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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

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Authors & Aspiring Writers: Why Proper Editing Matters - A Rant

Bookwyrming Thoughts Discussion
I support indie authors. I really do. In fact, most of the books I've read since starting Bookwyrming Thoughts? They're indie books. I personally think that there are some indie books out there that deserve to be read. In fact, there are probably 3 types: the ones who deserve to be on the bookshelves of Walmart or Barnes & Noble or Target, the ones who deserve to be on those bookshelves but need some tweaking, and then the ones who absolutely do not deserve to be anywhere but on the hard drive of a computer.

I've met all three types. In fact, when I first started this blog and got my first few requests, I was hesitant. Why? They were indie books, I had never read an indie book (my first thought: what is this thing called indie?), and my biggest fear when I found out what indie books meant was editing that would make all of my English teachers run for cover.
But I am not writing this post to praise indie books or authors. I am not writing to talk about indie recommendations, and I am not talking about English teachers. I am mainly writing this post to talk – more like ranting – about something else entirely, and it's completely directed at authors and those aspiring to become one.

The writing process is no easy task. In fact, I can describe it in four words: Write, Edit, Destroy, Repeat. Repeat it until it's all nice and polished and ready for the scrutiny of reviewers like me to pry it apart. It might not always be nice, but writing isn't easy, is it? No, it's not. In fact, reading the acknowledgments of many books, I find that writing a novel is basically like raising a kid. And please, don't assume I'm a mom. That's a very bad idea for my age. But raising a kid, like writing, apparently has a lot of sacrifices, and it's an accomplishment as well.

Unfortunately, accomplishments are not easy, because if that were the case, I could say I want to write a bestseller and then poof! I wrote the next blockbuster. Yeah, that's not happening. I'm just a happy reader who likes sharing her thoughts with the world.
But here is what makes me REALLY FREAKING MAD. And I mean completely frustrated, that I sometimes want to punch a pillow.
Better than a wall right? My mother, the apartment manager and the authorities would be pretty darn furious. Not to mention a lifelong lecture from my mom, if I even get bailed out of jail. That's probably not going to happen.

Improper Editing

Yes. Authors who are careless enough that they do NOT take the time of their lives to take a few months to properly edit their book. Authors who are careless enough that they choose not to waste money on hiring a decent editor before tossing their book right out there to the world. Authors who are hoping that they will get a fan base big enough to push them to the top of the radar for their next book to be picked up by an agent, or even better, a traditional publisher like Random House or Harlequin.

Dear author, that is not gonna happen if you don't take your time. In fact, editing is the hardest part of the writing process. You wrote a novel! That's an accomplishment! (Sarcasm not intended) But now you have to go through and pick apart your book, looking for flaws before an editor or a reviewer does it for you. And if it's a reviewer, sometimes that reviewer isn't going to be very nice. In fact, some are going to be downright nasty and it's going to hurt as though someone decided to stab you with an ultra-sharp knife. Which, apparently hurts if you think about it. Actually, twisting an ankle is better. It's still not a pleasant experience though.
In fact, there are reasons why you, dear author, should take the time to edit your book, and not just skip across the river happily to LaLa Land or Publishing Land, or whatever paradise you're currently imagining in your head that makes you happy.
It is humiliating, and it is mortifying. It is not just you. It is your editor for doing a poor job, and if you're picked up by a publishing house – however small or big it is – it's them as well. Because here's the thing. If there's a lot of books published by Publisher A that have lots of errors, most readers are going to go read books from Publisher B instead of A. It's a snowball, and it's not a clean one. Why? Because if you're not earning your royalties, your publisher doesn't get money, said publisher can't pay employees and then goes bankrupt. Of course, that sort of depends on how many authors they've signed on, and how many are "careless."
It's used everywhere. When an employer (or even an agent you're querying) sees that you have decent grammar and spelling skills, it shows that you are professional. It sort of makes an impression on them, and they don't toss your letter or manuscript or email or query – do I even need to list more? – straight into Shreddy. It gives you more chances to pass the first rung, but no guarantees. You're just as likely to be tossed aside than any other person. The thing is, you then bypass all those who I just have to cringe when I see their writing. But if you want to be a professional, act like one.
No fan base, or more accurately, a really small one. Most of them probably don't care about spelling and grammar – they care more about the story. Too bad I'm not one of them, and if you don't know that it's my biggest pet peeve, welcome to Bookwyrming Thoughts. I have no mercy for authors who do not have decent spelling and grammar skills. Secretly I don't have respect for them either, though I certainly won't announce it to the world. Or, maybe I just did. Whoops. Too bad. But I'm brutal with editing – just ask Lupe from Catching Bookz. She knows that I murdered a few essays (I wish some of you guys murdered my essay. It's not fair that I do it to yours and you don't do it to mine. *flips hair*)... and I feel no remorse at all. ^_^ Does that make me a bad friend?
It's DISTRACTING. I just want to scream sometimes when I have to focus on knocking your rating down. I HATE correcting errors for other people. Why? Because if I'm so busy focusing on how bad your book is poorly edited or my eye keeps jumping to them – yes, errors stick out to me like a blue button among millions of pink buttons. I guess I should consider editing one day... – I can't focus on the story. And it is so not helpful when a chapter is all bold and basically screaming attention and... it's wrong. Like, missing a letter wrong. I can't focus on character development, the plot/storyline, and everything else. Actually, I AM focusing, but it's not exactly the forefront because a comma that should really be a period is shooting laser beams at me. -_- I start making really weird comments as well. Like, do you have a fetish for commas or what? Or are you crabby and not getting along with periods? I wouldn't say it since they're probably offensive. I mean, one of them is referring to PMS... which could be insulting to female authors.
It is shameful. Just downright shameful. As I'm Chinese, we don't toss the word shameful around lightly. Basically, it's downright donkey poop. Maybe even lower. Why? I'm a teenager. A teenager who hasn't graduated high school yet. You are an adult. An adult who has graduated high school, and most likely from college or in the process of doing so. In fact, you're probably over 6 years my senior. It's worse if a middle schooler has to find your errors. Either way, I should not be pointing out your errors, and if I am, there shouldn't be a lot of them. I'm not asking you to strive for perfection, because no one is perfect. I'm asking you to show some effort so that I don't silently put the shameful label on you. And I can most certainly tell if you showed some effort in editing, or if you recently started learning English. There's an absolute difference between someone who learned English or if they learned it from another country (my mother's proof). It's not polished enough if I see over 51 errors, which basically gives you a 0 in Editing from me, and me mentioning that your book is poorly edited in my review. I point back to reason number one as a possible consequence.
Authors, I implore you. PLEASE. Take the time to edit, and if you don't think you can do it, spend money on a professional editor. Don't let a high school student embarrass you. You can't kill your kids – oh, come on! You don't want to know how many times my mom probably just wants to grab me and shake me until my teeth fall out. – but you can kill words. Words are just words. They might be darlings, but kill them. Write, Edit, Destroy, Repeat. Repeat until it's all nice and polished and ready for scrutiny. If you polish your book well, we reviewers and readers won't be frustrated and distracted. It'll even help you in the long run, but like I said. There's still a chance your manuscript might meet Shreddy face to face. On the bright side, at least you don't sound like a bumbling fool.
And so goes the end of a rant. That actually felt good to be honest. *skips away* I hope I didn't offend anyone. ^_^

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Sophia

Sophia is the owner and founder of Bookwyrming Thoughts, but also found on various parts of the internet. She's a 19-year-old communications major who has weird humor and doesn't fit the Asian stereotype (maybe a little). Books, chocolate, technology, and music are among some of her favorite things. For more of her work, visit her personal website.