Writerly Rant #66
If you haven’t published your book yet, you may be unaware that some reviewers have a tendency to write incredibly horrible things not only about your book but about you. Why? There’s no one reason. The rule of thumb is to ignore them and let your 4 and 5 star ratings speak for you.
But what about other aspects of the writing business?
As an editor, writers come to me for genuine and professional advice and help with their manuscripts. Our goal is to turn a story into a book.
One of my dedicated clients sent an e-copy of her book to a professional reviewer who then turned around and asked her if she would like to have the manuscript edited – and I had already done that. Specifically she sited 3 “major” problems with the job I had done:
1) The new editor wasn’t sure if my client wanted to keep her chosen vernacular for the first-person stream-of-consciousness writing style.
2) The new editor pointed out there were a total of 4 misplaced commas in the entire manuscript.
3) The new editor stated that having “Sister” and “Brother” as names for characters was too confusing for following the story.
On the surface, these points appear valid and you’d think I had done a terrible job of editing for my client – I mean, I missed FOUR commas! What she doesn’t realize is that this particular client has dyslexia and a penchant to sprinkle commas liberally throughout every single sentence. In a novella of over 40,000 words the fact that I only missed 4 commas is quite incredible.
Why is that?
What you need to know about editing is the 5% rule. For a straightforward basic copy edit most professional editors will comb through your manuscript a grand total of ONE time. Given that that’s the case, indie review houses like Reader’s First and Indie Brag Medallion (of which I am a reviewer for both) operate on the rule that even traditional publishing houses will “miss” up to 5% of typing errors usually related to punctuation or homonym-spellings (they, they’re, their, there) and this is perfectly acceptable in the publishing world.
A 5% error in a 40,000 word manuscript equates to approximately 165 errors of one type or another. I had 4 errors. A 1% margin for error would equate to 33 “mistakes” (assuming there are approximately 12 words in the average sentence).
Are you feeling me now? Do you see just how petty this other editor was being? I pride myself on having a 1% (or less) margin of error in my work for a single read through on a copy edit.
The other two points the editor made also look valid on the surface. However, the fact that this other editor didn’t pick up that the vernacular was integral to my client’s story as were the choices in the names: Brother, Sister – speaks volumes about the editor’s understanding of the work (or lack thereof).
In my first reading of my client’s manuscript I knew immediately that her style was unique and necessary for the story. And while I found it a bit difficult to negotiate the character names of Brother and Sister the first time I came across them, the simple fact that I was now familiar with the cultural make-up of the story, the vernacular and the mother character who chose to name 2 of her many children that way – it made perfect sense, and as a reader I accepted the truth of it.
So what should you take away from this rant?
Not that I’m an imperfect editor who does a bad job on client projects (as the other editor would have you believe) – but that you need to find the RIGHT editor for your manuscript. Don’t just hire the cheapest professional out there; get samples from at least three potential editors to see if their style meshes with yours.
I understood my client’s vision and respected her need to remain true to that vision. I didn’t try to force her to conform to traditional literary fiction standards – she didn’t want that. Not everyone can write a like J.D. Salinger with his character Holden Caulfield, and I firmly believe that my client went beyond Salinger’s ability to create a main character accessible to even more people.
I wish you the best of luck on your own personal search for a writing professional who understands your vision 😀