I’m finally working on the final revision of the novel, using the 460+ comments generated by the professional editor I hired to tell me my baby is ugly. I think it was fully worth the price I paid, and will help to make this book better.
Most of the editor’s comments are about the need for more description, of both characters and setting. This matches up with the feedback from the Beta reviewers, some of whom said the characters were fairly flat. She showed me where I need to inject more emotion, and to make the characters’ individual voices more distinct.
I also realized that while I had populated the novel with aliens from at least four different worlds, I hadn’t gone far enough in making them different from us. I learned that, not from the editor, but from my writers’ group, who had reviewed my short story on one of the characters. One of the group members (a fellow sci-fi writer) commented that I had these aliens sitting around a table eating and drinking just like humans would. That challenged me to do some more world-building and come up with different mannerisms and customs for my various aliens.
Another thing the editor brought up was that I needed to include some well-placed profanity. Now this was something that I consciously decided when I started that I would not do. I try not to swear myself, though I’ll admit to letting a few loose on occasion, like the classic hitting my finger with a hammer. My wife is way better than I am (when she described someone she works with as an “idiot” a couple years ago, I had to call my son to let him know about it). In general, I feel like it simply shows a lack of vocabulary, and the overuse of it has served to diminish the strength of those words. That being said, my dialogue needs some help to infuse it with more emotion, and I may just include a few of the lesser swearwords (but not the f-bomb, I draw the line there).
That led me to buy a book, How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, by James Scott Bell, which helped a lot. I realized I didn’t have enough conflict between characters; too many of them were happily cooperating. I did one of the exercises in the book, where you write down all your characters’ names around a wheel, and then draw lines between each of them, showing what conflict exists there. I found there actually were more conflicts than I thought, but it also showed where I could add more significant issues, particularly by asking myself “what does this character want?”
That will lead to several changes, including a complete replacement of one character’s scene, and the killing off of another character (who just really didn’t have much to do in the story, so at least he can serve the cause by being a red shirt). And numerous updates to dialogue throughout.
I also bought a book called The Emotion Thesaurus, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. This excellent writer’s aid provides great words, body language, and reactions to describe every emotion. You just go to a chapter on a particular emotion, and you find all these great ideas to describe it, to “show not tell.” This will come in very handy!
The editor also had several very positive things to say, which were very encouraging:
“The manuscript is bursting with potential, which I know you’ll be able to unleash.”
“I really think this is going to be a memorable page-turner when we’ve finished our heavy lifting. You’ve shown some great imagination here, and your eye to detail is exemplary.”
So now I just have to make it so. June is coming soon, and there’s a lot to do.
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As for me, I need to get back to writing!