Peggy Bechko: Your Ugly What? – The Art And Craft of Writing (not to mention editing)

i.chzbgrby Peggy Bechko

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.” Mark Twain

“It’s hard to take someone seriously when they leave you a note saying, ‘Your ugly.’ My ugly what?” Cara Lynn Shultz

Yep, they’ve noticed too! Seriously. I read. A lot. Have you been reading what’s out there? I admit I’m not perfect and mistakes slip past me too, but really….

While the ‘big publishing houses’ tout their wonderfulness because “indies don’t edit or proof read properly” I’m reading novels with errors up, down and sideways. Errors maybe put there by writers (and maybe not), but most certainly not found by those fabulous in-house editors. Words just stuck in there, with no connection to the sentence they’re in. Plain old spelling errors, grammatical errors that have nothing to do with literary license and many more.

And I don’t mean on one page or once in a while, I mean peppered throughout the whole book! I actually got so frustrated with one book (by an author I really like) that I sent an email to the publishing house asking if their editors were sleeping in the back.

I’ve also read indie published books like Luke Romyn’s Beyond Hades (Prometheus Wars Series http://amzn.to/1oC42ZW ) also his “Legacy” series that had very few slips and was (were, as I read the books in both series) great reads. And M Pax, SciFi writer of The Backworlds series http://amzn.to/18LtNzT (first novella is free) who also has very clean copy.

And those are just two, there are plenty of others. So far in my recent experience the Indies are stacking up better than the publishing houses. Clean copy, easy to read, great stories. And the big houses wonder why their sales are slipping and people aren’t so impressed these days.

So, why do I bring all this up? Let me elucidate. It’s simple. Be honest, how do glaring written errors affect your reading? Doesn’t it pull you up short? Put a bump in the road? Yep, right, it certainly does for almost everyone.

The reader pauses, trying to figure out what is supposed to be there or what the writer means – then continues on – or not! It’s the ‘or not’ that can do an author in. You know, the moment when the reader tosses your book aside and remembers your name for the wrong reasons when it’s the publisher who hasn’t done the final job.

This problem applies to screen scripts as well for those of you who write them and are grinning at the publishing world. An error or typo or two can be easily forgiven. We’re all human. It’s difficult to catch everything in a long written piece. A small blip and the reader continues on.

But repeated, multiple missteps, page after page? Nope. At some point the reader gives up and throws in the towel, tossing the mangled script or book aside for something with a smoother gait. (see paragraph above).

So, here’s what you do. Since everything else is now falling under the author’s purview you might as well accept the fact you need to self-edit and do it well. Of course a little help is nice if you can get it. A professional editor at the end of your writing if you can afford it.

If not, how about a friend with a red pen who’ll happily mark every typo, every grammatical slip or weird sentence he or she can find?

Really, find a path you can follow to clean up that written page. Life will get better when you do.