Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Bad Editing and Faberge Eggs: A Rant

A warning: I am about to rant. So if that’s not your thing, tune out now. The problem is I’ve been reading a few books lately (shock, horror!) and it’s made me cross.  Why? I’ll give you an example:

I nodded my head in assent.

What’s wrong with that, you say? The author has kindly specified that the nodding object was someone’s head, and that it was to be taken as a symbol of agreement. If they had just written I nodded, I would have been at a complete loss. What exactly did you nod? What for? My entire understanding of the universe is crumbling before me!

Breathe, Kat. Breathe.

I won’t name the book this came from, because I respect the huge amount of work the author went to in writing it and I know sometimes things slip through and it can’t be helped. What saddens me is that when I Googled the phrase to make sure I wasn’t negatively identifying anyone, I saw a whole page of results for books which feature it. Have these authors not heard the old writing adage, make every word count? Or have they mistaken that for count every word, times that by ten and make that your target MS length, then achieve that target by making each sentence 200% longer than necessary? (Coming from the girl who’s ranting, I know). Anyway while we’re on the subject, here’s another example, taken from a scene in which the protagonist hasn’t had a drink in who knows how long:

I gulped it down thirstily.

Oh, so you were thirsty? Right... I thought you were gulping because you wanted to look like the final shot in a Pepsi ad.

Most of you will probably identify that example, but I doubt my humble little blog will have much impact on its astronomical sales. And that’s the tragic thing – these aren’t all coming from self-published books. Take this gem:

“Please,” I say pleadingly.

I’m sorry, but…


And to think this series has sold faster than Harry Potter.  Am I the only one who just wants to cry? I have spent TWO YEARS editing my MS. Some of you reading this will have spent six/ten/seventy.  Yet we have to compete with this.

I’m not saying cut the life out of your writing, or spend so much time cooped up in your attic with Proofreading For Dummies that you go insane and start adopting all the neighbourhood cats. And I’m not forgetting that I still enjoyed the books I’ve read lately, even if they were laced with the sort of editing which makes me want to abandon my MS and spend two weeks churning out an erotic dystopian with an away-from-literary bent just so I can get published and spend the rest of my life eating solid gold caviar out of Faberge eggs.

Wow, Kat. Breathe.

I’m just saying that when it comes to selling your books, word-of-mouth is better than whine-of-mouth every time. So write the best story you can. Then call up your beta readers. Enter writing critique sessions. THINK about your feedback for a few days before you begin implementing it, and leave it a few days before checking it again. I know, as an aspiring author, how irresistible the urge to just get our work out there can be, but let’s not forget to take pride in our contribution to the English language. It’s not just our best marketing tool, it’s our responsibility. And if you’re nodding your heads in assent, please share/RT the message and help spread the reminder to us all.

Lastly, to the authors who have made it into my rant today, I admire you for realising your dreams and I wish you all the best. But please, I beg of you pleadingly… put down the thesaurus. Step away from the bleeding obvious. And for pity’s sake, leave that million-word target alone.


  1. Well said! I'm on the millionth or so revision of my ms and I find stuff like that from time to time. It makes me cringe, but yet I know where it came from =).

    I am kind of addicted to my thesaurus, though... ;)

  2. I agree with you 100% whatever happened to editing.

  3. Exactly. Glad to know I'm not the only one who finds this stuff painful!

  4. OMG I totally agree!!! It's good to know I can come to fellow writers when I feel frustrated with 50 Shades of Suck!!

    1. Haha I'm sure there are a few of us that share this pain... :(

  5. I laughed so hard, I cried! My husband thought I was insane.