special discount with the promo code TAROT.

I hope to see you there! If you plan to attend, please RSVP on Facebook as well.

Summer Reading: Pride Edition

Happy Pride! The entire month of June is a recognition, celebration, and honoring of LGBTQIA individuals. While there are many ways to celebrate, I plan to spend part of June reading books by LGBTQIA authors.

One of my 2019 resolutions was to read at least one book per month that someone recommended to me. I put out a request on Twitter for recommended reads by queer authors. One user recommended White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, which is on its way to my front door as we speak. I look forward to reading that one!

As far as my own recommendations, here are some books I’ve enjoyed that were written by LGBTQIA authors. I recommend them for Pride month and, of course, for any month.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado — a fascinating collection of feminist horror. My favorite story was “Inventories.”

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay — another great collection of short fiction. My favorite story was “Water, All Its Weight.”

Dry by Augusten Burroughs — Burroughs is one of my favorite authors, and you really can’t go wrong with any of his books.

Letters for Lucardo, Vol. 1 by Otava Heikkilä — a tender, erotic comic about a May-December romance between a human and a vampire.

F4 by Larissa Glaser — a wild, crazy, sexy creature tale that’s perfect for summer.

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag — a graphic novel about a young boy who yearns to be a witch.

I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé by Michael Arcenaux — a wonderful, funny collection of essays.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby — I laughed now just remembering this book. The essays within are a scream.

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Allison Bechdel — a “best of” treasury of Bechdel’s amazing comic.

Do you have any recommended reads for Pride? Leave them in the comments below!