Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#61

SomethingStinks Wrote: Hi NovelNinja, 

I'm rather new to the site as well but was quite intrigued by your offer (the possibility of free advice from a veteran editor? Seems like a bargain!)

My novel is Project Vaewolf, an idea formed from a video game glitch (It's Skyrim, perhaps you're familiar?). Anyway, it's Isekai, primarily fantasy. I've done (and is doing) my best to make it into something more than most reincarnation novels. It's only three chapters, all of which are Prologue, so nothing has really happened yet. 

Still, I'd appreciate any advice, if you'd be kind enough to give it.   :)

PS, English is not my first language, but I do consider myself fairly proficient.


You are, in fact, very proficient. I can barely tell that English isn't your first language, and even then it's more about your choice of words rather than grammar or syntax. If I had to guess, I'd say you are Japanese or Korean, but that's a pure guess based on how they tend to learn English. I can't get a clue from how you yourself write. 

Your primary problem here is storytelling. I've only read the first chapter, so I'm just basing it on that. You want to start with a better hook, something that tells the reader that this is worth reading. I've seen a lot of stories on this site so far that say "It starts slow but picks up around Chapter X," which is the wrong way to do it. Even more than in a traditional print book, a web serial needs to hook people in because it's just as easy to click away from the story as to click on the Next Chapter button. More than one prologue, or an overall "trust me, it'll pick up," isn't great unless you're specifically advertising a slow burn. 

First, don't start with "Connor Reeves, Earth" because you're not going to stay there; unless you're going to do flashbacks, this is unnecessary. Start either with dialog or the location they're in. They're on a date and Connor's mind wandered. He's bored, and suddenly being shaken out of his reverie. That's a good place to start. Another might be a touch of meta-humor, such as If Connor had known this would be his last night on Earth, he'd have paid more attention

You spend a lot of time in narration where dialog would be more appropriate. To many, this would be categorized as "you're telling, not showing," but this isn't correct; you're actually doing a decent job of showing, but it would be much stronger to use dialog here. Dialog carries more emotional impact and helps showcase the audience seen the characters as more real, rather than just names on a page. It's harder to imagine a voice or body language if all you have is narration; it can be done, but it's hard. 

I'd also suggest using something other than strikeout formating to show the alien presence. 

Incidentally, autism doesn't prevent someone from understanding a pun. It's a sensory processing disorder that makes it hard to filter (such as having a harder time focusing on one voice in a crowded room, like most people can by their teenage years at the latest; autistics usually hear everything at once), and so metaphor can get lost in translation because the autistic will have trouble filtering the subtext. Puns depend on either metaphor or direct comparison. Autistics usually love puns; the only difficulty is if there's a jump they miss, just like normal people. Her reaction to the FedEx pun is more like a normal person's rather than an autistic; ironically, Connor's reaction to her reaction, assuming she must be autistic, is a much more autistic reaction itself (searching for an immediate connection in order to ground something perplexing). 

As for Skyrim, I've never actually played it. I looked up Skyrim glitches and found the one you're referring to. I also looked up "vaewolf" and apparently it's from Supernatural, which I've only seen a few episodes of (but my wife and mother-in-law like it). 

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#63

NovelNinja Wrote: You are, in fact, very proficient. I can barely tell that English isn't your first language, and even then it's more about your choice of words rather than grammar or syntax. If I had to guess, I'd say you are Japanese or Korean, but that's a pure guess based on how they tend to learn English. I can't get a clue from how you yourself write. 

Your primary problem here is storytelling. I've only read the first chapter, so I'm just basing it on that. You want to start with a better hook, something that tells the reader that this is worth reading. I've seen a lot of stories on this site so far that say "It starts slow but picks up around Chapter X," which is the wrong way to do it. Even more than in a traditional print book, a web serial needs to hook people in because it's just as easy to click away from the story as to click on the Next Chapter button. More than one prologue, or an overall "trust me, it'll pick up," isn't great unless you're specifically advertising a slow burn. 

First, don't start with "Connor Reeves, Earth" because you're not going to stay there; unless you're going to do flashbacks, this is unnecessary. Start either with dialog or the location they're in. They're on a date and Connor's mind wandered. He's bored, and suddenly being shaken out of his reverie. That's a good place to start. Another might be a touch of meta-humor, such as If Connor had known this would be his last night on Earth, he'd have paid more attention

You spend a lot of time in narration where dialog would be more appropriate. To many, this would be categorized as "you're telling, not showing," but this isn't correct; you're actually doing a decent job of showing, but it would be much stronger to use dialog here. Dialog carries more emotional impact and helps showcase the audience seen the characters as more real, rather than just names on a page. It's harder to imagine a voice or body language if all you have is narration; it can be done, but it's hard. 

I'd also suggest using something other than strikeout formating to show the alien presence. 

Incidentally, autism doesn't prevent someone from understanding a pun. It's a sensory processing disorder that makes it hard to filter (such as having a harder time focusing on one voice in a crowded room, like most people can by their teenage years at the latest; autistics usually hear everything at once), and so metaphor can get lost in translation because the autistic will have trouble filtering the subtext. Puns depend on either metaphor or direct comparison. Autistics usually love puns; the only difficulty is if there's a jump they miss, just like normal people. Her reaction to the FedEx pun is more like a normal person's rather than an autistic; ironically, Connor's reaction to her reaction, assuming she must be autistic, is a much more autistic reaction itself (searching for an immediate connection in order to ground something perplexing). 

As for Skyrim, I've never actually played it. I looked up Skyrim glitches and found the one you're referring to. I also looked up "vaewolf" and apparently it's from Supernatural, which I've only seen a few episodes of (but my wife and mother-in-law like it).

Woah, that was far faster than I was expecting (Might as say, as fast as a ninja?) Well, thanks for the feedback. 

Actually, I'm neither Japanese nor Korean. But, yes, Asian. In an incorrect way, but also not exactly incorrect, I could be considered an Indian. 

I originally didn't have <Connor Reeves, Earth>, but my lovely sister (an avid reader of novels but not exactly web novels, and my unpaid beta-reader) said that the shift in character in the second chapter (which does not have Connor at all)  was confusing. Thus, I came up with the idea of tagging it as such, along with<Leo, Prudhuvi> in the next. But if you believe it's a bad idea, I'll naturally look into a different solution. 

One I've been wondering about, is if this even needs to be Isekai. Leo, I believe, is a great character in his own right.

Moving on, by 'dialog would be more appropriate', do you mean the part where Connor goes through prior events as he figures out what Isabelle asked? So to be presented as dialog, they would have to be thoughts, yes? 

Strikeout is weird? Noted, I was skeptical when I came up with the idea to use it. 

As for the horribly incorrect usage of autism, while embarrassing, I find the irony quite amusing. Connor seems more autistic than Isabelle, funny. But the main question is, does that Irony work out in some sort of twisted poetic way, or must I go back to the drawing board? 

Either way, thank you greatly for your time and help. 



Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#64

Nameless32 Wrote: I'm just here to second Doing God's Work and to third the Ogre's Pendant. It's a shame that you didn't get any deep hooks from the DGW prologue, but I swear it gets better and better the deeper in you go. And, in case you couldn't tell from all the recommendations, the Ogre's Pendant is simply incredible.

My main problem with Doing God's Work was that the viewpoint character didn't have anything to recommend himself as a sympathetic character. Lucifer was more interesting, which as Milton showed is a dangerous route to go down. :p But I really do prefer stories where I'm definitely rooting for the character. I've had stories enthusiastically recommended to me which start out with complete assholes, and while redemption stories are nice they just aren't something I can easily get invested in.

The Ogre's Pendant doesn't have an interesting blurb, but I'll take a closer look at it later. 
SomethingStinks Wrote: Woah, that was far faster than I was expecting (Might as say, as fast as a ninja?) Well, thanks for the feedback.


I'm home today and my son was napping. Now he's sitting on my lap and I'm trying to convince him not to help me type, so this will take a little bit longer. Good thing you don't know when I started typing!
Quote:I originally didn't have <Connor Reeves, Earth>, but my lovely sister (an avid reader of novels but not exactly web novels, and my unpaid beta-reader) said that the shift in character in the second chapter (which was confusing. Thus, I came up with the idea of tagging it as such, along with<Leo, Prudhuvi> in the next. But if you believe it's a bad idea, I'll naturally look into a different solution. 


I think the transition is good without the tags, yes. Normally, such stories will tag transitions like that, but if you're not going to continue doing that it just looks a little odd.

Quote:One I've been wondering about, is if this even needs to be Isekai. Leo, I believe, is a great character in his own right.


Well, as to the "need" of the isekai, it depends on how much Earth-based knowledge is going to be needed for the story. If it's not needed, then go ahead and drop it. But the resurrection/reincarnation isekais I've seen so far usually have their fun in the new perspective, and since your character has memories of both lives that makes it a bit borderline. You could potentially tell the same story by making it so the Earth character is possessing the fantasy character, which is what I thought was what you meant for a moment when I read the blurb. If the Earth life isn't necessary, then it winds up signaling something very different to your audience, and could easily result in a broken promise. Never break a promise to your audience.
Quote:Moving on, by 'dialog would be more appropriate', do you mean the part where Connor goes through prior events as he figures out what Isabelle asked? So to be presented as dialog, they would have to be thoughts, yes? 

Yes to the first, no to the second. I mean a conversation with Isabelle, going back and forth between dialog and narration, with the latter expanding on the former.

Quote:As for the horribly incorrect usage of autism, while embarrassing, I find the irony quite amusing. Connor seems more autistic than Isabelle, funny. But the main question is, does that Irony work out in some sort of twisted poetic way, or must I go back to the drawing board?

No, that was mostly a minor soapbox. Writing an autistic character is hard even for an autistic, so I wouldn't recommend it. You not only have to understand how to communicate the nuances, but you also have to fight uphill against either ignorance or misunderstanding. Most people think autism is either some sort of lack of intelligence (so you get moments like in The Good Doctor where they have to explain that the main character has Savant Syndrome, which is ridiculous) or they think that Sheldon from Big Bang Theory is the poster child (which is insulting).

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#65
That's a very generous offer! Here are two of my stronger short stories, vaguely situated in the "New Weird" subgenre of fantasy:

"Do not push". Greenpunk.
Blurb: In a green and meditative future, the narrator and their father make an unlikely discovery at the bottom of a landfill.
https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/37180/the-gun-undone-an-illustrated-anthology-of-strange/chapter/576759/do-not-push

"Consider the finger". Urban fantasy.
Blurb: A brilliant but dark schoolteacher lost in the multiverse gets into a lot of trouble.
https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/37180/the-gun-undone-an-illustrated-anthology-of-strange/chapter/576429/consider-the-finger

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#66


Quote:I'm home today and my son was napping. Now he's sitting on my lap and I'm trying to convince him not to help me type, so this will take a little bit longer. Good thing you don't know when I started typing!

: )

Well, if the little fella had fun, no matter. 

Quote:I think the transition is good without the tags, yes. Normally, such stories will tag transitions like that, but if you're not going to continue doing that it just looks a little odd.

Will do chief. You're the experienced editor, after all. But if I may be so bold as to ask, could you perhaps take a look at the next chapter as well? To see the transition, as well as, Leo?   Definitely not to make you read more of it. 
(PS, it's completely fine if you don't. This conversation has already been sufficiently enlightening and I'm truly grateful.)

NovelNinja Wrote: Well, as to the "need" of the isekai, it depends on how much Earth-based knowledge is going to be needed for the story. If it's not needed, then go ahead and drop it. But the resurrection/reincarnation isekais I've seen so far usually have their fun in the new perspective, and since your character has memories of both lives that makes it a bit borderline. You could potentially tell the same story by making it so the Earth character is possessing the fantasy character, which is what I thought was what you meant for a moment when I read the blurb. If the Earth life isn't necessary, then it winds up signaling something very different to your audience, and could easily result in a broken promise. Never break a promise to your audience.

Ah, well, I plan on having the character make use of Earth technology and strategies via that which is available in the new world, going into fairly deep detail about the science. Still, that doesn't mean a character from another world cannot come up with them on his own...  But, in the end, I believe it being an Isekai will provide me with a (hopefully) surprising plot twist in the long run, so I'll stick with it. 

NovelNinja Wrote: Yes to the first, no to the second. I mean a conversation with Isabelle, going back and forth between dialog and narration, with the latter expanding on the former.

I see, but would that not defeat Connor's purpose of making it, at the very least, seem as if he had been listening to her? After all, to question Isabelle would be to reveal he had not paid attention. 

NovelNinja Wrote: No, that was mostly a minor soapbox. Writing an autistic character is hard even for an autistic, so I wouldn't recommend it. You not only have to understand how to communicate the nuances, but you also have to fight uphill against either ignorance or misunderstanding. Most people think autism is either some sort of lack of intelligence (so you get moments like in The Good Doctor where they have to explain that the main character has Savant Syndrome, which is ridiculous) or they think that Sheldon from Big Bang Theory is the poster child (which is insulting).

Whew, that's a relief. I had no idea how to fix it without changing a major portion of the chapter.  But, this savant syndrome (which I learned more  of after a short google search) could be a replacement for Isabelle's autism, I suppose. 

Funny that you should mention Sheldon, did you notice the BBT reference in Prologue 1? I believe it was quite blunt, but perhaps, is it only I who understand it?

Anyway, I know I said this already, but again, thank you for taking the time to help. 

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#67
I've been dreading posting something for a professional eye to glimpse but I can always use a blow to my ego to make me a better writer. HOT DAMN OKAY.

I just posted The Soul of Chaos and any thoughts you had on the initial bits would be fantastic. Obviously I'm in line behind all the other wonderful stories that others have shoved your way, so absolutely take your time. I'll be hiding in a corner anyway.

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#68
fallstaffmacd Wrote: That's a very generous offer! Here are two of my stronger short stories, vaguely situated in the "New Weird" subgenre of fantasy:


I've never heard of “New Weird.” It seems like the old style of psychological SF&F short stories from the Golden Age.

I'm not as skilled with short stories, especially the psychological style. However, these are well-written and paint vivid pictures. “Consider the Finger” has an especially good hook and immediately put me in mind of Sigil from the Planescape setting. (Mind you, the phrase “City of Doors” is so closely associated with Sigil that it's practically trademarked. It's not, though. I just checked.)


SomethingStinks Wrote: But if I may be so bold as to ask, could you perhaps take a look at the next chapter as well? To see the transition, as well as, Leo?   Definitely not to make you read more of it.

The beginning is pretty slow, though I'm not sure where to speed it up without playing around with different forms. If you want to connect the two in a more obvious fashion, then you'll want to either end the first or start the second chapter with confirmation that Connor is Leo reborn by moving some or all of the alien thought-text.

Quote:
NovelNinja Wrote: Yes to the first, no to the second. I mean a conversation with Isabelle, going back and forth between dialog and narration, with the latter expanding on the former.

I see, but would that not defeat Connor's purpose of making it, at the very least, seem as if he had been listening to her? After all, to question Isabelle would be to reveal he had not paid attention.

You misunderstand. I mean filling in the details about Isabelle, Connor, and their date through a combination of dialog and narration, instead of paragraph after paragraph of Connor giving an infodump to the reader.

Quote:Whew, that's a relief. I had no idea how to fix it without changing a major portion of the chapter.  But, this savant syndrome (which I learned more  of after a short google search) could be a replacement for Isabelle's autism, I suppose. 

Don't. Savant syndrome is a very specific condition. It doesn't fit her.

Quote:Funny that you should mention Sheldon, did you notice the BBT reference in Prologue 1? I believe it was quite blunt, but perhaps, is it only I who understand it?

I did. Big Bang Theory is far from a favorite of mine, but I've seen that on enough t-shirts to recognize it.

gwunders Wrote: I've been dreading posting something for a professional eye to glimpse but I can always use a blow to my ego to make me a better writer. HOT DAMN OKAY.

I just posted The Soul of Chaos and any thoughts you had on the initial bits would be fantastic. Obviously I'm in line behind all the other wonderful stories that others have shoved your way, so absolutely take your time. I'll be hiding in a corner anyway.

*flicks on the light* Stop hiding. :p This is the best opener I've read so far, topping the previous champion of this thread, Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon by Elliot Flanders.

Your blurb sounds nearly professional, and that's hard for even the professionals to do. I've written enough of them to know; most authors just can't make it work for their own stories, though they usually have an easier time with someone else's. My most major critique is that your second sentence should be split into two sentences.

The second comment here is a minor grammar error. I really do congratulate you on trying to get the difference between lie and lay, but this is a borderline case where the word really should be lie. The best shorthand for that I've ever seen is to switch the word with place, places, or placed. If the sentence still makes sense, it's lay.

Your line is an ancient ruin buried beneath the surface where arcane horrors lay within the very walls themselves. This would become where arcane horrors [are placed] within the very walls. Ergo, the proper word choice is where arcane horrors lie within the very walls.

Your first chapter is very strong. I'd tweak it a bit if I were your editor, but your description is solid. You start with a sledgehammer splitting against an obsidian wall; sledgehammers don't normally split like that, and “obsidian” obviously refers to something other than volcanic glass. That's evocative and made me curious, which is exactly what you want. One of these days I'll write up a guide on beginnings; I have one as a PowerPoint lecture on regular novels and short stories, but web novels are a little different and I'm still investigating the nuances.

One mistake really stands out in this chapter: 
Quote:“Sorry, Lord,” the younger of the guards said.

“Not a lord, Hal.”

“‘Ere that, Rik? Soldier boy’s stuck at Ilduan.” The spitting man snickered. His accent pegged him as a lowborn.

“Still better company than you, Slackjaw.” The guard spat again. Rurik raised a brow in his direction. Slackjaw shrugged. “Right. As you were?”

Who is speaking which line?

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#69

NovelNinja Wrote: gwunders
I've been dreading posting something for a professional eye to glimpse but I can always use a blow to my ego to make me a better writer. HOT DAMN OKAY.

I just posted The Soul of Chaos and any thoughts you had on the initial bits would be fantastic. Obviously I'm in line behind all the other wonderful stories that others have shoved your way, so absolutely take your time. I'll be hiding in a corner anyway.
*flicks on the light* Stop hiding. :p This is the best opener I've read so far, topping the previous champion of this thread, Selena's Reign: The Golden Gryphon by Elliot Flanders.

Your blurb sounds nearly professional, and that's hard for even the professionals to do. I've written enough of them to know; most authors just can't make it work for their own stories, though they usually have an easier time with someone else's. My most major critique is that your second sentence should be split into two sentences.

The second comment here is a minor grammar error. I really do congratulate you on trying to get the difference between lie and lay, but this is a borderline case where the word really should be lie. The best shorthand for that I've ever seen is to switch the word with place, places, or placed. If the sentence still makes sense, it's lay.

Your line is an ancient ruin buried beneath the surface where arcane horrors lay within the very walls themselves. This would become where arcane horrors [are placed] within the very walls. Ergo, the proper word choice is where arcane horrors lie within the very walls.

Your first chapter is very strong. I'd tweak it a bit if I were your editor, but your description is solid. You start with a sledgehammer splitting against an obsidian wall; sledgehammers don't normally split like that, and “obsidian” obviously refers to something other than volcanic glass. That's evocative and made me curious, which is exactly what you want. One of these days I'll write up a guide on beginnings; I have one as a PowerPoint lecture on regular novels and short stories, but web novels are a little different and I'm still investigating the nuances.

One mistake really stands out in this chapter: 
Quote:“Sorry, Lord,” the younger of the guards said.

“Not a lord, Hal.”

“‘Ere that, Rik? Soldier boy’s stuck at Ilduan.” The spitting man snickered. His accent pegged him as a lowborn.

“Still better company than you, Slackjaw.” The guard spat again. Rurik raised a brow in his direction. Slackjaw shrugged. “Right. As you were?”

Who is speaking which line?


Oh sweet mercy that was much better than I was expecting. I already fixed the lay/lie difference and I'll remember that trick for the rest of my life. Thank you for the look and the comments! I've already started going through what I have dialog wise to clarify anything similar. 

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#70

NovelNinja Wrote: I've never heard of “New Weird.” It seems like the old style of psychological SF&F short stories from the Golden Age.

I'm not as skilled with short stories, especially the psychological style. However, these are well-written and paint vivid pictures. “Consider the Finger” has an especially good hook and immediately put me in mind of Sigil from the Planescape setting. (Mind you, the phrase “City of Doors” is so closely associated with Sigil that it's practically trademarked. It's not, though. I just checked.)



Thanks for reading! Yes, that's Sigil, no question. I'm fine calling this story fan fiction, but it's a strange kind of fan fiction. (I also have a story that creates an ending for Kafka's "The Castle", which is also technically fan fiction. But again saying that feels pretty strange.)

As for the "New Weird", think of China Mievelle's Bas-lag series. I think the genre is sort of a distortion of Lovecraft, taking his horror themes and spinning them out, doing more interesting things. It's worth checking out.

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#73
Hi. English isn't my first language, but I really want to improve my grammar and, so far, I've seen some decent progress in this regard (by my own standards).

https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/39456/dwarf-smith-from-earth

So far, this story has only one chapter released, but there are another 17 chapters already written and just waiting for some editing. I'd really want to know where I still make obvious mistakes and which rules I need to learn to improve my grasp of the English language.

Re: Professional Editor Interested in Reading Good Stories

#74
"Incidentally, is "F. A. Hyatt" your actual name, or is this a subtle reference to the economist F. A. Hayek?"

I would not make a point of exposing personal details online, but I will note that F.A. Hyatt is my consistent pen name and that there is no intended reference to Mr, Hayek.

Sorry it took so long to post a reply.  I often don't return to look at old posts unless there is reason to.  My apologies, and thanks for your reply.