Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, November 25, 2017

That Old Bugaboo - EDITING!

 On the premise that "A picture is worth a thousand words":

I suspect this one may have been deliberate. A disgruntled employee?


I never lack for examples of poor editing. Over the last few weeks, I read a very long and well-written saga - not romance or sword & sorcery, but a serious series that encompassed many of the world's problems. But every once in a while, the words on my Kindle screen went nuts, stacking the letters one on top of the other in the center of the page. I have no idea how the coding messed up, but this was not a new book. There had been plenty of time to fix the digital edition, but it was still flawed. Why? That's the wonderful thing about ebooks - they're so easy to fix. Sigh.

The other flawed book I read recently was a mystery - a great start to a new series, but the copy editing was poor. Too many mistakes for a book of quality. Beginner's arrogance, I presume. We all think we're too smart to miss typos, particularly on our first venture into the digital world. And then comes the revelation . . .

My husband and I ran an educational publishing company for more than twenty years—just at the dawn of IBM's first typesetting "typewriter." And finally into the age of the first computerized typewriter, the IBM Displaywriter. I'll never forget my first look at that machine. I had to have it! The year was 1981. But even after this seminal moment when computer met typewriter, the ancient rule of publishing still applied: No matter how many people look over a manuscript, upon publication it will likely have at least three typos.

And I freely admit the first of my backlist published to "e," Lady Silence, had more than its share, for I too—particularly as a long-time editor—was certain I'd found all those pesky little errors. Multiple sighs.

So, authors, join the crowd and admit Editing is something you absolutely have to do. You have to edit for Content, and you have to Copy Edit, looking for all the "little things." And you have to do it again and again until you can't stand to look at another page. And then you do it yet again. Even authors who are print-published by major houses should never be careless about the manuscripts they submit. In the digital age, books no longer have to be typeset; they are published from the original manuscript. Yes, you have the added safety net of in-house editing and copy editing, but, let's face it, editors are going to be more pleased by "clean" manuscripts than by those they have to spend a lot of time and money on to get right.

Long-time readers of Mosaic Moments will recognize the definitions below, but it's been a while, so they bear repeating.

CONTENT EDITING. This is what editors get paid the big bucks for. Did you stray off the plot or the romance, adding irrelevant details that slow the story down? Do you have too many secondary characters who detract from the focus that should be on the hero and heroine? Did you skim over a major point, just touching it as you ran by, intent on getting to the next scene? Did you leave out motivation, descriptions, settings—i.e., are your characters talking heads against a blank background? Did you leave important backstory events in your head, never putting them where the reader can find them? Have you made your hero and heroine likable? (Flaws are okay, but they must be people readers can empathize with, root for, etc.)  And on and on. Content editing is what makes or breaks a book. And for indie authors, it's something you must learn to do for yourself. 

COPY EDITING.  This is the nitty-gritty. Publishing companies frequently farm this work out to part-time "English major" graduates or junior staffers. Alas, it needs a special someone who can read line by line and not get so absorbed in the story that they miss the glitches. (I, alas, am not among them. My Copy Editing ability is far from perfect.) Copy editors look for typos, missing words, extra words, continuity errors. They check punctuation, using the style sheet provided by their employer (and which varies from company to company). They are also supposed to "fact check." But as so many Historical authors have discovered, many copy editors have no idea what the facts are—or they don't care.  My own favorite story about Copy Editors dates back to my first published book, He Said, She Said, a Kensington Precious Gem. The copy editor put a decimal point before 9mm, making it ".9mm." Which would require a bullet about the size of a needle! Fortunately, authors do have the opportunity to go over the copy edits, accepting or rejecting the changes, so that my heroine was not confronted by a .9mm pistol!

I was going to include a summary of the agonies I've been going through with final edits on The Blackthorne Curse and the first chapter of Royal Rebellion, which turned out to be a stand-alone short story, but I think those are best left 'til next week.

Meanwhile, to borrow a line from one of my very first Mosaic Moments: 


And the last one, which I believe I haven't posted before for obvious reasons - and am hiding at the very bottom of this post . . . 

I almost missed this one . . .

From September 2017

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If you missed the short story, "The Witch and the Wolf," please scroll down to last week's Mosaic Moments. (From the SciFi Saga, Blue Moon Rising)

For a link to Blair Bancroft's web site, click here. 

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,


1 comment:

  1. The last one is awesome.

    I used to publish an eight-page family newsletter. I'd write it, then put it through four editing stages (combination of content- and copy-editing), since I have a husband and two daughters who are good at detecting my mistakes. :) It was a rare newsletter in which at least one error was not found at each iteration. But at some point you just have to stop and publish.