Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Recreational Reading

Yes, I know it's Christmas Eve, but I posted my Christmas wishes last week (and am happy to repeat them again this week!). Merry Christmas!

True confession time. I used to HATE reading Harlequin romances. Why? Their editors weren't very thorough. When I'd read them, I'd spend more time noticing the mistakes than reading the book.  The stories often didn't hold my interest enough for me to overlook the problems. And that was before I became a copyeditor at the day job, before I got serious about my own writing and KNEW what to look for.

Harlequin has come a long way. I still wouldn't jump to them as a brand for a first read, but they have spawned some of my favorite authors, and I do believe their editors have increased in caliber.

Along those same lines, I've come a long way. When I read a book, I want to get lost in it. I don't want to pick at the quality. The single most important advice I would give to an indie author is to get an independent editor. A REAL editor, not your best friend or your mom. As an author, we know what the book is supposed to say, so doing self-editing works to a point, but speaking from experience, every time I read one of my books, I find one more thing I missed the last time. It's a vicious cycle. So finding that editor, a disinterested third party, gives you another level of quality control.

I've read several books over the past few years that had good stories, but the editing was so horrific that I couldn't recommend them. As a society and with the advent of indie publishing, we are seeing more of those old-style Harlequin novels, but readers are more sophisticated. In addition to noticing the typographical errors, they know when you haven't developed your characters, when your dialog isn't working, when your settings are one-dimensional. And yet, I read Jane Eyre a couple of years ago. We're talking classic literature, and the writing was very shabby in parts, and yet Jane was such a compelling character that readers can overlook the rough spots in favor or a stellar story.

At the day job, I've been interviewing candidates for a proofreading position. Many of them were English teachers or had degrees in English, leading to some very interesting discussions off-topic on literature. What makes a book required reading in our schools? Who decides what makes a classic? And some of the books are so dry, so stale, so "against the rules" from a technical standpoint, that even the teachers hate reading them.

Traditional publishers still hold the power of a compelling read. They have the quality assurance processes in place to make sure you get the best book possible, without short-cutting it. I like to take chances on indie authors, and have found many that I enjoy without the switch flipping in my head from reader to editor. But there are still too many who have the skills, but don't realize that it's nearly impossible to edit your own work.

I've read reviews on some of the books I purchased for my holiday binge reading session, and some of the comments are very insightful. As I mentioned, readers are much more discerning these days. They are more educated. Some can be overly critical. One more reason for indie authors to make sure they are presenting the best book possible.

I have a review page on my blog - but I don't always post reviews there on the books I read. For one, recently a book blogger came under criticism for expressing her opinion. Some authors don't like to hear the truth, and feel they can strike back when someone doesn't like their book. You know what? It's all subjective. Thank you for taking the time to read my books. Not everyone will like them. BUT that doesn't give you license to take a pot shot just for the helluvit. As I mentioned, I've recently read several "good" books that would have done much better with an editor's tutelage. I did write reviews at the request of the authors, and I tried to highlight the good things, but to be fair, readers need to know what they're getting into, so I feel obligated to point out the shortcomings (I try to be gentle). When the editing isn't there, many readers will give up without reaching the end. I know I would have, if I hadn't been asked for the review. (I'm also OCD about finishing what I start.) And not everyone will like every book. Some just aren't my cup of tea, even when they are well written.

But enough rambling on for today. My favorite high school required reading book was "When the Legends Die." Yeah, I liked the Iliad, and I liked the King Arthur book, too. But most of the rest of it was torture. Now I'm looking forward to my recent book purchases that will keep me curled up in the corner on the upcoming winters days/nights.

Which "required reading" book do you remember most?

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