On my desk there is a book.....

Sarah Barnard By Sarah Barnard, 6th Oct 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Columns & Opinions

The importance of finding, and using, a really good editor if you want your book to be read and taken seriously.

I got a book from the library...

The book in question is an urban fantasy paperback, traditionally published by Harper Collins, under their Eos imprint. It has close to 400 pages and I've read 125, getting more and more annoyed as I read further.

Is the story not that great then? Not at all. It's an OK concept, decent characters, written in the 1st person - which I don't usually enjoy, but it's OK. It's not the best book I've ever read, but it should be a good story.

But it isn't and it has me annoyed.

Here's why.

Within those 125 pages I keep finding things that jolt me from the narrative.

Page 7:

.... gapped at the knife sticking out of her chest.

Excuse me? "GAPPED"? Did you mean "gaped"? As in, stared in bewilderment, disbelieving?

Page 10:

That explained the sudden slice of pain when I'd crashed into Amanda. I impaled myself on the knife she'd been holding.

The change of tense there threw me. Is there a word missing? Should it be "I had impaled myself"? The whole section is describing an event moments after it happened, not as it's happening and the whole book is written that way.

Page 17:

Main character speaking, addressing other characters.

"If you are part of my family, your actions are the same as what my actions would be."

That one gave me a headache. Granted, that could simply be the way the character speaks, and she's not the most eloquent. But that sentence there feels so clumsy. Forgiveable if the character always talks like that, but she doesn't.

Page 18:

....half my hours of the day.....

Again, clumsy. Half of each day, or half my hours, or half of my life, or something.

Page 18:

"You're offering us.... ?"

"Yes, I do."

I do? This could simply be speech patterns for where the novel is set but it doesn't sound right and I found myself reading it aloud to check. Surely it should have been , "I am."?

The book so far has been littered with stuff like this and it makes reading it so hard for me.

Background - the main characters are vampires and therefore are only out at night. The author has spent the previous couple of pages building the tension that the main character has things she needs to get done before dawn, and she needs to leave enough time to get home, to safety (the vamps are the good guys here!) before the sun comes up.

But then...

Page 80:

Around me, I could feel the night waning. I was growing weaker. It was less than two hours until the sun finally set.

I had to reread that a few times.

... until the sun finally SET...? What? It was dawn approaching, right? You made sure we knew that? And the sun SETS at dawn? Doesn't the sun RISE at dawn? I gave up making notes after that.

So, why has this book got me so annoyed?

I am a great fan of independent writers and Indies come in for a substantial amount of stick for the quality of their books. They're full of typos, mistakes, badly written and so on. Sure, some could well be. I've read some books I didn't enjoy, and some were riddled with issues that a good editor would fix. But the majority aren't, they're polished and such great writing that you get so lost in the weave of the words that you really can't see any errors that might be there. You get swept away.

I hear all the time how Indies are rubbish, just writers who can't get a traditional publishing deal and yet here is a "NYT Bestseller" with a "proper" publishing deal, and in my opinion the book is unreadable because of the sheer volume of mistakes that a good editor should have picked up and clearly didn't. Some errors get missed, even editors are human, or so I'm told. But that many? The ones I quoted here are just the ones I could be bothered to make a note of before I gave up.

Independent writers work hard to make their work the best it can be. Most have been professionally edited, and most are also usually open to feedback. Of course there are exceptions, but please don't judge us all until you've tried our books?

Will you now judge all Harper Collins, Eos books by the one I read? Or all traditionally published books? Or, as I got this one from my local library, all library books? Maybe it's a fantasy thing, and you should be judging all fantasy books as rubbish and not worth picking up?


Are you seeing my point here? That book might well put me off trying any more by that author, but I'll still read any book that catches my fancy.


Editing, Editing Grammar, Spelling, Writing, Writing A Novel

Meet the author

author avatar Sarah Barnard
Writer, reader, mother, chicken keeper, gardener, knitter. Welcomes unexpected gifts of chocolate.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
7th Oct 2011 (#)

I often thought I would love to be an author, but I would have a hard time dealing with an editor.

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author avatar Sarah Barnard
7th Oct 2011 (#)

As an author myself, I agree with you, it can be really hard and working through edits is the part I enjoy the least, but it has to be done.
Thanks for commenting!

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