This might come off as more of a rant than anything else, but for those of you who follow me who are readers, or writers, or editors, I believe you will find something worth reading here.
First, allow me to give you a bit of reasoning for this. I was reading a completed book, fully published and all, and I noticed some glaring issues. Now, when I say “glaring” I am not inferring that there were some minor errors detracting from the experience I like to enjoy as a reader. I’m saying I had to stop reading it. Regardless of how engrossing the story was, the issues pulled me out.
That being said, allow me to speak from the reader’s perspective first.
There is nothing like getting lost in a book. The wonder of a moment, or the horror of what the protagonist has to endure; perhaps, even, a life-changing event – and I’m not talking about the story, but how the story might shape my own life. That being said, nothing pulls me from a story faster than an abundance of little things, or a horrible ending. In the book I was reading, from the get go there was a problem with tense. Hard to get drawn in when I’m seeing “are” “was” “is” and “were” all in the same sentence, or when there are commas where commas shouldn’t be, and a lack of commas where they surely should have been. It wasn’t about the errors, but the amount of errors.
As the little problems start adding up, so too, does my disinterest. If you, the author, cannot find the right people to help you, take the time. Right now, indie authors get a bad rep from many avenues. It’s as if we have to wade through the muck to find the gems. Of course, the mainstream crap hasn’t been much kinder to us in recent years, which is why I often find myself re-reading the classics. At least those are worth my time. This goes along with something I learned a while back: when writing fantasy, I have found that unique fantastical names are cool, but we have to be cautious about it. Names that are far too long or are impossible to pronounce, no matter how good the story might be, will pull us out, our suspension of disbelief halted as we seek out something we can dig into.
This leads us into my thoughts as a writer…
I know the struggles of a writer as well. I understand notes, outlines, first drafts, second drafts, etc… I know all too well the fact that the work going into these works of fiction or non-fiction, these works from within our mind, is intense and incredibly time consuming. On top of all of this, odds are that only those closest to us will ever truly read and enjoy our work, as we struggle to find an audience in a prayer that we will be able to pay our bills one day without having to deal with the 9-5 grind. Our realities and our dreams are often far too disparate for us to see any real hope of becoming the next J.K. Rowling, or GRRM.
However, I believe that my work should be able to speak for itself. That my talents as a writer should be able to carry itself. That if by some chance I could market myself well enough to gain interest, that interest would be rewarded with a good time lost in my words. But that takes work, commitment. It takes time and perseverance. In addition to this, however, it also takes a bit of a strive for perfection. We should be facing our goals with a determination to produce only the finest quality.
Why do we fall short? Is it our stubbornness in not accepting criticism? Maybe we depend on ourselves far too much to be able to see where our biggest faults lie, often in a struggle between what we want to do and who we allow into our inner circle, or mind for that matter. We can word well, right? So why do we need help? And even for those of us who have multiple eyes on our works, things are still missed. But small bits of mis-punctuation or typos can be acceptable as long there aren’t too many. Even some minor line issues can be overlooked in a fantastic story. The problem comes with the quantity found.
We need to park our collective egos, and not just ask for help, but accept it, no matter the form.
And, finally, thoughts from an editor…
My goal as a reader is to get lost in someone’s world. My goal as a writer is to create such a world that others might get lost in it. My goal as an editor is to help my client produce the best possible product – whether it’s a novel, short story, poem, or any number of technical documents or resumes.
I firmly believe that everyone has their own voice. And if I cannot find a voice in their writing I will take the time to work with them so that they can find their story, told only in the way they can tell it. With that said, however, I am certain to point out any and all issues, or potential issues, in their manuscripts. There are various types of editing: proofreading, line editing, copy editing, content editing, developmental editing, among other types, and many of these overlap in meaning from person to person. Finding a trusted, good editor can make all the difference between publishing a story and publishing a story that will be able to keep our readers engaged.
We should care as much about the manuscript as our client does. Some of us might ask for a summary of the story in an effort to see how well the author actually knows their story, and also to understand how the story is supposed to unfold. If an editor turns down your work because of too many problems, do not be dismayed, but fix these issues, unless you’re willing to pay your editor for the proofreading as well. Personally, I can handle it all, but sometimes it looks as though the writer just sent us a first draft, without really trying to give us something to work with. At this point, what you’re asking for is developmental editing, and that will end up very costly. Use tools found in Word, or OpenOffice, or any other writing program you use. There are tools such as Grammerly, or the Hemingway app.
If you want your editor to care about your story, please care enough to do the work as well…
Thanks for your time.