Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Why Writers Must Read!

This fabulous fantasy photo was posted to Facebook by my long-time friend, Sue-Ellen Welfonder, with the attribution "Timeline." I loved it and thought it well worth sharing.

Outside church last Sunday, costumed for Beauty & the Beast
Space Station, as seen from air show in Lakeland, FL (photo by Susie)


As most of you know, I often choose blog topics from what I'm doing in any given week. This week's post is inspired by a bit of editing I just finished. To which I am going to add a variety of other reasons why Writers must never get so busy they forget to read other people's books. And, of course, my old bugaboo—why you have to read your own work. Over and over and over ad infinitium!

Here are a few of the many reasons a writer needs to read:

1.  Read other authors' books to support the industry!  Whether paper or electronic, books contain the fabric of the world, from history to great leaps of imagination and creation of sentences that rival the most beautiful music or the most glorious sunset.

2.  Read other authors' books to support them personally in their quest to add to our enjoyment and/or enlightenment.

3.  Read other authors' books for sheer enjoyment. I sneak in reading sessions during the day but truly look forward to each night when I settle down with a good book and simply enjoy the flow of the story, be it historical, mystery, suspense/adventure, scifi, steampunk, or romance.

4.  Read for research. And yes, we all need to do that, not just authors of historical novels! But be very careful—you can absorb a fiction genre's style from reading, but do not trust "facts" you see only in fiction. Do your research from the source, or from non-fiction authors who have read and digested all those sources and written reliable books about the subject you're researching.

5.  While you're enjoying yourself, read for technical reasons: grammar, punctuation, sentence structure. How did that particular author or publisher handle that full-sentence tag in the middle of a bit of dialogue? Do I see any dash besides an M-dash?  Why was an ellipsis used there but a dash here? Which words get initial caps? Which don't? How do you write a stutter? - Is it okay to use a hyphen, or should you use an M-dash? 

It's all there, laid out for you in each book you read: how to punctuate complex sentences, how to punctuate dialogue, how to present letters, how to present Date & Location lines, etc., etc. Provided, that is, you're reading a book that has had proper editing! Some indie authors—I like to include myself among them!—get it right most of the time, but as rule, if you're reading to reinforce proper punctuation, stick to books put out by big-time New York publishers and the best e-book publishers.

Warning:  Each publisher has a Style Sheet, telling editors how "flexible" situations should be handled. Therefore, not all publishers will approach a problem in the same way. If you are an indie author, you have to decide which way works for you. And then be consistent! Do not leap from one style to another in the same book!
Hopefully, if you train yourself to really look and absorb what you're reading, you will avoid the problems in the manuscript I edited over the last three weeks. This was a book with a marvelous voice for its genre, great characters, clever plot, good dialogue, but there were at least ten Track Changes corrections on every page. One third due to the author not knowing how to write a dash. Another ten percent because the author did not know when to use an ellipsis, or how to write it.* Maybe twenty-five percent because the author used a period instead of a comma before a tag and used an initial cap in a dialogue tag that should have been lower case. The remainder of the corrections were such things as italics in the wrong place and incorrect punctuation of direct address and full-sentence tags. 
This is an author who should shoot to the top of her genre, but not until she learns how to present her work in a professional manner. (Which I told her in no uncertain terms. Hers is too good a talent to waste!)

*Since I originally wrote this post, I have heard from the author who tells me her initial editor changed all her ellipses to dashes! (Besides missing a slew of punctuation errors.) Not surprisingly, I have suggested she find another copy editor.

Which brings up the fact that some authors simply cannot "see" the errors on a page, making them them almost totally dependent on an editor who can handle both content editing and copy editing. (Such editors are treasures not always easy to find, but a "must" if you are "error-blind.") 

Here are your choices:

1.  Do it all yourself—writing, content editing and copy editing.This is what I do, and it seems to work. But many people do not have the skill or the desire to "final edit" their own work. 
So . . .

2. Edit your work to the best of your ability—Spell Check, read carefully for both content and copy edit errors, preferably two or three times through the entire manuscript. Then send it to someone who can advise on content revisions and make all necessary copy edits.  Or . . .

3.  NOT RECOMMENDED!  Run Spell Check, read the manuscript once over before sending it out to be edited.

4.  NEVER RECOMMENDED! Throw your words onto the page helter-skelter, don't even run Spell Check, and then send it off to some poor editor to "fix" it for you. Aargh!

But what if that editor is not as competent as he/she should be? When that happens—as mentioned in a previous post—all you can do is find someone to do it right and upload a new version. (Assuming, that is, your manuscript is an indie effort.) One possible way around this problem is to have volunteer readers skilled in English go over your book before it is uploaded. (But the author mentioned above tells me she had pre-pub readers. Sigh.)

One way or another, indie authors, this is a problem which must be solved, because in the end,YOU, the writer, are responsible for turning out a professionally presented manuscript.

To repeat what I've said in so many different ways before:
Even if you plan to hire an editor, you must read over your work several times beforehand. Run Spell Check, find the missing words, the duplicate words, the awkward sentences, the ones that make no sense. Punctuate carefully, consistently. Make an effort to get it right. Do not toss your words at the page and just let them lie there, untended. None of us is omnipotent. None of our work is perfect the first time around. Do not disrespect your readers by offering them nothing better than a carelessly presented first draft!

~ * ~

I will be presenting a workshop on Editing 
at the Winter Park Library, 
460 E. New England Avenue, Winter Park, FL
Saturday, April 28, 2018
11:00 a.m. on the Third Floor 

~ * ~ 

NEXT NEW BLOG: May 6, 2018 

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

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page - NEW on April 14, 2018, click here.

To request a brochure from Grace's editing service, Best Foot Forward, please use the link to Blair's website above.  

Thanks for stopping by, Grace

1 comment:

  1. Grace, I always love your blog articles, but I'd like to point one thing out in this particular one: even if you have a New York publisher, there may be errors, of punctuation, missed typos and homophone misuse, verb tenses, etc. I find them more and more in books I'm reading. The big publishers have cut staff, including editors, and you no longer can count on them to do the writer's job. So it behooves them even more than in former years to go over the proofs of their manuscripts and look for errors that the publisher's editors overlooked, or even sometimes introduced.