Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quality Control

Over the last six weeks I've read a LOT of books. Mostly new books but also a sprinkling of older ones. The older ones were usually the early ones in a series since I always re-read a series when I buy a new series book.

Over all about 90% of the new stuff was crap. It really saddens me to say that, especially as most of those books were written by authors I've considered "keepers". But it also angers me because I'm in the publishing world and therefore I know how it works.

Spelling errors, grammar and punctuation mistakes, and general idiot mistakes shouldn't happen. I'm not talking about plot or character issues here. I'm pointing to very basic technical aspects of writing. The kind of mistakes I'm discussing here should not happen ever--not because of an editor or critique partner or beta reader--but because the writer checked his/her work.

I cringe every time a writing professional uses peal (a bell sound) for peel (the outer skin on a fruit). Or shutter (window covering) for shudder (shiver or tremble). Not too long ago I discussed the issue of wrong word/spelled right with a fellow writer. She excused it by saying she didn't learn the difference in school.

And?

Are we or are we not writers? Wordsmiths? Is that not our profession? Then how can we say "oh, well" and shrug indifferently before we move on? Buy a dictionary and learn how to use it!

Where is the pride in workmanship in a book/blog/e-mail/blog comment that is riddled with errors and misspelled words? I freely confess that I'm a judgmental witch when it comes to deciding whether or not I will buy a book from an author who cannot write a simple error free e-mail or blog comment. Sorry.

In all the numerous discussions I've read, blame for a poorly written book is always dumped on the editor. Nope. Authors need to man-up or woman-up. That name on the front cover is yours. Responsibility for the text between the covers is yours. If you don't give a damn, why should anyone (including your mother or best friend) spend their hard-earned money on your book?

And since I'm having a rant...

If you don't have a story to tell, then don't copy your last book, change the names to protect the innocent, and then try to sell it to me as a new book. Don't put seventeen sex scenes in the book and hope I won't notice there's not any story to hold them together. And don't wrap up the entire non-existent plot in the last paragraph, hoping that I won't notice.

Lest you, the gentle reader, believe I think I'm better than other writers let me just share my thoughts on that. In the last three months I've taken the time to re-read every single published book I've written. As I read I made notes where I had questions, errors or continuity issues. Out of twenty books, I judge seventeen were the best work I was capable of at the time they were published.

Have I learned more about my craft? Yes. And with every new book hopefully I incorporate what I've learned. That's my goal. That's my motto. I want every book I write to be the best I can write at that time.

So I confess there were three books I fell far short of my goal. If I could I would re-write them. Revise them. Work until I produced something that made me proud to have my name on it. Since that's beyond me right now, all I can do is go forward.

I look for that same attitude in the writers that I read. If a writer demonstrates their lack of responsibility or workmanship, then I move on. The world is full of books for me to read and life is short.

I once bemoaned disappointing royalty numbers in an e-mail to a very dear friend. She sensibly smacked me up the side of the head and pointed out those numbers reflected people who spent hard-earned dollars on my book! They could have as easily bought someone else's book.

For every single person who has invested in me, I say THANK YOU, from my heart.

Rant over...

anny

5 comments:

  1. One of the best rants I've read in a long time! Thanks, Anny!

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  2. You/re right about the homonyms. If we're unsure about the spelling, there is a handy little thing called a dictionary. Spell check will not catch them.

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  3. Hmm…where did my first comment go? Anyway – in my less than humble opinion, writers generally write the same book over and over but no one chooses to admit it. Language and spelling - as drummed into me at Uni through all those long bloody linguistics courses – is subjective and no one person is correct. Craft? Yes, writing is that to some and to others it’s a factory assembly line where a book is churned out once a week. Who is right? Wrong? Who bloody knows. Publishing is a weird arsed business and the best advice I have is ignore every other writer and do your own thing – and yes, good rant and absolutely yes – every $$ you get has been hard earned and not placed lightly.

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  4. Amen, Annie!

    While I haven't come across a novel with too many mistakes of late, I too am annoyed by the novelists who basically give characters new names and then say it's a new series. I was bitterly disappointed in Bernard Cornwell's Stonehenge because it just reworked his wonderful Warlord trilogy.

    And yes -- we are wordsmiths. It makes me sad to see pressure to be prolific turning writers into churners.

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  5. Agree, agree, agree!

    Although I've found that no matter how many times I read over my blogs before publishing, the typos still sneak in from time to time, dangit. I will not rest until I stomp out all these vermin! ;)

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