Monday, August 20, 2012

MONDAY MUSING: REVIEWING AND THE NEED FOR A GOOD FICTION EDITOR



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Many of you know I do book reviews. I read a lot of books. I love reading a good story and those stories aren’t confined to strictly traditionally published authors. Many of the books I do review are from traditional publishers. I also read books that are published by small indie publishers, and self-published. I’ve reviewed them.
I'll be honest and say that I tend to approach some of the Indie and self-published with reservations—especially for reviews. Not because it's self-published or from a small press, but because so many, while having a good story premise, haven't been edited as well to overall story presentation.
I’ve upset a few by refusing to review a book. I have many reasons why I may refuse a book. The number one reason is my schedule is full.  But there are books that I’m not the target audience for and I don’t feel I can do it justice in a review. I don’t read horror and I don’t watch it either. I occasionally read YA—and that depends upon the genre. I’m not a big erotic and kinky sex stories fan, although there are a few erotic romance authors I enjoy because they tell a compelling story and not just loosely connected graphic sex scenes. I rarely read memoirs. If you write in those genres you want to find those who can read and appreciate the story you’re telling. They’re the best reviewers for your work.
Then there are those books that are just not ready to be published, but they are. They should be going to a good critique partner not a reviewer. I know this because I’ve read or attempted to read some sample chapters. Sorry, I’m not writing a review for it.
Because I know the effort and hard work that goes into writing and completing a manuscript, I’m not going to trash your poorly edited or written book—especially when I see potential for a really good story in it. I’m not fond of snarky, wise-assed reviewers. They make fun of books-whether they are well edited or not, or ridicule the author. That’s not professional behavior on the part of reviewers or review sites, in my opinion. Better to have your book turned down for a review than have a reviewer fill twitter feeds with ridicule or drop a 2 star review on Amazon or Goodreads.
This brings me back to my reservations for some small press or self-published books.
Some small presses don’t have the money to employ diverse enough editing staff to successfully edit their books. That is especially true of self-published authors.
A properly edited book is more than reading for misspelled words and improper grammar usage.
The story also needs an editor who knows fiction. This type of editor enhances the story because they know the genre and the market. They pay attention to word usage (does it fit the genre and characters?), plot (is there enough plot for the length of the story?), building the proper tension for each chapter and scene, and they look at conflict (internal and external) is there enough in each chapter and the overall story?
Fiction editors are particular when it comes to story elements—character point of view, character voice, does the story start in the right place (or is the first chapter all back story?), they check to be sure there is a good balance between dialog, action, and narrative. Does the ending fit with the beginning’s promise? Is the middle sagging and going nowhere?
For the self-published, this means having a good set of honest beta readers who can read for story content and spot the those weaknesses. This allows the author to catch it the story glitches and fix them before sending it to a good fiction editor.
This is why you hear authors who are traditionally published moan and groan about edits and rewrites. Most of those edits have to do with story content, not grammar and spelling. Ask them. They’ll tell you about the chapters cut or slashed because they detracted from, or didn’t fit, the overall story. Ask them about the list of story elements that need reworking. They’ll tell you. They’ll also tell you about the glitches that were caught by their beta readers before the finished manuscript even reached their editor.

Whether employed by a publishing house (small or large) or a self-published author, a good fiction editor is worth their weight in gold. Fiction editors take a good story and make it better.
And that’s the kind of story I want to read or review.

19 comments:

Shakespeare said...

I so AGREE!!!! Unfortunately, I've found problems even in fully vetted books lately--100 pages of exposition before anything actually happens.

How likely is it that an author will grapple with an editor over some changes? Authors can be pretty defensive. As a sometime editor, I've found most authors pretty amenable to changes, but mostly they accept the easy changes, but fight me on substantive ones. If I say the character goes far too long without any sign of growth, and thus the book might lose readers, the author's response is "Well, I don't want her to grow that much in this book. I'm planning a trilogy." Then again, I am freelance, so my words are only suggestion.

I so wish I had more readers who would shred my book for me. I've had several fellow writers encourage me to e-publish on my own, but I just don't think any of my manuscripts are ready for that.

Good post. And I really LOVE your writing. I am not a romance enthusiast, but you make me want to be one. I just bought a Kindle, so I'll be putting your books on it soon (as soon as I figure out how).

Keep up the thought-provoking work.

Kat Sheridan said...

You KNOW I'm going to agree with this one. There are none so arrogant as those who beleive they don't need an editor. Le sigh. A good editor is priceless, and I feel fortunate to know several. They've improved my work in countless ways.

Talli Roland said...

I couldn't agree more - it's something I'm uber-aware of now that I'm self-publishing... and it's also why I hire a professional reader (who doesn't know me at all!), as well as having a core of trusted beta readers. Of course nothing is fool-proof -- no matter how you're published -- but if you take the right steps, at least you're 90 per cent of the way there.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Shakespeare: Yes, there are fully vetted books I've wanted to toss across the room in disgust.

Much depends upon genre as to exposition and where it is and how much there is. Also, when the story was published--stories from 10-20 years ago are going to be different. The market and reader expectations were different then, too.

Another consideration is how established is the author?

An author with a string of bestselling books is going to be able to get away with a WHOLE lot more than an aspiring or debut author. They have a track record of success. If they were submitting their first manuscript for publishing, you can bet they'd be doing a whole lot more substantive edits.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, as writers, we are too close to our work to see the problems clearly. Too familiar with each scene, we confuse a wonderfully written scene or chapter that does nothing to forward the plot and character growth,with a necessary piece.

Editors have no emotional attachment to the writing. They're interested in the flow of the story. They can cut to the chase--this doesn't work and why, this element needs beefing up.

I couldn't agree more, a good editor is priceless!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Talli, how right you are. Nothing is fool proof. I think you and writers like you, are smart! You have a good cadre of beta readers to vamp the book prior to it being published.

Good beta readers will have different skill sets too, just like editors do. Some are great for story content, others can spot a grammatical error or misspelled word at a glance. Some can look at a proposal and immediately know you need more work on it to turn it into a good story.

I wouldn't self-publish a book without solid beta readers and a good fiction editor. I'll add a good cover artist to the mix, as well, lol!

Your books reflect both your professionalism and a concern for a great story--plot, tension, characters, good beginnings with hooks and endings.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I find a need an editor to tell me to cut out the first chapter nearly every book I finish. I'm getting better at doing it myself though now I'm having trouble getting started on that first chapter.

James Rafferty said...

I saw first hand the benefits of beta readers and a talented editor when I wrote my first novel. I think the book worked okay before they weighed in, but got much better when those helpful eyes caught small and big issues, forcing me to take a fresh look and strengthen the text and the story.

Mason Canyon said...

Great post and I agree completely with you.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress

Jo said...

Being a reader and not a writer or editor, I have come across some of those badly edited books including spelling or grammar mistakes which bring me up short. I too have read stories which were basically good, but poorly presented. I guess the authors are trying to save money, but.....

Sheila Deeth said...

My editor pointed out lots of things that had just slipped past me because I knew (or thought I knew) the story so well--not just Englishisms, though there were plenty of them, but time-line problems, words that I used too much, passages that slowed the story down. She was invaluable and I can't thank her enough.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Jo, either the writer doesn't wish to use an editor, although I can't imagine that, or they don't know fiction editors.

There are also authors who disagree with the editor or can't take criticisms on their work. They insist that their presentation of the story is best. They either learn to listen or they don't. The author's body of work brands them in both good and bad ways.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Mason, that's because you are not only a reviewer but an editor. Makes perfect sense. :-)

Susan, it happens, lol! I know authors who write the story and then come back to the beginning and refine it. Make the opening hook stronger, add some oomph.

Also, I think that when we start a story we include a lot of material that we need to know as the writer but the reader doesn't need to know at that point of the story. You do catch in the second pass and having a dump file is invaluable. could be something we can use or part of something we can use, later.

Abigail Reynolds said...

I agree with you, Sia, and it breaks my heart when I read a book that could have been great if it had been properly edited. I remember one time when my editor asked me to cut one paragraph and it changed the whole flow of the scene for the better, but I never would have seen it for myself. The good news is that I'm starting to see a few more indie writers hiring a professional editor and seeing what a difference it makes in their books.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Abigail! Hey, it's good to see you.

You make a great point--we're too close and we can see that. But the more books or manuscripts we finish and have critiqued the more it trains our eyes.

So true with many writers hiring editors. To me that makes perfect business sense. You want the best product you can make out there. Yes, it cuts into the initial profits but if the story is good a writer is going recoup that outlay. Best of all they are going to build a good reputation.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sheila, we look at what we've written and think, something isn't right. Sometimes we can spot those passages--our eye is drawn to them. Sometimes we can't. We just know the section we're looking at is wrong. Editors and honest beta readers are invaluable because they can catch those passages. Over using saidisms too. I love getting alternate suggestions from the betas.

84829942-3a88-11e0-83da-000bcdcb5194 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
~Sia McKye~ said...

Apologies for the spam comments that have nothing to do with the post.

Every once in a while one slips in.

Jo said...

This spammer has been slipping in to everyone's blogs today.