1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Feedback from the publisher - what does it mean?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Apr 27, 2012.

    I got a rejection yesterday, without any kind of motivation/feedback for it, and at this point I really feel I needed it, so I mailed them and asked what was the major problem with the ms, and today they replied.
    Basically they said the editor who read it thinks I can write (yay) and build story (yay. These two were my major concerns actually) but that I explain to much instead of letting the reader draw their own conclusions, and this leaves me slightly :confused: I know it's hard to tell without reading the ms, but can any of you tell me with what kind of information people most often do this, or give some examples of things one might explain too much and when I should let the reader think for himself? It would be of great help for me because I can't really figure out what they mean and when I tend to do this. As I said, my thought was that they would have critics about the story theme and plot being weak, and the main character maybe a little hard to relate to, and instead that was what they liked :D so this kind of caught me with surprise.
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wow, they actually answered you? :O lol

    I guess it could mean that they think that you are kind of spoonfeeding the reader things that they could probably infer on their own. (Although I assume you have pages sent to them already and this isn't just a query being rejected?) It is difficult to say without seeing the MS. (And far be it for me to know what any publisher would think. lol Today's mindless market seems to love not having to think for themselves so who knows what they mean.)
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know! :D What kind of information do you think falls under 'spoonfeeding' compared to necessary info? I mean, what is too much?
     
  4. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Hi Tesoro

    I wish it could be as easy as just excising the part of your novel that over-explains, but if it was this simple they would just have fixed that when it went to an editor. The problem with 'over exlpaining' is that you can do it in every single sentence of the novel, without even realising. It's a bit like the old 'show don't tell' dichotomy - you can either explain something to the reader by telling, or you can show them something and let them interpret it as they will.

    For example, 'Tom opened the door he had shut on his way in' is providing too much information - we don't need to know he shut it on his way in, because the fact that it is shut SHOWS he must have shut it. So if you're doing it on this kind of level I'm afraid you could be looking at a substantial rewrite, and probably a big cut in word count.

    Even if they don't mean over-explaining on this micro level, you're still looking at a big job to fix - as I said, if it wasn't they would have made some pretty specific suggestions to fix it.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what i thought too. Why not just cut a little excess info here and there and publish the thing? :) So I guess you're right. I don't think I have the kind of info that you suggested, now that I've thought of it even more and getting a quick look at the first pages of the novel I think it might be overdescriptions of characters feelings and thoughts, instead of letting the reader figure out for themselves what it would feel like for her (mc) considering the situation, or even showing and letting the reader interpret. Maybe I've been guilty of some telling, in fact. thanks for the explaination! Much appreciated. :)
     
  6. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    It does sound like it, I'm afraid. Whenever you find yourself writing 'Jane was angry at Tim for being late' you're in major telling mode... Just describe her avoiding his gaze and giving him the silent treatment then snapping a sarcastic remark, and we'll understand that she's angry.
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Tesoro, this is a criticism I got on my first novel. It was referred to in that case as an "immature" style of writing. Of course, I was tempted to take offense at that, but I didn't because it was true, and because I think it's something that most writers go through as they learn the craft. It could be that you are overdescriptive (I was, and still tend to be if I'm not careful), or that you are showing every little reaction of your characters, mapping every nuance for the reader. As others have said, you should always let the reader figure somethings out for themselves.

    On the telling bit...I have to admit, I'm rather agnostic. Some things are best told rather than shown. It's a good way to telescope through time. If anything, being overly descriptive or explanatory may be more likely through excessive showing rather than too much telling. It's a balance. And that's the hard part we as writers have to learn.
     
  8. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Just a piece of advice Tesoro, one writer to another, so feel free to take or ignore it:

    I always view this issue as one of striking a balance. On the one hand, if you're too vague then you'll hinder a reader trying to visualise your world and your story. You need to provide enough that they can construct a clear picture in their mind. But, if you're too specific then you'll end up leaving them no room to conjure it themselves- in a similar way, perhaps, to how if you see the film adaptation before reading the book, your visualisations whilst reading are heavily influenced by the film.

    This is, I feel, especially important in the horror genre, and others that rely heavily on atmosphere. Put simply, what you can make up will never terrify the individual reader half as much as their own imagination can. Therefore what I aim for is to construct an outline, a scaffold, within which the reader can run amok with their imagination. You give them the bare bones, and let them put their own spin on the rest- primarily on the visual elements, I find.
     
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  9. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well said Banzai, I agree.

    Tesoro, you got an answer back - that's a positive.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Often, writers don't trust the reader to come to their own conclusions about a scene, so they explain when they shouldn't.

    Examples:

    Jane dropped into the booth. She was starved. Studying the menu, she said, "I'll have the fried chicken platter. Can I get that with fries as well as the green salad? And a cup of the bisque--no, make that a bowl, and one of those little loaves of bread. And what's the dessert today?"

    Here we don't need "she was starved"--Jane's actions make that clear. Of course, there are other possible explanations, but if so, it's good to let the reader find out what they are, without announcing them.

    John paused at the door. He raked his hair back with his fingers, picked a piece of lint off his jacket, and took a breath. He wanted to make a good impression. He planted a smile on his face, and pushed the doorbell.

    Again, here, we don't need to be told that he wanted to make a good impression; that's obvious.

    Jane was furious. She shouted, "Don't touch my car!"

    We don't need to be told that Jane is angry; her words make that clear.

    Mrs. Jones studied Jane for a moment. "Is that what you're wearing?"
    Jane sighed, taking the words as a subtle criticism. "That was the plan, yes."


    Again, we don't need to be told that Jane is taking the words as criticism.

    These are fairly obvious examples; often the unneeded explanations are more subtle. If you have anything in the review room, or if you post anything, I'd be happy to see if I see any unneeded explanations there.

    ChickenFreak
     
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  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm aware of it being considered a beginners mistake, and I am a beginner in the sense that it's just recently that I've started writing "for real". So I guess I don't have to feel too ashamed for it. :) I get your point of showing vs telling though. Maybe doing both at the same time would be a little too much.:)

    I realy appreciate your advice. This is a novel which deals with love and relationships, so I guess I thought a lot of feelings was in order, and it is, but now I realize I have probably been overdescribing those feelings.
    And I'll try and find that balance with this story.

    I know! I'm thrilled because this is the first time I recieve real constructive criticism, and from a professional too. The only ones who have read my ms so far are 2 family members, (and as most of us know they have a tendency of being to kind and telling you it's all good ;) ) so I'm in need for exactly that.

    Excellent examples. I think I'm starting to realize where I've gone wrong, as I said above, and this in addition was really helpful, because it pointed out another area I have to check for, thank you so much for taking the time.


    Thanks to everyone who has offered their advice. I really appreciate it! :)
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with all the excellent advice already given. Just wanted to say, congrats for getting a reply, that in itself is promising :)
     
  13. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks Jaz! :)
     
  14. Mike Cornelison
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    Mike Cornelison Member

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    If you ever want some inspiration on how to explain things in a more concise way, maybe read a little Hemingway for inspiration. I have a tendency to wander off a bit, and I'll read some Hemingway and get inspired to condense my writing a bit more.

    I think it came from his days writing for newspaper, but for me, I've never read any writer who could explain so much in so few words.

    If you step back and look at his style and the short, clipped sentences, it's seems pretty terse, but then you read him, and it's absolutely lush with the visuals and explanations. You don't have to emulate the short sentences so much, but it is inspiring how he says so much with so few words.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Good advice. I have actually read some of his work lately, but my novel was written some time ago, I finished it in october, so I haven't had the time to "practise" it. I like his style too, and you're right about what you say.
     
  16. Jerry Hatchett
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    Jerry Hatchett New Member

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    The most extreme non-spoonfeeder I've read: Peter F. Hamilton.

    The worst spoonfeeders I've read: Don't remember their names because I only get a few pages into the book before putting it aside. It's offensive to me as a reader when the writing assumes I don't have the ability to think.
     

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