Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Working with an Editor: Thoughts and Dialogue

It's time for another post geared toward writing, and it just so happens that my favorite writing posts are those about working with an editor. My favorite part of writing is obviously the creative part - writing the story - but nothing gets my brain fired up, or presents as much of a challenge, as editing.

My editor and I have gone back and forth on the use of italics for internal thoughts. Some authors use italics for all internal thoughts, some use thought tags, and some use a combination. In my writing I use italics, but during recent edits, the discussion has turned to whether or not italics pull a reader from the story. This lead to further discussion on whether or not too many internal thoughts should even be used. The conundrum was, I didn't want to have to make the decision, but the final decision and writing style rests with the author, not the editor. 

I'll admit that I went back and forth, and probably drove my editor a little crazy in the process. While reading different books from different publishers and authors, I've found all three of the above mentioned methods used. My conclusion is that not one of them is more correct than the others.

Enter dialogue. I like dialogue far more than I do description, and I've recently discovered that I enjoy dialogue far more than internal thoughts. Don't get me wrong, description and narrative is important to any story, and internal thoughts do have their place, but I do believe that dialogue can help minimize internal thoughts and lengthy description. Oftentimes, questions a character may ask are immediately asked or answered in dialogue following the thought. So why include the thought?

This is the question I had to ask myself during recent edits. Why include the thought? By the time I deleted half of the internal thoughts, I further discovered that nothing changed. The story didn't change, the meaning didn't change, the character's behavior and actions didn't change. So, what did change? The pace increased and redundancies were reduced, allowing the story to move forward with fewer internal interruptions. 

Working closely with an editor allows for these types of discussion. Again, in the end it's up to the author to make the choice and the change, but making the choice isn't always easy, and a great editor is willing to be a sounding board, offering both technical advice and personal opinions. 

How do you feel about internal thoughts? Have you found a way to minimize them in your writing? 

Disclaimer: My editor does not edit these blog posts, though some day I really ought to have her do just that.


  1. Great post MK. I think an author should just remain consistent with whatever format they follow. I like some internal thought. I've no doubt that when I write I have too much. Hopefully this gets scaled down during editing. But I also hope that readers will forgive if I run on about something. I know if I love a book I'll overlook such things. Nobody's perfect. And I've worked harder to get more dialogue into my writing, because it definitely brings more immediacy to the story.

    1. I agree. Consistency is one thing my editor really looks for, and isn't afraid to tell me when something's not. I hadn't thought about the number of internal thoughts I was using, but when someone is pointing it out, the little comments really start to pile up! :) Good comment about the dialogue bringing more immediacy - I completely agree. Thanks, Kristy!