I have several blogs on my RSS reader by working writers and editors. Recently, I started following a new blog put together by several of those publishing-types called The Blood Red Pencil and I’m loving it! Posts vary from answering letters and questions from readers and observations from their working-editor lives.
Today’s post, Things that Drive an Editor Crazy, particularly inspired me to do this promo post for them. As some of you will know, I produced audio books for many years and so spent my days reading published books of all genres and was often horrified by the quality of writing. Unlike casual reading, producing an audiobook requires you to find a way to make every word in every sentence work and you’d be surprised how difficult it can be! Before anyone protests, I am not requiring of every novel something which should only be required of “literary” novels – there is a difference between a colloquial, commercial style and pure laziness.
Language has become a bit of a bug bear of mine in the blogging world, too. Sure, blogging is an expression of self but that doesn’t mean anything goes! Everyone makes the odd typo or grammatical error (of course there are bound to be several in this post 🙂 ) and certainly one can be a little less strict on a colloquial blog, nevertheless if you have chosen to blog, you have chosen a written form of self expression. At the very least, your blog should express that the language in which you are writing is your mother tongue! Assuming it is, of course.
Sometimes I will have a client say, “But I see that all the time in books I read.”
Weak writing is weak writing no matter who is getting published. Some people don’t care. They just dash off a piece of work, grab the money and run. But I believe we owe our readers more than that. Developing the story and getting it down on paper – or stored on your hard drive – is only the first step in writing a book. The next couple of steps are crucial and infinitely more difficult – at least I think so. Rewriting and editing to find just the right words and phrases can lift an average book into the realm of good and maybe even great.
Obviously the buck stops with the writer rather than the editor, an editor can only polish what is in front of them. A good (or maybe just nice) editor will take the time to point out the kinds of things in the post linked above – IF it gets to their desk in the first place! Then again, a writer needs to be able to trust their editor to notice when they have become unable to see the forest for the trees. I’ll never forget the character’s parents who flew in to see their son married on the last page of one book – their death during the character’s childhood had been a large part of the character’s motivation throughout story…
If you consider yourself a writer, add this blog to your reader – a lot of it will be familiar (assuming you do anything to educate yourself about your craft, and if you don’t, why not?) but it comes from a practical point of view. I find that it refreshes concepts I may not have considered for a while or from a publisher’s angle and, perhaps equally importantly, it reminds me that no-one simply spews out perfect writing first time round!!