I’ve been reading quite a lot lately, because I’m unemployed and have time on my hands and I’m not always in the correct mood to write, and I’ve been noticing some very irritating things in the books I’ve ploughed through.
Let’s start with something really famous: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I read the first two books of the trilogy and stopped cold, and I can’t even begin to tell you why except the writing style was starting to bug the crap out of me. Yes, I know it was translated from Swedish, but that’s still no excuse. I expect the translation was fairly close to the original, and by that, I mean all the stuff there in Swedish was still there in English, which tells me the original editor wasn’t doing his/her job as well they might have. You could easily have cut a third out of both books and improved the flow immensely.
The number one rule of editing should be “Fix it so the reader never gets pissed off.” Pacing and flow is important, because if that isn’t right, the reader gets bored and starts losing interest. The Stieg Larsson books needed some serious editing, and yes, I know they sold a zillion copies, but I’m still entitled to an opinion. After reading the first book and then watching the original Swedish subtitled movie, I saw how nicely the screenwriter streamlined that tortuously twisted plot into something much more sleek and entertaining. That validated my assertion that the book(s) needed to be cut.
Moving on…I next read Hot Head by Damon Suede. Overall, an entertaining story with two likable main characters. There was some uneven pacing in the first half, but the second half took off like crazy. I had some quibbles about “straight” guys acting the way they did, and the last twenty percent of the novel, though immensely pleasing plot-wise, was too, too perfect/happy/fantastical. My complaint with this one: overuse of the phrase ‘medium-rare’ to describe a color. The first time you read that, you think, “Nice comparison.” The tenth time you read it, you think, “What the hell, use something else!” Oh, and let’s not forget typos. There were enough that I noticed, which is never good.
Bear, Otter and the Kid by T J Klune. Well-written but felt padded to me. Lots of repetitive scenes covering emotions that had already been put out there. I sometimes suspect this happens just to make sure they get their 60,000 words in so the book can go to print. Oh, and the kid? Way too sharp, I don’t care what his IQ is. Kids don’t talk like this nor are they that observant.
Ya know, I read Stranger in a Strange Land for the first time many years ago. Absolutely gripping book, despite it’s patriarchal point of view (which does bother me but I excuse because that was then and this is now), and when, some time later a new, uncut ‘author’s version appeared, I bought it. I wanted to see what had been left out. Guess what? That version SUCKED. The original editor for that novel did a terrific job. They should never have released the padded version. Instead, I pissed away twenty bucks on a book I’ll never read again.
Currently reading Cut and Run by Abigail Roux and Madaleine Urban, and it’s all I can do not to toss my Kindle at the wall in annoyance. I should explain: I read in gulps. I sit with a book for an hour or two or three, so things some people wouldn’t notice really start piling up for me. In this case, overuse of “smirk” and “eye rolling.” I keep wondering if I’ve accidentally landed in a Stephanie Plum novel by mistake. Also, the banter I found amusing during the first twenty pages is now wearing very, very thin.
My short story, Numbers, is 3500 words of great banter between two hot guys, but there is NO WAY that can be sustained in any entertaining way over the length of a novel. NONE. It becomes irritating really fast.
TYPOS. I keep stumbling across typos. While one or two are acceptable, a bunch is not. I’ve been through the editing process. I know how this works. We shall assume the writer goes through their manuscript multiple times, and then it often (but not always) gets handed to a respected friend to go through. After submission and acceptance, it goes through yet another edit and gets sent back to the author. After that phase, it goes to a line editor, who’s supposed to go through it with a fine-tooth comb, and THEN on to the proofreader. Finally, the writer gets a galley and is supposed to go through the book one more time with absolutely critical eyes.
HOW THE HELL DO ALL THESE TYPOS ESCAPE THE NOTICE OF THAT MANY EYES?
People make mistakes. I get it. But there’s no excuse for more than one or two typos in any published book.
Authors: Proof the crap out of your novel before you submit. Never assume typos and ‘there’ for ‘their’ will be caught. Publishers: Make sure your editors are worth what you’re paying them. Repetive words/phrases DO drive readers nuts (I cannot be the only one!).
In my second to last manuscript, AJ caught me using the word ‘return’ over and over. I didn’t see it, but he did. That’s part of what an editor does: See the things that will make the reader start to grit their teeth and not want to finish the book. Fixing grammar and typos and sentence and paragraph structure is a big part of it, but please don’t make me read a word or phrase over and over and over until I want to chuck the book, because it will influence my decision regarding the purchase of another book by the same author/publisher.
I have hundreds of paper books in my place, and I don’t remember any of them ever making me as crazy as some ebooks have of late. If this business is to survive–and I want and need it to!–then professionalism has to go up a few notches. The product released has to be better. Don’t make me, the reader, stumble over crappy sentences and typos and word overuse. I just want to read a good story. MAKE IT GOOD.
Okay, I’m finished now, and if I’ve made any typos in this entry that a reader catches, shove it up your ass because this is a blog, not a published book, and I’m not running it by AJ before I post it. ;/ However, I will say I read this through at last three times; any errors made are mine and mine alone.