Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Do Comments on Autonomy, etc. Help or Hurt?

I didn’t know to expect when Slush Pile Reader asked for my manuscript to edit.
I felt my first few chapters of Saint Peter Killed God were my strongest since
so many people read and commented on them. Surely those chapters would be
mistake free. But this is what SPR said:
…it seems like the first chapters have been over-edited, so to speak. The first
pages, until approximately chapter five, seem chopped up and pasted together and
do not have the distinctive voice that the latter part of the manuscript has.
It seems as if someone has told you to change things around and your voice has
gotten lost in the process and the beginning seems contrived. The rest of the
book has a much more natural, beautiful flow, drawing the reader in…
So the chapters that didn’t receive any comments were the best ones.
It makes me wonder, should we really listen to the comments we get on on-line
sites where our manuscripts are posted? I know I have and made a lot of changes
here and there because of the suggestions I’ve gotten. Perhaps all of those
changes made things worse.
So what have I done? In chapter one, I’ve cut a lot of the details out that
slowed down the plot. I’ve made the sermon and reasons for walking out of the
church more clear.
And I believe SPKG is much better from the start.


  1. The problem with comments on Autho is the 'average' commentator is not a skilled writer, but someone chasing the desk.

    Something I've noticed with my two books - people comment on the first, but don't back - they back the second but don't comment. Curious, isn't it?

  2. That's definitely interesting. One must be judicious when evaluating comments. Personally, I think the first chapter of Aralen Dreams is better because of comments from Authonomy users, and I think the book in general is better because of Authonomy, but I've certainly rejected a lot, if not most, of the advice I've received. The one spot where your agent's observation particularly speaks to me, however, relates to a single word choice I used in the first couple of paragraphs of my novel: "masturbatory." I initially wrote, "but I had only a moment to milk those masturbatory thoughts." Despite many commenters taking exception with the word choice, I left it in the manuscript for a long time because it felt right to me. Finally, however, the swell grew so large that I could no longer ignore what seemed to be nearly universal consensus. I relented and changed it to "self-indulgent." It doesn't pack the same punch (in my mind) but it seems to appease many readers. Shrug. I suppose Authonomy comments, like most things in life, have their use, but only when used consciously and in moderation.

  3. I think most mass-published books are hideously over-edited to the point that they are so 'faultless' they are completely boring.

    Our two biggest selling books to date (60,000 and 40,000 copies sold) get love vs. hate reactions, including to the editing which, in the case of 'Get Some' is deliberately non-standard (well, standard to Hull but nowhere else).

    At Night Publishing I try to dissuade our writers from over-polishing. That rawness is attractive to me, and I believe to others. We are more about distinctive voices than literary muzak.

    For instance, on Authonomy, virtually everybody said that we should remove the block paragraphs from Stephen Sangirardi's 'Monday Afternoon' which you so loved. I replied "I hear you, but no. Block paragraphs fit Steve's style'.

    Perhaps SPR, being an indie writers' site, take the same indie writers' editorial view as we do. We don't want our books to look bland and mass-published. We want them to rock 'n' roll, not Disco; the Seventies not the Noughties.