There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the web lately about what is acceptable editing of a book before it is released. So I figured I’d toss my two cents into it. But edits are something I do for my readers.
I think the vast majority of indie books are actually cleaner than what the big legacy publishers are producing. Today most legacy publishers expect a book to come to them already edited.They are no longer employing hundreds of editors. Those editors are now editing books for indies and small publishers.
Most indies try very hard to produce extremely clean books. I would never trust myself to self edit or to rely on my critique partners. I scrub my book to a high shine and then send it to my editor. I get back pages and pages of mistakes. Most are groaners, their/they’re or your/you’re. The number of misplaced commas and other really stupid errors make me cringe. Why didn’t I see it? Because we never see our own errors. Our brains correct the errors as we read because we know what it’s supposed to say!
Most authors are story tellers, with no background in English grammar. They can tell a wonderful story but they have no idea if they are getting good edits or not. Finding the right editor isn’t easy. I’ve been down that route myself. I’ve struggled with it. I’m pleased to say I have a great editor. She’s not perfect, but she really is super.
How do I know that? I have a ton of college English credits, enough to teach English. But if someone says indirect object, my eyes roll into my head and my brain hurts. The truth is I can’t keep all those rules in my head for longer than what it takes me to pass the darn tests. And pass them I did with solid A’s. I keep a half dozen grammar books near my desk and my Chicago Manual of Style is at my fingertips. But if you are a grammar guru, you will notice I make plenty of mistakes on my blog posts. Call it whatever you want – I’m careless and I know it. But when it comes to my books… I want perfection or close to it.
Truthfully most people don’t know when to use a comma and will never notice one that is missing until a sentence seems confusing. We’ve all hit those sentences in a book. The ones where you have to stop and read them three times before they make any sense. Then there are those who think a comma goes where there is a pause in the way you say a sentence. Not so!
The author industry is actually quite small. We know each other. Yes there are lots of folks we don’t know but if they begin to rise to the top, we know them or know who they are. That also means we know those who work behind the scenes such as editors and cover artists. Covers are easy. You can look at them and say I love what he or she is doing. But editors? That harder.
A friend has had her books edited by some well-known editors with excellent reputations. When she said something to me about edits, I gave her the name of my editor. She was floored when she had her books re-edited. She got pages and pages of errors back from my editor. All things that should have been caught with the first round of edits.
We all say things we shouldn’t. Where’s the book at? Out the light. You’re going with us, eh? Often these patterns in our speech are directly related to where we grew up. A wonderful author friend is from Georgia (USA) and she writes much like she speaks. Her grammar is excellent, but it’s the way she chooses to put her words together. Her delightful southern accent comes though.
There are those who use the thesaurus way too much! And then there are those who do crossword puzzles which are famous for obscure meanings of certain words. I will never dumb down a book, but why use a $50 word when the nickel one works perfectly? Does an author like showing off his or her vocabulary?
I’ve warned many a new author about using words that make some readers stop to look at a word. I’m not saying readers are stupid. They aren’t. But those big words can knock them out of what they are reading. Seriously when was the last time you used felicitous in conversation? Can’t you just say lucky? Maybe that character with her nose in the air might use felicitous, while the other characters in the room look at each other and roll their eyes.
I’ve always had a super-duper vocabulary. Can’t spell my way out of quicksand but I’ve got a great word bank in my brain. As a kid, I loved to read the dictionary. That doesn’t mean I use it when I write. Probably one of the biggest things I hear about my writing is the smoothness of the style. Fortunately I don’t write the way I talk. But the minute I begin to commit words to paper, something happens and I kick into anther mode.
Unless you’re on a college campus or in some highly specialized field that requires post graduate degrees, you will not hear some words! NASA scientists use words the rest of us don’t! Being married for years to a computer guru who had an engineer’s brain left me with an inordinate computer lexis on top of the eclectic one I already had. Yep, I can use those words in ordinary conversation and I don’t have to stop and think about them. But I probably just made half my readers slow down as they read that and some folks are wondering what a car has to do with any of it. So what’s wrong with saying I have an excessive and unusual vocabulary filled with a bunch of words that no one really uses outside of certain fields?
And yes, I have pet peeves in day-to-day life. That sign at the store that says twenty items or less – what does that mean? Less is nothing. You can’t hold less in your hand. Yes, you weigh five pounds less this morning. You can’t pick those five pounds off the floor and say look what I lost! Wow, if I could, I’d hide that five pounds so my body would never find it again! That sign should read twenty items or fewer! Same with like I said. NO! Like is not used with a verb! We should say as I said! Said is a verb. But everyone today says like I said. To me, it’s the same as listening to fingernails on the chalkboard! It’s wrong and it makes my ears cringe.
My mother was very strict when I was growing up. Proper English was important to her. She didn’t want her children to sound like uneducated peasants. I’d groan and roll my eyes when she corrected me. Today, I can look back and see her insecurities, but I’ll save that for another post.
And with today’s electronic conversion methods, things happen. No one is typesetting. We put a word doc into a converter and you get something you can read on your e-reader. It’s not perfect. I’ve seen boots become books, and thumb become thump. We call them typos, but they are conversion errors. They are not the fault of the author. Reloading a manuscript usually will fix it. (One more hassle.)
But there are those few bad apples that spoil it for all authors. Those of us in the industry know who they are and we can spot them in less than two pages. Most all booksellers allow you to read several pages before buying. Do it! Everyone will have mistakes. There is no perfect book. But poor or lacking edits will usually yank the reader from what they are reading. There are actually industry standards of what is considered acceptable. It’s approximately one error per 10K words.
We read fiction for pure entertainment. We want to enjoy the experience. We don’t want to be confused by poorly worded sentences that lack commas, pronouns that make no sense, and words that are unfamiliar. We don’t want to stop and think. I want my readers to fall into my books and not climb out until the story has ended. Poor edits are like flat tires, dead batteries, and over-cooked chicken. We have enough of it in real life. We don’t need it in our writing. Therefore my books are edited by a professional who knows what she is doing. I do it for my readers!
Thought you’d enjoy seeing my friend’s new cover for her upcoming release in June.