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Old 09-30-2011, 03:40 AM
astro astro is offline
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Do any famous writers refuse to be edited?

I had posted an OP about a week or so ago about how ponderous the popular Honor Harrington science fiction series was becoming. It just seemed lots of the book around book 5 and forward was becoming sheer padding with endless, ham handed political gabbery and clunky interpersonal vignettes.

I wondered how any decent editor could let this blather get by. Can popular authors get to the point they can refuse to be edited?
  #2  
Old 09-30-2011, 05:19 AM
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Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, and J.K. Rowling all get accused of this.

"His/her early books were really good, but after he/she got rich and famous, his/her later books became ponderous, bloated monstrosities."
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:00 AM
F. U. Shakespeare F. U. Shakespeare is offline
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According to Bennett Cerf, Ernest Hemingway had an arrangement with his publisher that nothing could be changed - not a word, letter or punctuation mark.

One day, Hemingway submitted a manuscript containing some obscenities (obliquely understood to include the f-word).

The editor read the manuscript, took umbrage, and absentmindedly jotted down the obscenities on a 'things to do' notepad.

His secretary later saw this and remarked, "The things a secretary has to do for her boss!"
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:57 AM
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Popular authors have more clout and can refuse editorial suggestions, but I doubt they'd ignore them completely. The books may even become longer because of editorial suggestions.

An author can always refuse to make the changes. Reportedly Marilynne Robinson went over the galleys of her first novel Housekeeping (back in 1980, when things were phototypeset) and changed back everything the copyeditor had done. Robinson didn't publish anything else for over 20 years. Those two facts are related.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:06 AM
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Well, Robert Jordan's editor was Mrs. Jordan (or whatever their real surname is...I forget). And it shows, after about the fourth book.

I find it hard to believe an editor actually touched G.R.R. Martin's last two Song of Ice and Fire books. A proofreader, maybe. An actual editor? No.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:10 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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I've read stories that Harlan Ellison is quite...picky...about how his works are edited.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:21 AM
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I wouldn't know, but "refusing to be edited" seems synonymous with "not getting published."
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:22 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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I believe all the stories about how authors refuse to take criticism after they become big. Nothing else makes sense.

Bennett Cerf, for those who don't know, "wrote" a series of joke books back in the day. He took old jokes and inserted the name of a famous person into them to make them seem real and get more sales. Do not under any circumstances delude yourself into thinking that any of them actually happened.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:36 AM
Koldanar Koldanar is offline
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I find it hard to believe an editor actually touched G.R.R. Martin's last two Song of Ice and Fire books. A proofreader, maybe. An actual editor? No.
I believe he claims that his editor convinced him to pull some climaxes of some of the storylines and place them in the next book. So it could have been LONGER.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:37 AM
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Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6 was clearly not edited. Nor was it particularly good.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:44 AM
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I believe he claims that his editor convinced him to pull some climaxes of some of the storylines and place them in the next book. So it could have been LONGER.
Okay, it never saw a GOOD editor. I'd have loved a longer book if it meant that something had managed to actually happen.
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Old 09-30-2011, 10:55 AM
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Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6 was clearly not edited. Nor was it particularly good.
I loved the game so much and was hyped up to read the book when I was younger. How disappointing that I couldn't get past the first 200 pages. Dull and dull.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:21 PM
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I recall Dick Francis saying he rarely rewrote his later books. He said early in his career attempts at rewriting (based on editors comments) never came out well. He felt his own process of proof reading using his wife was better.

Last edited by aceplace57; 09-30-2011 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:40 PM
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I refuse to believe that editors touched Rowling's or Stephen King's books after they stared making so much money for the publishers. These two writers got too full of themselves and powerful to allow their precious words to be edited.

I have no proof for this. It's just what I believe.

Last edited by well he's back; 09-30-2011 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:41 PM
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I have heard about this with Carl Sagan. It would explain the purple prose of Contact.
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Old 09-30-2011, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by F. U. Shakespeare View Post
According to Bennett Cerf, Ernest Hemingway had an arrangement with his publisher that nothing could be changed - not a word, letter or punctuation mark.

One day, Hemingway submitted a manuscript containing some obscenities (obliquely understood to include the f-word).

The editor read the manuscript, took umbrage, and absentmindedly jotted down the obscenities on a 'things to do' notepad.

His secretary later saw this and remarked, "The things a secretary has to do for her boss!"
I read a thoughtful biography of Hemingway's (and Fitzgerald's and Thomas Wolfe's, etc.) editor, Maxwell Perkins. I don't recall reading this, so am inclined to go with Exapno's observation about Bennett Cerf's bumper crops (IIRC, "Bennett Cerf's Bumper Crop" was the name of one of his collections)...
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:10 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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Anne Rice, Tom Clancy, and J.K. Rowling all get accused of this.

"His/her early books were really good, but after he/she got rich and famous, his/her later books became ponderous, bloated monstrosities."
Anne Rice makes no bones about it. In her famous Amazon rant she said

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And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status.
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:41 PM
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Huh, funny, I was just commenting to a friend at lunch that Weber's later books seem to suffer from precisely this problem.

It's not necessarily the author's fault, though. I could easily see an editor (especially a young or new one) being too intimidated by a successful author to suggest major changes, even if that wasn't the author's intent.
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:46 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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I wonder if there are many writers whose editors say "You need more".
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:52 PM
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Robert Heinlein often gets accused of this, and I think it's accurate in his case. However, I think very few authors really refuse all editorial changes; rather, I think that new authors understand that the publisher could realistically refuse to publish the book, leaving the author out of luck. Established authors know that they have enough clout to negotiate a new contract with another publishing house, and the publishers know that the author's name will sell enough books to make a profit, even unedited.
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Old 09-30-2011, 02:55 PM
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Steve Keshner's masterpiece Cockpit Confessions of an Airline Pilot is totally unedited - I think you can find the word "Philippines" spelled about five different ways - but don't let this sway you from reading it; it's keen as beans.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:08 PM
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I refuse to believe that editors touched Rowling's or Stephen King's books after they stared making so much money for the publishers. These two writers got too full of themselves and powerful to allow their precious words to be edited.

I have no proof for this. It's just what I believe.
I don't know much about King, but Rowling doesn't strike me as the sort of person who'd refuse to be edited, and IIRC she has spoken highly of her editor(s) before. However, I could believe that the publishers of very successful writers might not want to delay a surefire bestseller with a lot of editing and revisions.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:34 PM
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I don't know much about King, but Rowling doesn't strike me as the sort of person who'd refuse to be edited, and IIRC she has spoken highly of her editor(s) before. However, I could believe that the publishers of very successful writers might not want to delay a surefire bestseller with a lot of editing and revisions.
That's what I believe, without any substantiation whatsoever, to be the case for many writers. Editors don't edit the books of really successful writers beyond a cursory glance because they don't need to. The book will get published and do well without any extra effort on the editors' part, and that delay could cost them money.

Even proofreading seems to be neglected in later editions in a series. I'm sure some proofreading happens, because otherwise there would be so many errors that everyone would notice them (even the best writer will miss a lot of typos, extra names instead of pronouns, little things like that), but the number of typos does increase with the number of editions in a series.
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Old 09-30-2011, 03:46 PM
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I believe he claims that his editor convinced him to pull some climaxes of some of the storylines and place them in the next book. So it could have been LONGER.
Indeed, GRRM's editor takes the blame for not having a little more resolution in ADWD. Supposedly he/she removed a couple pivotal scenes that will show up in the next book.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:11 PM
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I wonder if there are many writers whose editors say "You need more".
Gail Carriger, author of the Parasol Protectorate series, stated* that she is a very contained writer and frequently is told she needs to make things longer. She underruns her word counts for her books.

http://gailcarriger.com/index.php
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*No cite. Personal conversation at FenCon in Dallas last weekend.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:35 PM
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I refuse to believe that editors touched Rowling's or Stephen King's books after they stared making so much money for the publishers. These two writers got too full of themselves and powerful to allow their precious words to be edited.

I have no proof for this. It's just what I believe.
If you're going only on the fact that their later books are longer and less concise than their earlier ones, I think you need more evidence than that. It may be that, for an inexperienced novelist early in his/her career, it's a relative struggle to come up with enough words and ideas and details to fill a novel. Writing goes more slowly; the output is smaller. But as they get more experience under their belt, the words flow more freely, and they get more longwinded in their old age. I don't know whether this is actually the case for any particular author, but it sure seems like it's not uncommon for an author's later works to be longer and more discursive than their earlier works, even if the author never becomes a megastar.


At least one thing we can say for sure about Stephen King is that he later got enough clout to release a longer, uncut version of The Stand, so we have at least one example of what it looks like when an author is edited vs when they're not.
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Old 09-30-2011, 04:46 PM
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I think (and like others, no proof), JK Rowling actually went on an editing cycle through her books. #s 1-3--edited normally. #4--edited, but less so than the first three. #5--barely edited at all. #s 6 and 7--back to using an editor, though still less than 1-3.

I love the Harry Potter series, but I think #5 could easily have been cut by 25% and it would have been a better book. I also think the camping scenes in #7 could have been cut some, but other than that I thought #7 was very good.
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Old 09-30-2011, 06:56 PM
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Indeed, GRRM's editor takes the blame for not having a little more resolution in ADWD. Supposedly he/she removed a couple pivotal scenes that will show up in the next book.
Where did you read this?
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:19 PM
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P. G. Wodehouse said "I think most novels would be better if shorter." Looking at the long-winded novels of current authors, I agree with him...
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:34 PM
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Heh Bujold, who has an inordinate number of awards for writing F&SF uses those of us on her mail list as proofreaders when she has a new ARC out, when she has a new edition headed out and when they release a new ebook edition of her stuff ... as well as other errata. She also uses us as reference librarians - for CryoBurn she needed japanese translations for stuff that was happily provided by a japanese speaking listee.
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Old 09-30-2011, 07:41 PM
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Heh Bujold, who has an inordinate number of awards for writing F&SF uses those of us on her mail list as proofreaders when she has a new ARC out, when she has a new edition headed out and when they release a new ebook edition of her stuff ... as well as other errata. She also uses us as reference librarians - for CryoBurn she needed japanese translations for stuff that was happily provided by a japanese speaking listee.
That not editing--that's proofreading and translation. What's that got to do with the thread?

That said, Cryoburn didn't need better editing or better proofreading or better translation, it needed better writing.
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Old 09-30-2011, 08:59 PM
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Where did you read this?
GRRM said in his EW interview there were more cliffhangers than he'd have liked.

And from the westeros webiste:
http://www.westeros.org/ASoWS/Books/Entry/2665/
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...There’s a point Martin and his editor Anne Groell have noted: a pair of sequences intended for the novel were apparently, removed in the final weeks of work (one of GRRM’s own volition, the other at Groell’s urging). This may be why GRRM has said that the cliffhangers in this novel have proved somewhat more numerous than he would have preferred, suggesting that these sequences might have pushed the cliffhangers a bit further along.
So maybe the blame doesn't fall completely on the editor, but at least some.
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Old 09-30-2011, 09:14 PM
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GRRM said in his EW interview there were more cliffhangers than he'd have liked.
Excuse me if I'm skeptical, please. I think he just didn't have the resolutions written.

GRRM: "I can write some resolutions, really! Just give me another two years! Or maybe four."

Editor: "Look, we really need to publish something. Even if it sucks."

GRRM: "Fine, but it's your fault."
  #34  
Old 09-30-2011, 11:13 PM
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I had posted an OP about a week or so ago about how ponderous the popular Honor Harrington science fiction series was becoming. It just seemed lots of the book around book 5 and forward was becoming sheer padding with endless, ham handed political gabbery and clunky interpersonal vignettes.
Heck, I've barely started Book 2 and the author's tendency toward slogginess is apparent.

What comes to mind for the OP, though, is a film-maker named William "One-Shot" Beaudine:

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Returning to the states in 1938, he found that he was forgotten in Hollywood. He had difficulty getting and keeping jobs with major studios, so he went to work for "poverty row" independents. The films he made in the late thirties and forties were almost all "B" grade, and he soon acquired the reputation of a competent workman-like director, who was always well-prepared, and obsessed with maintaining the shooting schedule. He in turn grew a little cynical about the mediocre screenplays and barebone budgets he had to work with. When on one rare occasion he was admonished for falling behind schedule in making a shoestring potboiler, he replied "You mean someone out there is actually waiting to see this?" He was reportedly known for his refusal to do retakes, no matter what mistakes cropped up in the first shot, though the nickname "One-Shot" was not applied to him during his lifetime.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:08 AM
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WRT to JK Rowling, was'nt there a rewrite of a substantial bit of book 4 at the editor's behest?
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Old 10-01-2011, 01:50 AM
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It's hard to imagine Pynchon's latter two monsters Mason & Dixon and Against the Day being edited beyond the most cursory level (It's hard to imagine them even being published by another writer). Who would be up to the job of editing them and where would they start?

It reminds me a bit of when mathmaticians submit proofs of serious problems for publication. Other, unrelated mathmaticians have to agree to take on the job of reviewing the proof and putting it under scrutiny. Which can be a big commitment for a major proof. You'd need someone like John Barth to properly edit Against the Day .
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Old 10-01-2011, 09:04 AM
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I am the proofreader of about half of Stephen King's books since he came over to Scribner from Viking (the first novel was _Bag of Bones_) and, having seen many of his mss, I can assure folks that, while his grammar and style are idiosyncratic in many ways, he frequently okays sensible editorial suggestions.
There would be the occasional tug of war over his having 4 out of 5 objects on a single ms page colored red, the copyeditor suggesting at least one of these be turned to green, and his goodnaturedly declining in the margin, with a Smiley Face ...
He insists on "for awhile," which is not standard usage.

OTHER writers, I got horror stories up the wazoo about, let me tell ya ...
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Old 10-01-2011, 09:34 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Copyediting is not editing. Proofreading is not editing. They may be essential and writers are always grateful for those who can do the job well*, but editing is as different as mathematics is from arithmetic.

I know from literary history that many 1000 page novels have been carved out of 2000 page manuscripts. The length of the finished product says nothing whatsoever about the length of the ms.

Thomas Wolfe is the famous case that always gets trotted out, but he's just the tip of the iceberg.


*And writers have just as many horror stories from the times it wasn't done well.
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Old 10-01-2011, 09:48 AM
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WRT to JK Rowling, was'nt there a rewrite of a substantial bit of book 4 at the editor's behest?
As I recall, a Weasley cousin got cut and the important bits she did in terms of driving the main storyline was given to Rita Skeeter instead. However I've never heard a suggestion that was the editor's idea.
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Old 10-01-2011, 10:30 AM
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There would be the occasional tug of war over his having 4 out of 5 objects on a single ms page colored red, the copyeditor suggesting at least one of these be turned to green, and his goodnaturedly declining in the margin, with a Smiley Face ...
For us non-editors, what does this mean? What's an object? By colored red, does that mean underlined red, or crossed out, or something written in red pen, or what?
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:06 AM
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I don't think Henry Miller allowed any of his stuff to be edited, and it shows. A lot could be snipped without affecting to story one iota.
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:14 AM
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WRT to JK Rowling, was'nt there a rewrite of a substantial bit of book 4 at the editor's behest?
She made a mistake. In the original ending to the book, the people came out of the wand in the incorrect order of how they had been killed. After publication, readers pointed out the error and it was fixed.
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:17 AM
Lamia Lamia is offline
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As I recall, a Weasley cousin got cut and the important bits she did in terms of driving the main storyline was given to Rita Skeeter instead. However I've never heard a suggestion that was the editor's idea.
On J.K. Rowling's website she has some information about subplots and characters that wound up being cut from the final versions of the books. She talks about cutting the Weasley cousin, but as you say it sounds like this was her own idea and not the editor's: http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en..._view.cfm?id=3

However, she does say that at her editor's request she got rid of another minor character in Goblet of Fire: http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en..._view.cfm?id=4

ETA:
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Originally Posted by Mahaloth View Post
She made a mistake. In the original ending to the book, the people came out of the wand in the incorrect order of how they had been killed. After publication, readers pointed out the error and it was fixed.
This is also covered on her website: http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/faq_view.cfm?id=19

Note that she mentions they were under a lot of pressure (presumably from the publisher) to edit the manuscript very quickly.

Last edited by Lamia; 10-01-2011 at 11:18 AM.
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:19 AM
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ZenBeam: Sorry, I wasn't using a publishing term here, despite red pencils indeed being an editor's mainstay! King evidently likes the color red, and he'd keep describing various objects in a scene (pens, parkas, purses) as being red, to the point where the copyeditor (who was formerly his boss over at Viking) would try to persuade him to change this, if only for variety's sake!
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Old 10-01-2011, 01:41 PM
Sir T-Cups Sir T-Cups is offline
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OTHER writers, I got horror stories up the wazoo about, let me tell ya ...
And?

We're waiting....
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Old 10-01-2011, 01:58 PM
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I'd think it would be evident that the length of a Stephen King book is no indication of whether or not it was edited. Take, for instance, the 8000 paged The Stand and the unabridged 8500 page edition.

The parts taken out didn't effect the book but they were very interesting to read.
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Old 10-01-2011, 02:13 PM
norvalnormal norvalnormal is offline
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Only 3 easily related horror stories at the moment, all from the late 1980s to 5 years or so ago ...

1) A bicoastal actor/filmmaker/"writer" (make your own deductions, it's NOT James Franco) reduced an editor, a consummate professional, nearly to tears with his egomaniacal insults because she "dared" to suggest to such an Artiste that a chapter be split into 2, or maybe it was combining 2 chapters? This 2d book of his was trite and utterly derivative, and the reviews were appropriately dismissive.

2) I phoned an editor to inform her that a character's name had changed halfway through a novel. She in turn phoned the prolific author to ask him whether he had a preference, and his response in its entirety was "Who cares??"

3) A Harold Robbins wannabe narrated a ludicrous sex scene and the female copyeditor in the margin of the manuscript questioned whether his anatomical description involving the aerodynamics of testicles mid-coitus was even physically feasible, given the limitations of human male anatomy. His scrawled response in the margin read "Try it, you'll like it!"

bonus: A "procedural" that was published last year had an orchestra performing the "eighth symphony" of Brahms. (The copyeditor apparently had not been a music major. Nor did this editor notice that chapters were misnumbered, or that the author had midway through the book evidently begun to consult the wrong calendar, so that dozens of "2011" dates in the narrative were one weekday off. This is a _major_ publishing house, and the author is a lawyer.)
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Old 10-01-2011, 07:26 PM
Kim o the Concrete Jungle Kim o the Concrete Jungle is offline
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It's a slightly different issue for overseas writers who are sending texts that have already been edited and published in their own countries to American publishers. In that case, what the publisher wants to do is Amercanize the text (often under the assumption that the American reader is a complete and utter moron). The result of that process is almost always abominable.

J K Rowling is a good case in point. In the rest of the world, her first book is called "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone", because the "Philosopher's stone" is a thing that makes sense. You can look it up on Wikipedia or wherever and get Rowling's meaning. Her American publisher, Scholastic, changed it to "Sorcerer's Stone", which is completely and utterly meaningless and stupid. If you read the American editions only, you don't even get a chance to spot the Philosopher's Stone reference and understand that it's chief property is to stop you from aging.
  #49  
Old 10-01-2011, 08:09 PM
norvalnormal norvalnormal is offline
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Dealing with British texts that are being issued in the U.S. can be pretty aggravating as well for the diligent proofreader.
Some copyeditors will insist that every single British term in the narrative (some editors: even if it's in dialogue spoken by British speakers!) be changed to its American equivalent. This is ludicrous if the book is intended for reasonably sophisticated readers, who wouldn't exactly have trouble with "lift," "flat," and so on. And, invariably, the copyeditor misses 30% of these terms and they need to be changed to "elevator," "apartment," etc., for the sake of consistency.

Yet in the same manuscript, there will be a Britishism that is _so_ obscure that I am unable to make heads or tails of it, even with 3 British/American dictionaries at hand (God bless search engines) ...
  #50  
Old 10-01-2011, 08:13 PM
Capitaine Zombie Capitaine Zombie is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro View Post
Anne Rice makes no bones about it. In her famous Amazon rant she said
Wow, Chuck Palahniuk has a personal site?
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