Gabrielle Bisset

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Editing Pet Peeves

Along with being an author, I'm a reader of my genres and others.  I particularly read on my Kindle now because I want to read other authors' books like mine--epub and indie pub.  Some stories I like, whereas some I don't.  It's exactly like traditional publishing.  However, what isn't like traditional publishing is the editing in both epub and indie pub books.  In this area, traditional publishing still rules the day, and those of us in the epub and indie pub worlds need to aspire to the level NY has established in editing. 

The run-on in all its evil incarnations seems to have made a home in the books I've been reading lately.  The inability of editors to find this is a real problem and makes even the best epub or indie pub book look amateurish.  This is a run on:  I love to eat pizza, I just had it last night.  Yes, those two sentences are related to one another, but this is still a run on (comma splice, to be more specific).  And it's the comma splice that isn't being found by editors and writers, not the other type of run on (fused sentence-imagine the example with no punctuation at all). 

I can't tell you how often I see run-ons, even on authors' blogs.  As this is basic grammar, I'm confused why the run-on/comma splice is still found in the books I'm reading. To be fair, I've found this error in traditionally published books too, but far more rarely.

Then there's this grammar issue:  Left alone for dead, Diana raced to find help.  Uh, no.  That can't be since she's left for dead.  There can be no racing if you're left for dead.  What the writer means here is that someone else was left for dead and Diana raced to find help for that person. This isn't as big a problem as the comma splice, but it's appearing more and more.

Not to be outdone, this last editing concern is the quintessential style question.  How much description is necessary?  For me, very little is good.  I don't need the green described right out of the grass.  As an author, I admit I have to use one of my edits as a description edit to go over the story with a fine-toothed comb looking for places to sharpen the description.  However, I don't believe I'm in the majority of authors with this editing issue.  From what I'm reading, the opposite is true.  I'm reading description that breaks the cardinal rule of good writing:  Describe only if it helps move the story along.  A complete description of a character's clothes is only useful if it says something about her personality, her mental/emotional state, or the situation she's in. Other than that, why else would a reader have to know about the length of her dress or if she's wearing heels and just how high they are?

I have no idea why this over-describing occurs, other than because it's just the author's personal style.  That's fine, but it needs to be edited, just as my more spartan style needs to be edited to augment.  This is a touchy subject for some writers, though.  They argue that description is one of the most important parts of a story.  I respectfully disagree and offer the qualifier of the cardinal rule I mentioned above.  The problem isn't description but what role the description plays in the story.  If its only role is merely to describe, then it's not needed.  Why on Earth would a reader have to know the color of a house if it isn't symbolic of anything (and yes, Virginia, colors are often symbolic in good writing, contrary to the sage comments seen on Facebook) or indicative of some feature in the story?  Who cares if a house is white if that's all it is? 

These types of editing issues need to be a concern for every writer and editor. Epubs are routinely looked down on by many people, especially the smaller and newer companies.  And indie authors have been fighting for respect forever.  Simply improving the editing in otherwise great stories would go a long way toward getting people to see that a great book can come from somewhere other than NY.

I'm off to finish one of the last chapters in Blood Avenged today. Then it's time to pack for New Orleans for the vampire ball and some terrific on-site research for the setting of the book.  See?  I'm good for description.  It just has to be doing something other than just hanging around. 

Today, I'm over at Tony-Paul de Vissage's blog talking about how a character can sneak up on you and change an entire story.  Check it out and have a great weekend!