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Dear Editor | Did My Editor Do Their Job Properly?

Dear Editor | Did My Editor Do Their Job Properly?

I recently saw a comment in one of the Facebook groups I’m a member of. A fiction author was asking about editing standards, in relation to her recently released first novel. She said her editor picked up 50 to 60 mistakes in her 55,000-word novel, but the author had since found at least twelve errors the editor didn’t pick up, including mistakes like missing words.

That concerns me.

I’m not concerned that the editor apparently missed twelve mistakes. Twelve mistakes in a 55,000-word novel means the novel is 99.98% error-free.

I’d be happy with that.

I’m concerned because I don’t think the author understood the editing process enough to know that an editor who picks up less than 60 errors in a 55,000-word novel might not be an editor—at least, not in the way this author was thinking of editing. I’d expect to pick up this number of mistakes in a manuscript assessment. It’s possible this editor thought she was the developmental editor, not the copyeditor. If so, grammatical errors and missing words weren’t her job.

It’s possible the editor was claiming to be a copyeditor. If so, the author should have known from the low number of mistakes that the editor hadn’t done a thorough job.

(Although she should have been able to tell this from the sample edit. Always get a sample edit, even if you have to pay for it. If you’d like to request a free sample edit from me, contact me via the contact form on my About page.)

For example, I’ve recently completed a copyedit of a 40,000-word manuscript where I had over 2,300 queries or suggested changes. Most were small changes—remove a space here, add a comma there. Sometimes it takes two changes to correct one mistake.

My later proofread of the same manuscript had 300 suggestions, many of which related to the changes I’d suggested in the copyedit, but some where things I’d missed the first time around (often because I was focussing on another problem in that sentence or paragraph).

And that was a light edit—this is the author’s tenth published book, and her first six were with a major traditional publisher. She knows how to write. She’s been edited before. She expects this level of editing.

Dear author, if you only hired one editor, and she found less than 60 mistakes, then she missed things. A lot of things.

Let’s Talk About Editing

There are several different types of editing. A book from a traditional publisher will go through at least three rounds of editing, and several rounds of proofreading. Different editors use different terms, but here are the basic levels of editing:

Structural Editing

A high-level analysis of the plot, structure, characters, genre, and theme. The feedback is delivered in the form of an editorial letter, highlighting strengths and pinpointing areas the author needs to work on. Some authors use alpha readers or beta readers or critique partners for structural editing: you edit mine, and I’ll edit yours. The main point is that the editor (or critique partner) can go through the whole manuscript in one or two sittings, to get the big picture.

Developmental Editing

The editor works through the manuscript using Track Changes, commenting on big-picture issues like plot, characterisation, point of view, and showing vs. telling. This delivers similar feedback to the Structural Edit, except the author can see exactly where the problem is. The Structural Edit might say there is a problem with point of view. The Developmental Edit highlights each and every time there is a point of view violation. Some authors will use a critique group for this level of editing, swapping one or two chapters on a regular (e.g. weekly) basis.

Line Editing

Once the overall plot and characters work, the line editor gets to work. The Line Edit again uses Track Changes, and focuses on how the writing can be improved to deliver more emotion, more power. This includes things like cutting cliches, repetition, and telling, and reworking sentences and paragraphs to show the story the best way possible.

Copyediting

This is what most people think of as “editing”. It’s going through the manuscript (again using Track Changes) to focus on the spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It may also pick up or correct issues that either weren’t picked up during line editing, or have been introduced during revision. Some authors call this stage “proofreading” and work with a small group of nitpicky beta readers.

Proofreading

We finally get to proofreading. By this point, the novel should have been through several different paid and unpaid editors, beta readers, and/or critique partners. But there are always gremlins who sneak in, and that’s the proofreader’s job: to find and eliminate those last remaining gremlins. Ideally, the proofreader hasn’t read the book before, which means they have fresh eyes and will read the words on the page, not the words they remember being on the page last time.

Remember …

A good editor won’t just edit. They’ll tell why they are suggesting each change, and cite rules where applicable (e.g. . A good editor is a teacher and a coach as well as an editor. This is especially true for structural, developmental, and line editors. If you’re not getting that feedback, maybe it’s time to consider a different approach.

So did your editor do her job properly? I suspect not. But I can’t say for certain, because I don’t know what type of editing you hired her for. And that’s on the author.

What Makes A Good Book Review?

Following on from my post last week about getting book reviews on Amazon, I thought I’d address a related question: What makes a good book review?

Looking at Amazon, it appears that a lot of authors automatically consider a five-star review to be good and a three-star or lower review to be bad. I disagree. As a reader, a bad review is one that doesn’t give me enough information to make a decision, regardless of the rating. Here are some examples of bad reviews:

I love this book! Even better than Twilight!! Smith is the best author EVA!!! and I could just swoon over Jamie all day!!!!

This book was okay. Amazon makes me write at least twenty words for a review so now I’m done. Yay.

Reviews are for readers.

The objective of a review is to help a potential reader decide whether or not they will like a particular book. Should they spend their hard-earned money buying this book? Is it worth their time to read? My time is valuable. I don’t want to waste hours reading a bad book, even a free book, when I could have been doing something more enjoyable (like scrubbing the toilet, or better still, reading a good book).

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that there are five main aspects that contribute to my enjoyment of a book, and these are the questions I try to address when I write a review:

  • Plot: Does the plot make sense? Is it exciting? Romantic? Do the sub-plots add to the overall story? Is it believable? Is it original, or do I feel I’ve read it before?
  • Characters: Do I like the characters? Are they people I’d want to know and spend time with in real life? Or are they too-stupid-to-live clichés?
  • Genre: Does the book conform to the expectations of the genre? If it’s Christian fiction, does the protagonist show clear progression in their Christian walk? If it’s romance, is there an emotionally satisfying ending? If it’s fantasy or science fiction, has the author succeeded in convincing me the world they have created is real?
  • Writing and editing: With many books, especially those from small publishers or self-published authors problems with the writing or editing take me out of the story (like a heroin wearing a high-wasted dress). Bad writing or insufficient editing makes a book memorable for all the wrong reasons.
  • The Wow! Factor: Some books, very few, have that extra something that makes them memorable for the right reasons. The Wow! factor is usually a combination of a unique plot and setting, likeable and intelligent characters (I loathe stupid characters), and a distinct and readable writing style, or ‘voice’.  This is highly subjective and other readers might not agree with my taste. And that’s okay.

Some reviewers, especially Christian reviewers, are of the view that “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. I disagree. That doesn’t mean I’m going to be cruel, but it does mean I’m going to be honest. Reviews are for readers, and readers deserve honest reviews. They want to know whether a book is worth their money and time—or not.

It’s hard to write a less-than-glowing review. It’s much easier to write a four-star ‘I liked it’ review (and even easier to write a five-star ‘I loved it’ rave). I wish I could write more five-star raves, but a lot of books are missing that Wow! factor, that originality that takes them from a four-star like to a five-star rave.

I will, on rare occasions, not publish a critical review—usually when another review already covers all the points I was going to make. But I publish reviews for around 75% of the books I read—and over 95% of the books I accept as review copies (because this is a condition of accepting a review title with most online book blogger review programmes). If I accept your book for review, I will review it. I might take a while and you might not like the review, but I will read it, and I will review it.

Critical reviews are especially hard to write if the book is from a lesser-known author with fewer reviews. I don’t enjoy writing a review saying a book was full of cliché characters, a predictable plot and editing errors. It’s not my fault I’m the first person to notice a book refers to Barnaby’s Star when it’s actually Barnard’s Star (true story. The author said even his NASA beta-reader didn’t pick that up).

Reviews are not book reports or a critique. They are not a way for authors to get free feedback on the quality of their writing. If you want feedback on your writing, ask an objective reader, find a critique partner, get a free critique through a writing organisation, or get a paid critique from an editor. I provide manuscript assessments as part of my editing services. They are far more detailed than my reviews, and provide concrete advice in how to rectify the weaknesses. I can’t do that in a short online review.

Because reviews are for readers.

 

A New Resolution by Rose Dee

Anika Demeur has always been determined to escape the curse of teenage pregnancy and solo parenthood, but still finds she is repeating her mother’s mistakes. Together with her son, Kye, she accepts a job on Resolution Island on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Life is good, until a letter—and the arrival of a rich Texan—threaten everything.

Nate is on a mission to fulfill his mother’s last wish. But he didn’t anticipate that keeping this promise would mean getting involved in illegal fishing, a murder—and an unexpected attraction to an exasperating woman who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

Now, there is a small chance I’m biased here (because I worked with Rose Dee on the editing), but I really enjoyed A New Resolution.  The characters are strong, the plot interesting, and I especially like the way the Christian elements were integrated into the story, in a way that felt quite realistic, without preaching or moralising.

I also enjoyed the developing relationship between Ani and Nate, the way the attraction was developed into a friendly relationship before either of them acknowledged that there might be something more than mere attraction. And the first kiss was great.

Australian Christian fiction isn’t perhaps as polished as the American novels coming out of the major Christian publishing houses, but this (at least to me) seems more real. In real life, things aren’t always perfect and people are a little rough around the edges, and A New Resolution reflects the Australian spirit well. It is an enjoyable and original novel, with a unique and beautiful setting.

A New Resolution is the final book in the Resolution trilogy, following Back to Resolution and Beyond Resolution. However, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. Recommended.

Tangled Secrets by Carol Preston

Beth’s father was transported to Australia when she was just a small child, and now she is eighteen, he has sent for her and her two younger brothers to join him in his new home. Beth has hopes that they will be able to live together as a family, but this is not to be, and she instead marries William, a strange man who has some deep problems of his own. Estranged from her family by distance and secrets, she has to learn to fend for herself in this strange and harsh new land.

This is the third book in the series that began with Mary’s Guardian and Charlotte’s Angel. The stories are fictionalised accounts of real historical people and events, a result of Carol Preston’s personal family history research (which explains why so many of the characters are confusingly called Elizabeth or William). Although there are a number of characters from the earlier books, this story can easily be read as a stand-alone novel. It gives an excellent depiction of the struggles of the early Australian immigrants, especially the ex-convicts, and has a strong Christian message about the ways family secrets and lies can affect us.