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So Obvious It Hurts – I made a tough decision the other day. You see I LOVE to read a good book—nothing is more gratifying than a good story well told. It’s what inspires me to write. And I’m sure I’m not the first to make such a claim.
Typically, I read several books at once—usually three or four bookmarked paperbacks and a couple Kindles clutter my headboard. (I do all my pleasure reading in bed.) Yet in recent months the unfinished books, especially on the Kindles, have risen to an alarming number and I’ve found myself avoiding reading altogether, viewing it as more of a chore than a joy.
Instead I was doing stupid shit instead, like playing solitaire on my phone—duh. Something was seriously wrong with this picture. So I took a good long look.
Ass Backwards – As an Indie/Self-pub author, I do my best to support my rebel brethren, yet there is a limit to what I can tolerate. And upon closer inspection the problem became obvious—bad writing. Or more correctly stated, lack of good editing. Apparently, it’s true. While most have entertaining stories to tell, too many of my compatriots fail to offer up a finely crafted finished product, often neglecting one of the most important steps—professional editing.
The answer was staring me in the face—a cold hard truth. I didn’t finish those books because they lacked professional editing. Too many words, missing words, misspelled words, wrong words … poorly punctuated, badly constructed, confusing sentences—the list goes on and on. Yikes!!! No wonder I quit reading.
Having been guilty of this crime myself on more than one occasion, I felt embarrassed for my fellow authors. It’s a bitter pill until you realize professional editing is a vital step in the creation of entertaining literature.
No More – Deciding there was only one cure for my ills, I deleted all the books sorely lacking professional editing, marking them as finished in Goodreads and elsewhere. After all, it’s not my job to edit their books for them. And that’s literally what I was attempting to do as I slogged through the errors.
From here on out, I will immediately quit reading and delete from my library any and all stories that obviously lack professional editing.
I suspect that the general reading public has a lower tolerance for poor or no editing than I do, so Indie/Self-pub authors be forewarned.
5 Reasons Why We Authors Need Professional Editors – 1. Too Close to Home – Subjectivity versus Objectivity is the # 1 reason. Upon close inspection it is a rare event indeed when the manuscript actually matches what I thought I wrote. As authors critiquing our own work, it is objectivity we sorely lack. Objectivity is what a professional editor brings to the party. Welcome them.
2. Overwriting is a Crime – All those words seem so important when we write them, desperately trying to get the full scope and majesty across the endless void to the unknown reader. More often than not all those words simply kludge up the story, slowing the pace to a snore. Professional editors will let you know when you’re overwriting. Heed them well.
3. Spell Checkers are Stupid – Few of us are perfect. My spelling and usage frequently suck even after I’ve diligently applied the spelling and grammar checkers. I HATE misspelled words, missing words, wrong words, stupid grammar and bad punctuation in my work. It’s downright embarrassing. It’s much wiser to let the professional copy editors do their job saving us from the shame of it all.
4. A Diamond in the Rough – To mix metaphors, the ideas are ours as authors, yet even Lamborghinis need a good mechanic to run their best. Good editing will help you fine tune your story until it purrs like a jungle cat. (Yikes—a veritable metaphor soup! As you can see, this blog lacks professional editing.)
5. Creative Professionalism – An editor’s role in the creative process is vital to the overall quality of the work. By example, there is Maxwell Perkins who edited works for such literary luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe. Other notable author/editor relationships include Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer-Lytton, as well as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In his seminal non-fiction work, Stephen King | On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, King makes frequent mention of his Ideal Reader, his wife, his first readers and copy editors, all of whom help him polish his work. These examples should not be lost on us authors.
It took me a couple years of trial and error to hit upon the right combo of editor/copy editor and first readers. Through that process the first Lance Underphal mystery, Dark Side of Sunset Pointe has been re-edited and re-released a full five thousand words lighter, tighter, better organized and overall, a better read. The second Lance Underphal mystery, Flight of the Tarantula Hawk has undergone the same process and is working its way through the final stages of the publishing process. As I write this, it looks to be another few weeks until its release.
I’m grateful to those who have contributed to the effort: My wife Cynthia, my first reader. Teresa Watson for her mystery editing expertise. Linda Seed of Linda Seed Editorial Services for her keen editing eye and sharp insight. Along with my dedicated crew of Alpha Readers: Ravina Andrea Kurian, Beverly Van Marter, Dawnie Lynn McCraley, Kathleen Lewis, Michelle Gallegos and Michelle Grogan.
If you have an experience or an opinion about book editors, first readers or any other aspect of the editing process that you’d care to relate, please leave your comments.