Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Few Views on Editing

An early post this week as I'll be gone tomorrow.

I just wanted to share how others feel about editing. These comments were gathered after seveal people read another blog pot about editing. I saved my comments for the end.

I've been told that spelling capability, or lack of it, has been proven, in brain studies, to come from a certain small part of the brain. For that reason, I have no judgment about poor spellers, only judgments on the writing itself. I, for one, wish to hell I'd been pushy enough to lean on literate friends (once again) to proof my book. I was too cheap to offer to pay them (I'd already paid two of them to read earlier drafts for structure, style, and logic. They gave me excellent advice). I proofed myself. Proofing is something a writer can't do alone, not with 80,000 words to go over--nor can spell check do it. If I get another crime novel done, it's going to get proofed by at least one expert and I'm going to have to pay them. Meanwhile, I get to read my book and wince when I see my typos.
- Clark

I believe in submitting the best of your best and it's not up to an editor to re-write your book. Yes, there will be errors, but poor spelling and mistakes in verb tenses are unacceptable. I look back over ten years ago at some of the work I submitted and understand why they were rejected.

Scene structure, POV and storyline have to be close to right on in the submission.

Having said all of the above, I'm not an editor but know I have to get their attention if I want my book published. Catching them in the beginning is a must. Writing so they want to read more should be a goal. And finishing strong is a signed publishing contract. That's my 2 cents.
- Bob

Spell check and computers have opened the typo floodgates. Companies are no longer using skilled typists who are trained to catch and correct errors. Now everybody has a computer on her desk and poorly trained managers compose pages that a secretary once handled.

Spell check won't catch the wrong word spelled correctly. In proofing the galleys of my mss., I found some places where I had the wrong word (complimentary vs. complementary). Very different meaning!

And computers are not easy to read. My home computer's default is to make the type tiny and the page small. I can't see the typos. I have to manually increase the font size and the page space so I can read (that's why I missed errors the first time around). I don't know why computers are set up only for people with crystal sharp vision.
- Sally

I don't buy that it's acceptable to be a writer who's insightful but a bad grammariané/speller. If this is your craft, you have to master both imagination and good grammar/spelling. Suppose you were a brilliant doctor who understood the concept of heart surgery, but flubbed the technicalities of the actual operation? Same principle.
- Sunny

There are a lot of reasons for bad spelling, and "seeing through to the writer's mind" is pretty lame. What is that, the Freudian School of Editing?

A writer has an obligation to make sure his spelling is correct. Period. Whether he likes wordplay or not.

There are on-line dictionaries up the yin yang, so there is no excuse that the Webster's may be out of print, or that the dog ate it.

Even worse than bad spelling is poor formatting. If the publisher can't read it, neither can anyone else.

If you are serious about writing, then right it before you submit.
I'm an excellent speller.
- Melanie

Hardest thing for a writer is self-editing because she knows what she meant to say and sees the words as if they do indeed state that. Unfortunately, not always the case. As for those little underline things in spell check, (which the program says is two words although one often sees it as one) they have a tendency to become invisible.
- Carol

I recently read one book where either the author didn’t edit or the publisher’s editor wasn’t vey good. The book contained scores of problems with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and basic sentence structure. I emailed back to the magazine (I was supposed to review this book for them) and asked if this was an ARC. The woman said no, it had actually hit the shelves. I ended up requesting not to review it because, frankly, I couldn’t find one thing I liked about it and on which I could positively comment. I couldn’t find one slight reason to recommend it. (I did review it for my blog just as an example of variety in my ranking system.)

I spoke to several people about why we sometimes find mistakes (obvious ones) in books by successful authors. Because they have proven successful the publishing house editor doesn’t work hard enough to catch the mistakes or lets them slide because they know people will buy the book nevertheless.

I’m not sure how it used to be twenty, thirty, forty years ago but nowadays you hear from everybody that the author needs to be able to do at least minimal editing before submitting. Why this needs to be said, I don’t know, because to me, the idea is fairly obvious. Maybe not to some writers.

We’re human and on occasion, things will slip by both the author and the editor and the publisher. They just don’t get caught for some reason. I’ve seen them, you’ve seen them, not a big deal most of the time. However, writers should know basic spelling. Again, this seems an obvious concept. I get to typing too fast and misspell scores of words by accident.

Usually, the spell correct catches them, sometimes not. Sometimes I use a word like ‘taekwondo’ and the spell check binks it and wants to change it to ‘teakwood.’ I’ve finally convinced my dictionary, taekwondo is a real word.

So where do you put the blame? Are you going to leave it up to the author to catch EVERYTHING before you consider accepting? The author isn’t perfect. Doesn’t the publisher and its editor bear some responsibility? I don’t know, I’m just asking? On my last two books, when I received my ARCs I found errors both the senior editor and the publisher missed. Obvious blatant errors. So am I to blame for not catching them earlier, too? Sure.

I did a blog on ‘it’ a couple years ago so when you brought up the word, I had to smile because I started wondering the usage of the word years ago. “It started to snow.” “It’s four o’clock.” Well, what is ‘it?’

I now go back to read individual chapters and, eventually, the entire book, aloud, so I catch every word. I still miss stuff, sure, but after going through three people editing it, I figured I’d better make an effort to minimize the number of mistakes earlier.
- Stephen

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