Monday, January 23, 2017

A Vulture, a Dead Deer, and a Horned Owl... (walked into a bar?)

I'm in the midst of edits and rewrites for the second book in my Road's End series and am amazed (appalled, humiliated, frightened, take your pick) at the number of things the editor and publisher found that need changing. After all, wasn't what I submitted to them perfectly fine? Hadn't I gone over it again and again (times twelve) and polished it until it glistened like icicles in the brilliant sunshine? Hadn't my beta readers given me suggestions for edits and pointed out typos and other small errors? Yes, yes, and yes. But wait. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Yes, the manuscript was perfectly fine as I submitted it--if, that is, I wanted to settle for a flawed book published under my name, not to mention the name of the publishing house. And yes, I'd gone over it ad nauseam, so many times, in fact, that I grew to hate the darned thing. And finally, yes, my readers did a commendable job of catching what I didn't, but just as I used the same old eyeballs each time I read it over, my readers aren't spring chickens and neither are their eyes. Sorry, guys, but it's true. Reading a manuscript over several times does help us catch errors, but it also causes our brains to read words without really seeing them since we've virtually memorized it.

Here's one of my eagle-eyed beta readers looking for those annoying
typos in my manuscript. Dirty rat. Wait, that's not an eagle (nor a rat,
for that matter). It's that darned horned owl that screeches at me every
chance (s)he gets just because I keep poking my camera inside
his (her?) cage. Diva.
So where does that leave me? Am I doomed to never have the perfect manuscript? Maybe, but not necessarily. I've spotted my share of typos in published works, but there have been hundreds more with none. That doesn't mean they weren't there, but I didn't happen to find them--and believe me, I'm pretty picky about typos. After all, if my work is going to get scrutinized, as well it should, then I'm going to make darned good and sure others' works are error-free too. Just seems fair. Generally, though, I've found there are many more perfect works out there than ones filled with errors. And there's a good reason for that. I'll get to that soon.

Where this does leave me, however, is in the hands of the experts. Editors and publishers don't reach those positions with lousy grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills, or lacking in their ability to keep characters "in character," plot lines untangled, dialogue realistic, and facts ... well, factual. They're well-trained to edit and they're very good at it. So good, in fact, that writers cannot do without them. As much as we (okay, I) think my work is perfect as it is, it isn't. It needs the unbiased opinion, clear mind, and well-trained eye of a professional editor.

I'm eternally grateful there are professionals in the world of book publishing who care enough about our work and reputations as authors to pick apart our work like a vulture strips clean a deer carcass. (No offense meant to editors or the manuscripts they edit.) If we want to present the world with our very best, we have to submit to a close-up and intense inspection of our book before it's out of our hands and in the hands of our readers.

An author with a good editor is fortunate indeed, and a reader with a well-edited book is happy--and more inclined to continue reading.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to get back to my edits and rewrites because I have looming deadline and a very special date with a publisher.

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  1. I was amazed, appalled, humiliated, and just freaked out when someone shared the first line on facebook of the last book of mine that came out. All I could think was, edit! edit! edit! And it had been through several hands for the publisher... arrrrgggg....

  2. Lisa, I guess it just goes to show our work is never done! I know I've written a blog post or two about editing that had errors in them--sometimes I think it's to keep us humble. (As if there's anything more humbling than putting our work out there for the world to see and judge!). Our fear of making mistakes serves us well :-)

  3. I've always said we authors are blind to our own work. Beta-readers are great, but if they get involved in the story, they miss things, too. Thank the good Lord for good editors!

  4. Linda, you're so right. My editor this time around has found stuff I never gave a thought to. They come to the project with a clean slate and clear mind and see things we don't.