Monday, 25 July 2011

On Editing (Or Not)

As a disclaimer: I don't really want to offend or upset anyone with this blog, but given the perhaps sensitive nature of the content, I guess it might be taken as a personal dig at various people. It's really not. Also, I appreciate I’m setting myself up to be a hypocrite. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else and that's not the end of the world. I’m mainly asking for a bit more vigilance on this matter.

I’ve just sat down to write a review of Alice by Selena Kitt, and you know what? I can only think about one thing. A characters name is misspelled twice on page one. This was at first confusing, and then so annoying I nearly stopped reading the story there and then. How could someone have published something with such an obvious mistake so early on? I had however paid for it, and it seemed a waste of my money to stop reading it, so I persevered. My expectations of the rest of the story has bottomed out. I thought “if she can't spend the time making sure her characters names are spelled right, why should I assume she expended any effort making sure the story is any good, or the grammar is understandable?”

See, you laughed at that, didn't you?

In fairness to Ms Kitt, Alice is an excellent story once I got beyond that, and I promise not to overdo this gripe again in my review. But the point stands that rather than going on and on about great the story is, I’m sat here ranting about the spelling. Is that really what you want your work to be remembered for?

I’ve come across a lot of poor editing in recent months, and it's really starting to get to me. Before I read erotica I think perhaps I took editing for granted. You'd come across the odd misspelled word in a book and it'd be funny. But since I began to read erotica, I routinely come across sentences that don't make sense, words spelled incorrectly, and grammar in all the wrong places.

Admittedly, most of the erotica that I read is free, and the quality varies wildly, which is what I expect of self-published fiction and is probably one of the reasons why self publishing is prone to bad press. Lately though, I’ve been buying more erotica from seemingly reputable publishing houses and I’m astounded to find that the issues persist there. It's making it very difficult to know what is and isn't worth buying. Slowly but surely, I am losing my faith in published erotica as a genre worth taking seriously. And that makes me very sad, because I like to think I’m good at what I do and I wouldn't want someone else to dismiss my work off-hand because they'd had bad experiences with other pieces of fiction.

Will somebody please think of the children?!

My most serious issue is with authors that charge for their work because they truly have no excuse. I think it's demeaning to your readers to expect them to pay for mistakes that you could easily have fixed. However, to authors that put their work out for free I say: don't do yourself down by failing to edit properly. Not charging for your work is a poor reason to put out any old rubbish. I recently read a story with a friend of mine which would have been average if it had been edited for grammar and misspellings, but which was truly dismal because the incorrect punctuation made a number of sentences almost unintelligible. Thankfully, we laughed our asses of so it wasn't a wasted time, but I feel for the author as I seriously doubt it was her intention that we mock her story rather than enjoy it. I read a free story by another author which was quite good for content but poor on grammar and I’ve been seriously put off looking at the work they have for sale because I have no reason to expect it's any different.

Perhaps this is a bee in my bonnet because I am a writer and spending my time nit picking my own grammar and spelling is what I'd ultimately like to be paid to do. If, however, this is as widespread an issue as it seems to be, then people need to be standing up and complaining about it until things begin to change. Lets not allow the poor editing of some to ruin the reputation of everyone out there that is writing genuinely fantastic erotica.

4 comments:

My experience in working with Editors has been a bit of a double edged sword. Yes they did point out punctuation errors- which could be easily corrected, but they also wanted content removed that they did not feel was necessary. Who is writing the book? How do they know what is and is not necessary for my story? When they stop trying to re-write my material for content, and stick to grammar and punctuation, then I will be open to work with them once again.

...not to mention my paranoia about others seeing my work prior to publishing. If you've ever been plagiarized in any way, you may know where I'm coming from.

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Thank you for stopping by! I think I understand your worry about plagiarism. As for editors - my opinion of them is changing. I have begun reading Dollars and Sense: The Definitive Guide to Self Publishing, and it explains that editors can (and should) be instrumental in your success as a writer. They understand pace and tone and how a book will be read and how a reader will approach it. I'm not saying they are always right, but perhaps if you look at your book as a product that you want to sell then you might see the sense in them wanting to change things - it's not a personal dig at you or your story, it is a refinement to a product to make it more accessible and more saleable. Which, if you want to make money, is surely a good thing?

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