Please Edit Your Book… =/

As I grow as a writer, I grow as a reader. (What comes first, the chicken or the egg?)

However, I also recognize a third change, or variable: my patience. It grows thin for terrible writing. Teenage (North American) school girls would describe the phenomena as, “I can’t even!

Seriously. I just can’t. When I see blatant structural issues in a published piece of writing, particularly in the first few pages, my brain deems it garbage, and I stop reading. ‘Garbage’ because it was published with major flaws. If it was a piece of writing in progress, that’s a different story (literally and figuratively? Ha).

Unfortunately, I have mostly (only?) experienced blatant flaws—specifically within the first few pages—in self-published books (-_-”). Before I go on, this is not an attack on self-published authors, because there are GREAT self-published works. Micheal J. Sullivan, one of my all time favorite authors, self-published his Riyira trilogy. But he is an example all self-published authors should strive to emulate. Sullivan would use at least two different freelance (copy) editors, in addition to himself and his wife (he and his wife would do the structural editing). That’s four sets of eyes, to begin with. But, Micheal would take it two steps further by having alpha- AND beta-readers. So by the time Micheal deemed his work ready to be (self) published, it would have gone through various stages of quality control.

All self-publishing authors should do the same—from my experience, a large number of authors publish their first drafts; or they publish without feedback from alpha/beta readers. Everytime someone self-publishes without quality controls, they contribute to a major problem by flooding the market with absolute crap. And believe me, if you work is not sufficiently edited, just like any other writers’ work, it will be crap. Jagged edges need to be smoothed, sanded, and painted before a masterpiece is ready to sell (for hard-earned, non-fictional, real-world money). Furthermore, those who carelessly self-publish ruin it for the rest of the self-published community. It contributes to and maintains the biased perspective some people hold regarding self-published work.

I personally respect self-publishing, but bad Indie-book experiences in rapid succession has made me cautious… I’ve been scarred to the point that I would never buy a self-published book with less than ~100 good reviews. That’s quite sad because there are Brandon Sandersons and J. K. Rowlings out there who had no success with traditional publishing. And of course, like traditionally published authors, self-published authors range in talent. Only, the ability to publish anything, anytime, has flooded the market with tsunamis of absolute crap. That makes it hard to swim… Lazy readers, like myself, are forced to swim in traditional publishing firms’ sewers and hope to catch a good piece of crap, not structureless diarrhea. It’s easier in a sewer than the ocean.

I’m writing this blog because of a recent experience I had with a self-published author who requested an honest review. I was truly excited to read their work, and dove right in. It was utter S#!T, right from the beginning… The author spent paragraphs describing settings and other details that were completely irrelevant to the story. They wrote descriptions for the sake of describing, not to enhance the story. It seemed as if the author felt tiny (irrelevant!) details were required for the book to pass as fantasy. My ‘purple prose sirens’ wouldn’t shut up.

Furthermore, the book had absolutely no conflict, only a list of events that took place. It was BORING. Yes, there was a plot, but no character development, or conflict. (Gimme conflict if you wanna hook me in!!!) Naturally, I couldn’t sympathize with the character, nor could I get into the story. Bleh. I stopped reading. And showered.

However, I took note of the major problems as I read. Then, I elaborated on those points and sent it to the author to explain my thought process. As was requested, I gave my honest opinion. But I went that extra mile to give thorough explanations (writer-to-writer bro talks, you know?). I hoped the author would find it educational, enlightening, especially because I took time to craft my response from a pile of swears and curses to human language.

Nope. All I got in response was a defensive statement, in which the author compared their work to the likes of Lord of the Rings… This was a writer who didn’t see their own flaws… They believed their writing was fine the way it was… Seeing flaws in others’ work, as well as your own, is important to being a writer. I didn’t waste time replying. There are some lessons writers have to learn on their own, for themselves. No one can teach another to be humble. A writer has to develop the ability to understand the perspective from which negative criticism about their own work comes from.

I do, however, sympathize with the author. Their work had five-star reviews, so my review was likely the author’s first encounter with (polite) constructive criticism. I remember the first real negative criticism I received. It was devastating. But I didn’t let it keep me down. I used it as concrete to build myself up. Harsh criticism helped to address all issues I hadn’t noticed in my own writing. It was a moment of learning, a life lesson. I assume all writers go through that in some form. But those who make something out of the harsh feedback are probably the ones who go on to succeed.

Back to the self-published work I tried to read… Had the author gone through alpha- and beta-reader stages, I guarantee those major problems would have been flagged, and addressed.

Moral of the story: be humble; graciously accept negative criticism—use it to better yourself and your writing; and subject your work to quality control before you start selling it for real  money (non-fictional, hard-earned $$$). Think of it this way, assume you bought a subpar product, let’s say a phone. Both hardware and software malfunctions, and you can’t use the damn phone the way you want. What will you do?

I would seek a refund, and give the phone a terrible rating, despite the fact I know there are other perfectly functioning phones of the same model (Side Note: the analogy here could be for self-publishing as a whole or, specifically, the author’s work). Why? Because time doesn’t come with customer service. Do yourself a favor and go that extra mile to produce your best work. That way, everyone will be happy at the end!

Note: I’m a hypocrite, this post has no edits 😉

Thanks for reading,

Thomas J. Benedict

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15 thoughts on “Please Edit Your Book… =/

  1. This is a great post. One I totally agree with. I have been burned by too many self-published novels at this point. I’ve reached the point where I’m sticking with books from established publishers right at the moment because I just need to read something where I’m assured of the quality. I feel like too many self-published authors crank out books at rapid pace, and throw their first drafts up on the market, assured that they’re great because they wrote them and they know they’re talented.

    Assurance of our own talent isn’t enough though, unfortunately. We often include things that aren’t relevant – particularly in first drafts! That a good editor worth their salt would recognize and trim. I’m sorry that you went out of your way to point out structural details to another author and they refused to accept constructive criticism. At least you’re learning and growing as an author, even if they aren’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (Please excuse my very late reply. I’ve been writing like no tomorrow! I usually avoid WordPress because I end up spending too much time on here haha)

      And thank you, I totally agree. First drafts are garbage in comparison to what we can produce with a little polishing. Yes, thank the lord at least I’m improving!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi tomas,
        I understand what you mean. I was once one of those writers who thought their book was supreme and became defensive with a rejection. But once I sent my book to beta readers, I asked first for the negative feedbacks, understanding that I was one who frowned upon a badly written and published book myself and that the negative feedbacks would be constructive, helping my book to take in a polish I didn’t think it had needed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It seems like the defensive sentiments are a natural stage of being a writer! But I’m very glad to hear you’ve learned from your mistakes and used beta readers! Hats off to you, now your work must be significantly better. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree! Editing our work is really important to keep people reading, though the first step of realising the flaws in our writing isn’t always easy. 😅

    I remember when I first “published” on a free fiction site (I’m a hobby novelist 😛) over 12 years ago, I’ve had a lot of people saying how much they enjoyed it, and then the first “bad” review hit like a big POW! At the time it felt like an attack (though I didn’t say so), but many years later I appreciated it and even agreed with it (looking back, the writing was bad 😅). I’d say that really help me grow as a writer. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (sorry for late reply! Been stuck in my cave writing like a mad man! Made really good progress though!)

      I agree! It’s terribly hard to hear criticism of your work for the first time. But I’m glad that we both have learned to negative comments into bettering our writing!

      Hope all is well 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries! I’m on vacation now so I’m not on time with commenting too. 😛

        I’m glad you made a really good progress with writing! It’s always good to have a session of writing like a mad man in a cave. 😀

        I’m doing great, thanks and hope you are too!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m afraid I absolutely have to agree with you! Now I’m thinking maybe I should have edited my books one more time!! I did re-read and edit a hell of a lot. And as you do, if I start reading something that’s badly written I won’t carry on with it. This is one of the advantages of buying my books as E-books from Amazon – you can download the free sample, and decide whether you want to continue on and buy the book.
    I can see I shall have to follow your blog! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all about living and learning! It sounds like you have done exactly that! And it’s great to hear you update your E-books, that’s very respectable! I shall follow your blog as well, it’s nice to be in contact with other writers 😊

      Like

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