So I gathered up my courage and finally opened up my document for Seize the Day that has Christopher Buehlman’s commentary all over it.

The Prologue? Oh, dear god. It’s like I was put right back in high school. Chris (I’m calling him Chris from now on) ripped it to shreds. Shreds.

And I loved it. LOVED IT. Adored. Couldn’t contain my glee. For a few minutes, I sat in Mrs. Foxx’s 10th grade Honors English class, staring at my “rough” draft, blinking at how much red pen was scribbled all over it. How she would cross out whole paragraphs, give editing suggestions, pick out stylistic conventions that may not always be clear.

And that’s exactly what he did. In 10th grade, I prided myself on often being one of the kids with the least Red Pen. That more often than not, Mrs. Foxx didn’t cross out whole paragraphs on my draft. That I often scored at least a CHECK, if not a CHECK PLUS on those rough drafts. I forgot how humbling seeing that Red Pen could be, how empowering. Unfortunately, he didn’t do this for the first 50 pages — though I’m sure Chris’s poor brain would have melted out of his skull if he had.

Clearly, my stylistic writing conventions? I know they’re technically incorrect. I like for my prose to sound like a thought process, with repetition and odd breaks and starting with conjunctions. I always felt that drew the reader in more, that it allowed for the reader to have a better sense of what’s going on inside a character’s mind. It was a form of showing their mental state to me — but I likely overdo it. And it’s been so, sooo long since anyone stopped me and went, “Are you sure you should do it this way? Does it read as smoothly as you’d like? Or is it jarring to a reader. It’s in 3rd person POV, not 1st; people are a little less forgiving of it in 3rd.”

Even in the above paragraph, you can see these elements that I’m now stopping and reconsidering. I know how to write full sentences; I know how to cull some of the repetition, and I certainly know that starting with a conjunction? Not always a great thing to do. I like the effect these things have, but they might be best if I utilize them sparingly and with heavy care.

The soft urge that I would benefit from a professional editor alerted me that these things might be more distracting than anything else. I can certainly go over each book (once their first drafts are complete) and edit my stylistic choices down. Not out, just down. Save them for larger impact areas, hold them until the time is juuuust right.

Honestly, yesterday, when I saw all of the Red Pen, I closed the document and told myself to wait. I am so, so glad I did, because I can fully appreciate the amount of time and effort he put into just giving me commentary on the Prologue alone. His additional comments that related to the story itself? They were great, too. Some of them are even amusing. I will post highlights. If any of you follow my Facebook writer’s page, I’ve posted a couple of them there, too.

The biggest things I’ve learned, so far:

  • My stylistic conventions, while making the writing more personable, also can have an adverse effect on the reader
  • My characters’ use of language might have to be toned down some. They all love the word “fuck” because I love the word “fuck”
  • My sparse use of detail to paint a picture is a little too sparse, and sometimes I need to add a little more detail here and there to really plant the reader in the story

All things considered, this could have been a whole lot worse (so far). I still have four chapters to look through.

(He did, however, say I did a nice job with the Savin/Mari sex scene in Chapter One. Which is what I was really nervous about, lol.)