Thursday, May 10, 2012

Making the words behave, part one of a "how-to-write" series

I get a lot of delightful amusement from the Amazon Kindle Romance forum (whatever it's called) discussing Badly Behaving Authors.  It seems there's a never-ending stream of authors, most of the self-epublished variety, who don't understand some of the etiquette of being An Author.

Sadly, many of those BBAs don't understand the basics of skillful writing either, and many of the negative reviews the books receive are due to poor writing.

I've already blogged about the difference between proofreading and editing.  Hiring a professional proofreader is a relatively inexpensive service any serious writer should consider.  It's not just a matter of being a writer and knowing what should be on the page; it's also a matter that after you've written and revised and edited and formatted and rewritten and revised and proofread the darn thing sixteen dozen times, the words tend not to register when they're wrong

Yes, you can have your writer friends or your aunt or daughter-in-law who's a teacher proofread it, but unless they are professional proofreaders, they will very likely still miss things.  I happen to be a very good, but not professional, proofreader,  I still miss typos.  And while an occasional htis or htat isn't going to get your book panned by readers, if you have more than half a dozen such bloopers in your book, those bloopers will jump out and make the book more difficult to read.  That's right:  Anything over six typos per book is way too many.

Now, if you like, you can dismiss that harsh standard.  No one can make you adhere to any standards at all.  But if you're being honest with yourself, you'll know that typos are not good.  The fewer the better.  None is best, and that's what you should strive for.

But all of that is related to proofreading, and proofreading is not editing.  A proofreader may charge $300 to go over your book-length manuscript and that may be reasonably affordable for many writers. 

Editing, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal and hiring a professional editor can be very very expensive.  Worse still, if you aren't sufficiently knowledgeable yourself, you may have difficulty determining whether the editor you hire is capable of doing a competent job and making your book better than it was when you finished it.  There are, unfortunately, a lot of scam artists out there posing as editors who will rip you off.

It behooves you, as a writer, to know exactly how to write, so you can look at the suggestions your editor makes and be sure that they are improvements and not just changes.

The compulsive teacher in me is going to try to post one of these how-to blogs each week, if I can remember.  Don't ask for a syllabus; I have no idea what subject will strike my fancy at any given time, so you'll have to be content with surprises.  It might be something as basic as how to punctuate dialogue or as big-picture as plotting.  Come visit again and we'll both find out "And then what happened?"

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