Monday, January 01, 2018

For the sake of your readers get an editor

It's the time of year when book giveaways are at an all time high, and for that I'm very appreciative. I enjoy reading a lot. I've been reading for ages. It's probably my oldest hobby.

I wrote a book. It's not easy. I have read many books through the years and thought, "I could do better than that!" Having written one I know now that it's not as easy as it seems. It's just just hurling words at a page to see what sticks, and just because a person can TELL a story doesn't mean they can write one. There's a difference.

  • Get an editor.
  • Get yourself an editor.
  • Get an editor for your book.
  • Make sure your book has an editor.
  • Get your book edited by an editor.
  • Hire an editor and listen to their advice. Stephen King said the editor is God. 

I'm trying to think of how I can say this so it'll stick. It's hugely important. You know, I'd try two if I'm honest. If you only get one, make sure you've got male and female beta readers and listen especially close to the opposite gender and ask them, directly, for feedback on how that gender is handled.

The last three free books I started, yes, started, but didn't necessarily finish, could have ALL been better with editors, possibly even really really good. They had good ideas in them. What they didn't have, was an editor. I won't list the names of the books or the authors. I didn't review any of them because I know starting out is hard. They're new authors. They need feedback more than being publicly pilloried. So, I sent feedback. But, with an editor I doubt they'd have made the mistakes they made. I'm not quoting, I'm paraphrasing. I don't want to have to credit them. You'll think I'm exaggerating in my paraphrasing, but I'm absolutely not.

1) Be careful what you shine a light on. When you want to show what a modern, great, open-minded person your protagonist is be careful about it. "She was supremely confident, but she managed it without losing her femininity," sort of implies that mostly when a woman is competent she's not feminine. Not your goal I'm sure. Kinda makes you look like an ass. "I didn't love her. I RESPECTED HER!" Um, okay. Good for you. That pretty rare for you then? Even more rare than love? Damn. That sucks. Hopefully an editor, or maybe even a beta reader, would've noticed that. Oh, a note on beta readers. Friends and family are the easiest to get, but they're the kindest and you don't need kind. You need honest. Find a stranger who doesn't "know what you mean" or "know he doesn't it mean it like that." If it's not in the book it's not there. Your intentions, your attitudes, your lofty ideals, if they're not on the page I can't see them. I can't know you and I don't know them. Maybe you're a 21st century man with modern attitudes, but if you don't express them plainly in the book you can really screw this up. Get some people who don't know you to read your stuff because, hopefully, at some point, people who don't know you will read your stuff. That's the idea isn't it?

2) The protagonist, a man ,is broken and becomes a homeless drunk, when his girlfriend dies. In the same book his female partner dies and it motivates him to do stuff. There were two women in the book, two... there's not even a waitress in it to bring him coffee, and both died to move the man along a story line. That's not what femme fatale means. In fact, that's more like fatale femme. Women and kids don't exist just to kill them to move the plot. If that's all your using them for... get a dog. It worked for John Wick.

3) An editor will help you not use the wrong words, a man on a buoy in the ocean doesn't scan the parameter. He looks around. There's not even a perimeter there unless there's some defined border, and that'd be the horizon in this case. I know, you want to sound militaristic and give it a military vibe, and you want to sound more clever than saying "he looked around" but you know what? Sometimes simple is best. Especially when it's right. Especially when the word you used instead is wrong in meaning and spelling.

All three of these books had good ideas in them. All three had characters in them I either liked or wanted to like. Those are two of the three boxes I need ticked to keep reading an author. The third though, is "well written." I don't mean Great Gatsby level well. I'm pretty forgiving, especially of new authors, like I said, I am one. But I'm not forgiving of people being lazy. And, not hiring an editor is lazy. Editors don't have to be ridiculously expensive. Some are, and some are better than others, but if you can afford a professionally done book cover you can afford an editor. You really can't afford not to have one. Those three books by three different authors? I read some of their free book. I won't read more. I certainly won't pay for their books until I see an editor credited.
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