Friday 15 March 2013

Conversations In The Abyss

I’ve often said all books should be edited. Why? Because a well edited book enhances the reading experience and will bring people back for more. A book full of typing errors, bad punctuation and repetitive phrases is likely to put people off – unless it’s called …. No, I won’t go there.
   I thoroughly enjoyed my latest job. It was to edit Conversations In The Abyss by Michael Brookes. I read the forerunner to this and enjoyed that, too, although I did point out to Michael the copy I had read was in need of editing. He assured me I had an old copy (he should know, he sent it to me) and the things I had mentioned had been corrected. Then he asked if I would edit the sequel which I found fascinating.
It is the story of the coming apocalypse, good against evil, how to thwart the approaching storm. The writing flows well, the characters are well defined and the whole thing moves on at a breath taking pace. I would recommend it to anyone. Take a look here …

   So what do I do when I edit a book? What am I looking for? The obvious thing is typos, the bane of every author’s life. The trouble is when you write a book you KNOW what is supposed to be on the screen and your brain will convince you it is there even if it isn’t. So you need someone who doesn’t know what is supposed to be there to read every single word and make sure it is the right one, both in context and in spelling. Even then the occasional word slips through. If the story is good it is sometimes hard to keep reading slowly enough to look at every single word and make sure it is correct.
   Is correct spelling important? I’m sure everyone has seen the experiment from Cambridge University, where a whole paragraph is written with all the words spelt incorrectly, just the first and last letters in the right place. It is perfectly possible to read this paragraph and come out with the right message, but it takes a lot more concentration than reading a book. And all the right letters are there, just in the wrong order. I’m not so sure it would be as easy to read if some of the letters were missing, which is what often happens. The finger misses a letter, or the spell check doesn’t tell you if it should be ‘ent’ or ‘ant’.
   Many people skim read anyway, so why bother to make sure the spellings are correct? To my mind, because it shows you care about your craft. In this day and age there is no reason why typos should get through. Some word processors even pick up on words that are used out of context, so if you type ‘too’ instead of ‘to’, then it will be flagged as an error.
   So if you have a good word processor you don’t need an editor, right?
   Wrong. Apart from checking that the text is accurately typed an editor will advise on content and possibly style. I don’t like to interfere with the way an author writes. THEY are writing the book not me. I try my hardest not to paraphrase what has been written, but there are certain things I will point out and change or at least suggest for change. Sometimes a writer might use the same word three or more times in one paragraph. I’m talking adjectives and adverbs here, not the sort of words you DO have to use a lot. To me this spoils the flow of narrative. Sometimes a repetition can be used to emphasise a point, but in general I like to see as many different words used as possible. The English language has so many, make the most of them.
   An editor can also check consistency of style. Are all the chapter headings in the same place, or are some left justified and some centred, some bold or italic? Sometimes when a book has been many months in the writing the author forgets what formatting they used at the beginning – I know I do.
   Facts – these I trust to be correct. I hope the author has done their research and got their facts correct. Sometimes I double check something, Google is very helpful these days, but I expect facts to be right. I’m a fiction editor, I don’t do research, I don’t do technical stuff.
   I DO like to see things in their proper place, the right terminology for the characters, the era and setting. To me it is sloppy to have an American walking down a pavement in New York, eating biscuits instead of cookies and making calls on a mobile phone not a cell phone. Being English myself, I can’t profess to know all the slang of the world but the obvious things at least should be adhered to. If an author can’t do that they should make characters from their own environment.
   What do I get out of editing for other people? I get to read books before they are published and hopefully help the author make their book just that little bit better. I have been very lucky in that most of the books I have looked at have been a credit to their authors. So far I’ve only had one that I felt needed to be completely re-worked and that was one I wasn’t charging for, so I didn’t feel concerned about that. If I did get a commission that was so bad I would tell the author quickly and not make a charge.
   Ok, I’m a mug, I will never make a fortune editing but then again most Indie Authors won’t make a fortune writing! If you have something you would like me to look at contact me through my website here.

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