Let's Talk Editing

I had a poster who shall remain nameless on this blog post (check the Anya Bast review comments, heehee) who stated that she was the least concerned about editing (in respect to what, I didn’t clarify). It made me think: am I being too picky about wanting a book well edited? When you put a product together, it’s supposed to be in top form. No edited work is perfect (some are just plain awful) but as a reader I do find editing problems jarring when there are so many of them…

The reason I post this is that when I review books, especially ebooks and I mention editing issues, it isn’t just a few misspelled words or one or two wrong word choices. I do care about editing because as a reader I do find it rather jarring to read a sentence that is clearly a question end with a period or see the wrong word choices used and then go on to read sentences without periods. I mean WTF? It’s annoying as hell.

All of this is to say that I am not being nit-picky when it comes to mentioning editing issues. If I say your book has editing issues it is because there were PLENTY of them. I know it’s a sore spot as editing is not easy but no job that is important is ever easy.

So, as a reader I’m not trying to be mean spirited. I like a well written book. Some authors seem to be able to write above their editing issues while others fair not so well. As a reader, the goal of reading any book is to be entertained and not being jarred out of the experience with editing issues. I mean I am paying for the product, right?

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18 Responses to Let's Talk Editing

  1. Dee says:

    Keishon–I might write, but I’m a reader first. I know the whole question of “Reader Rights” has been all over the blogsphere of late, but I’m actually really surprised that we question them at all.

    When I buy a product, be it a book or a toilet bowl cleaner, I’m entitled to say, “If it doesn’t work for me, I’m not buying more.” And, of course, I’m allowed to explain why. (As a writer though, I must add how it’s easier to swallow if a person can actually explain why or what they didn’t like.) Proctor & Gamble do not get to sue me for not liking their cleaning products and stating why as long as I’m not lying. Every penny I spend on something other than feeding and housing my son is precious and I’d rather know I’m spending it on something worthy of the sacrifice.

    So, to answer the lesser question, if you feel there is a poor editing job going on, sure, that’s a more than valid reason to be disenchanted with a book. And if you notice the trend coming from a specific publisher, there shouldn’t be anyone out there stopping you from saying so.

    Though, lol, it’s not likely the pub will thank you.

    As a writer, I admit, grammar is not my strength. I rely on my editor (lol, possibly a bit too heavily) to help me see where I missed something. She’s only human, of course, and she’s going to allow me to misuse the English language a bit if it’s the best for the story. BUT–big but there–she’s not going to let me ignore the basic requirements. Such as periods. And quotations. And you know, linear references. That’s what makes her an excellent editor.

    I think the fluff up is really because authors like to fancy themselves as “artists”, never realizing there’s two types of art out there–Fine Art and Graphic Design. One is to please the artist, the second is to please the audience. You must still have a level of talent to do either, but the latter means you write FOR someone else and you earn from it. You put it out for public consumption and grant Reader Rights by doing so. A fine artist has the right to thumb his nose at detractors because they have not paid for the privilege. (He also enjoys the right to starve to death or earn his living elsewhere and enjoy his inner peace, owing nothing to no one. But that’s neither here nor there.)

    Any graphic artist–or editor–worth their salt is going to tell you that in order for a product to be complete, it must pass muster, be those artisitic guidelines or basic grammatical tests, and that they do their best to keep these errors from happening. But if you see a gross number of errors, something needs to be said. Otherwise, how is something going to get done? Anything excessive is a failure somewhere and readers–and writers–have a right to know.

    Hope that wasn’t too much of an opinion,
    Dee

  2. Avid Reader says:

    No not at all and thank you for sharing your opinion, Dee. I’ve read my share of books that have errors of all types but when it becomes excessive – it’s a problem but again, some authors have talent enough write above those errors to where the enjoyment of the story isn’t lost completely. No work printed or otherwise is perfect and we can’t catch everything but at least make an effort and sometimes I don’t see the effort in some of the work out there, ya know 😉 Readers have been rumbling grammatical erros and it seems to be getting worse and not better these days…

  3. Dana says:

    I do think editing is very important. However, I don’t tend to notice a lot of grammatical mistakes even in books I’ve seen other reviewers complain about. My brain isn’t wired that way. What drives me nuts is typography and printing mistakes. My friend once let me borrow a book that had double spacing after each period. I couldn’t get past the second page because all I could see was the gaps in the text. Insufficient margins is another thing that gets on my nerves.

  4. Dancechica says:

    See, I’m like Dana. I tend not to notice grammatical mistakes and I’m glad I don’t because it seems to really drive crazy the people who do. Lately, however, I’ve begun to notice repetitive word usage. Like if an author keeps using one word repeatedly. That starts to grate on my nerves after a while but other mistakes I usually don’t notice or it doesn’t bother me if/when I do.

  5. Jane says:

    Unless the errors are glaring, i really don’t mind. Like Dancechica, though, repetitive phrases are very irritating, particularly when they are strong visuals i.e., the one lone tear used more than once is highly jarring.

    I have read the word “inexorable” too many times when it comes to the sword sliding home, IYKWM.

  6. Avid Reader says:

    Hey, don’t look at me as the grammatical queen – I don’t notice most mistakes like dangling participles and the like but I think you guys would notice the ones I mentioned as examples and repetitive word usage drives me crazy, too. I had recently read a book that used “crotch clutching” too many times to count. I remember reading a couple of LKH books where she used the same description of a love scene–word for word–in two books. Probably still does since she’s upped it to erotica these days…

  7. sybil says:

    I read too many ARC’s to get worked up about editing but repetitive words drive me batty.

  8. May says:

    I don’t think you’re being nit-picky.

    Errors JUMP OUT at me, and even more so when I’m not into the book.

    And repetitive words annoy me. I notice it especially when I’m glomming an author.

  9. Robin says:

    I have read the word “inexorable” too many times when it comes to the sword sliding home, IYKWM.

    What is UP with that word? I have literally come to despise it because I see it so many times in Romance, and often used incorrectly, to boot. It’s so bad that I will not use it in anything I write, for any purpose.

    As for the general editing issue, I have a rather notorious position on this one, but since you brought the topic up again, Keishon, I’ll slip this in: the media of Romance is language, as in words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. No writer or editor is perfect and mistakes will be made. I love that there are writers who openly thank their editors, because I think that getting the best book possible to publication IS a collaborative process. And I agree with the people who say that the less engaged you are with a book, the more you will notice editorial problems. Because for me, all roads lead back to the fact that writing is an art and a skill and its techniques and rules exist primarily to help the writer make his or her point in the clearest, most engaging, and most effective way, so that there is as little distance as possible between the words and the reader.

  10. Jennifer B says:

    I’m right with you on this point Keishon. I prefer a well-written book period.

  11. Avid Reader says:

    Well, hell, wish I could have ARC’s to read too.

  12. sybil says:

    hee 🙂 It is a great problem to have. I will read all the unedited ARC’s people want to send me. Cuz I rock like that.

  13. CindyS says:

    Let’s just say that if *I* notice the editing, then the whole world will too. I hate not knowing dangling participles and stuff but sentences with no punctuation? That’d just piss me off.

    I haven’t ventured into e-books (be gentle) for too many reasons to count but editing has come up too often for it not to be a real issue.

    CindyS

  14. Jane says:

    I just finished Angels Fall by Nora roberts and had the same sentiments that you had CindyS. No punctuation? Missing quote marks. No periods. It was bizarre. I couldn’t believe that it was a NR book. I would think that she, of all people, would get the copy editing gurus.

  15. Avid Reader says:

    My sentiments EXACTLY CindyS. I am a reader who rarely notices anything out of place…but if I notice it, many would too.

    Jane, you’ve got to be kidding me. Nora had these problems? Maybe no one edits her stuff anymore? Ann Rice got it like that. No one edits her stuff and what a shame, too.

  16. Robin says:

    I just finished Angels Fall by Nora roberts and had the same sentiments that you had CindyS. No punctuation? Missing quote marks. No periods. It was bizarre. I couldn’t believe that it was a NR book. I would think that she, of all people, would get the copy editing gurus.

    Except for the latest In Death hardcover, as soon as that series went to hardback (and to Putnam), the copy editing took an enormous nosedive. There have always been some consistency problems across the books in other ways, but everything just got compounded once those hardcovers started rolling out (plus from book to book the paragraph and sentence structure seemed to change, too, which was really weird and jarring). I’ve also noticed some decent copy editing mistakes in Berkley paperbacks, but not nearly as bad as the Putnam hardbacks (although maybe they were there and I didn’t notice until the series hit hardback).

  17. Jane says:

    I didn’t start counting until half way through the book. I am not a grammatical guru and so sometimes I think that I am just not seeing things right, but it wasn’t right.

    I counted at least 10 places where a quotation mark was missing. But the most egregious error was in the sentence structure. I dont know if it was intentional or not. I am going to review the book this weekend and will post a couple of examples. Maybe NR is going for something stylistically. It was avery good book, though.

  18. Avid Reader says:

    I look forward to your review, Jane, on Angel’s Fall. I’ve been noticing some mixed reviews out there and as I’ve not read her in a long time, it might be a good time to read this one. Especially since you said it was very good.

    If the style these days are to violate basic sentence structure then I’d have to give it a pass.

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