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.
For those of you who may be interested, check out the book trailer for my paranormal mystery “Dark Side of Sunset Pointe.”
For more on Michael Allan Scott and the Lance Underphal mystery series, go to michaelallanscott.com
Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Michael Allan Scott and a clickable link back to this page.
I got my MS back from my developmental editor last week. This was the first time I did something like that. Originally, when I decided to self-publish, I was going to just hire a copy editor and proofreader. But after getting some CP comments on my supposedly final version of the book, I decided to go the distance and hire a developmental editor.
WOW. I don’t know how to describe this experience except this way: A developmental editor takes what you did say and turns it into what you meant to say. Mine is incredibly detail-oriented; she’s challenged EVERYTHING. I want to tear my hair out and hug her at the same time. My book is going to be tightly woven, clear, and concise. And this comes from someone who already considers herself detail-oriented. I daresay, I may have used the phrase “anal retentive” to describe myself.
I cannot underline how important an editor (or three) is to us self-publishers. And yes, after this, my book will still go through copy edits and then be proofread. Because we need to do this to be taken seriously. Those other books you described, the ones with errors, those are what make us look bad. I don’t want to contribute to that, even if my mistakes were not as glaringly obvious as misplaced words/commas/typos.
Thank you for setting an excellent example.
And you’re right. If we’re going to seriously compete with the trad pub houses, we’ve got to clean up our act.
Sad but true. Thank you for voicing it. I support whole hardily anyone’s need to write a book. However, a good/great editor is worth their weight in gold. The editor I use is fearless yet I know that the polished product will be the best possible manuscript. Isn’t that the purpose, to take your story and polish it’s brilliance? 🙂 Cheers
My pleasure … and thanks for your comments.
A polished, professional product should always be the goal for professional authors.
Thank you for saying what I have been thinking. With one or two exceptions of the things I’ve read, you nailed why I don’t read more Kindle books. 🙂
Great article. I’m grateful that my stuff has been critiqued and edited up, down and sideways for years. Some has been paid, some not. My book in process would never be polished and tight without it. I also enjoy reading other people’s stuff. It’s nice to critique something I haven’t become blind to.
I couldn’t agree more! I’ve just, as a favour to a friend, been over their self-published book which had already been through the hands of not one but three ‘professional’ editors. The results were shocking. Incorrect words, chunks of storyline which made no sense, bad spelling, appalling punctuation etc.
It is a measure of how good the story itself is that it has received high prize from its readers with the exception of one review which savaged it, not unjustly, for its bad editing.
So may I add a caveat to the excellent advice above? Not all editors are good editors, even if they come highly recommended on author sites.
Hi Michael, I just followed you on twitter, and dropped in for a quick visit. You caught my attention right away. I once worked as a ghost-writer and editor for a small publishing company and was shocked to encounter a crazily large amount of people who submit their work as a finished piece after writing just one draft. On receiving critical feedback all too many of them would argue that their friends loved it, that they’d worked hard enough already and that they had no intentions of putting any more work into it. We had a self-publishing arm to the company and those who could afford it trotted their indignant way towards that. So I’m with you 100%. Badly worked pieces are such a let down. When I feel my own writing is getting dull I will turn to a brilliant writer and let their work inspire me. Suddenly from a sense of tediousness I enter into funfair of writing. It’s SO inspiring to read a really well-written piece. It puts a glint on everything. ‘This will do’ will not do but ‘this will do’ all to often appears in ebooks. I’ve rambled on a bit, when all I really wanted to say was, thanks, I enjoyed your post, and am off to buy one of your books, which sound really cool.