November 26 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

PSA (Public Service Announcement) before I get to today’s birthdays, etc. I read three books this week. The plots were good plots in that they kept my attention, and the characters and settings were decent, but… the editing was atrocious. There were so many editorial mistakes in these books that I continued reading only because I wanted to know the outcome of the stories. I should have just skipped to the ends. There were tense issues (past/present) so mixed up I didn’t know if I was now or then. And continuity errors that had me shaking my head. And these were not ARCs. They were published books. And books that were receiving good reviews. Obviously by people who knew nothing about the technical side of writing. And yes, being an editor for thirty years might make me a little pickier than most, but still… In one story, the two main characters were going up a mountain to a tree farm. She was driving her SUV because she knew the road and his Jeep was too small. After picking up the tree, they were coming down the mountain. He was driving his Jeep. Or another story where “She took the tray and placed it on the table.” Two sentences later: “He took the tray and placed it on the table.” Same tray. Same table. Same scene. Another story – the main character’s name changed twice on the same page. These are just three examples out of many, many more. All three books looked more like first drafts than finished books.

So, as a reader and reviewer, I am begging you – please spend the money and get a competent editor. And by competent, I don’t mean your neighbor who has read a lot of books and maybe teaches English. I mean someone who can look for not only grammar issues, but understands the difference between past and present tense, who will look for continuity issues, who knows the difference between “bring and take” (a pet peeve). Yes, this costs money. But had these authors used a competent editor, I would have recommended their books to others. As it stands, I will not. Nor will I ever buy another book written by them. Fortunately, these were freebies sent to me in hopes of a review. They got the reviews, but I know they will not be happy with them. I hate giving poor reviews, but I will not compromise my standards. Good editing is as important as a good plot. Maybe even more so.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

Birthdays: Eugene Ionesco (1909), Frederik Pohl (1919), Charles Schulz (1922), Marilynne Robinson (1943), David Poyer (1949), Jonathan Weiner (1953), Vicki Petterson (1971), James Dashner (1972)

Frederik Pohl is best known for his science fiction novels. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards.

Charles Schulz is best known for his “Peanuts” cartoons

Marilynne Robinson won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “Gilead”

Jonathan Weinger won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction for “The Beak of the Finch”

Quote: “If you grit your teeth and show real determination, you’ll always have a chance.” – Charles Schultz

“A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.” – Eugene Ionesco

Tip: Surprise the reader. If you find yourself bogged down in a scene, figure out something that would not only surprise (and upset) your character, but your reader as well.

Jumpstart: “I really care about you and when you care about someone, you can’t lie…”

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