Thursday, November 10, 2011

the death of the editor

I once read the sample of a friend's wedding ... what do you call it... booklet? The one of the ceremony, anyway, that you get in the church. Oh dear, wordsearch issues strike again.

Anyway, I read it, and pointed out a couple your/you're mistakes. The groom was glad to know, but the bride defiantly and vociferously insisted she didn't care, and that they would leave them there.

In contrast, at my wedding rehearsal, my father (aha, neon arrows, blaring sirens, root of issue) pointed out that I'd spelled complement 'compliment' in one of the readings, causing me to throw an f bomb into the shocked silence of the church. Yes, my grammar pedantry was nursed at the knee of a Virgo father, and then I became and English teacher who corrects essays for a living. I really did care, and it was too late to change it. In fairness, it was a stressful time, for more than the obvious reasons. Still. I would have cared anyway.

My name is Vida, and I am a compulsive corrector of typos. I got into trouble last night, for pointing one out to a writer, ironically thinking I was doing something good. For some reason, it's taken me til now to really understand that people don't want attention drawn to their grammatical and typography errors. Most would rather not know. They don't care. I think it's finally sunk in - I hope so. I've been accused of perfectionism, though if only they knew how much the opposite is true, what a hopeless, helpless, floundering quitter I really am. It's not perfectionism that makes me care about accuracy in stories (and god knows my dashed off blog posts are full of hideous typos and weird Freudian spelling issues), it's just that the errors stand out in flashing red to me. Like that, but flashing.

The irony is that I offer my proof reading up in the hopes that people will like me for it. Have a cookie, let me proof your story, love me, please. Funny, eh? My super powers are not so impressive. Well, the cookies are good, but the power to spot missed apostrophes and tell you about them, not so hot.

Still. That aside, there's a serious point to be made in all this. There is much to be read about how e publishing is the future, and one of the concerns about that is that editing will become obsolete. It's cheaper for the publisher to have the author organise that themselves. And who can afford it, really? A friend who works for a financial paper says everything she writes is checked by three people other than herself. As far as I'm concerned, this makes sense. I don't believe you can really see your own mistakes, your brain won't let you. No flashing red in my own work. I know it's a big challenge for me, and I'm the typo queen. They still just don't stand out. It's clearly happening already - I've yet to read an ebook that doesn't have several typos in it.

But maybe a lot of people don't care at all? Ebooks are cheap, so quality is sacrificed, and that's ok? It's not for me - each typo or mistake I hit (or even each word I see that could be replaced with a better one) is like a huge speed bump in the road - it jolts me out of the story every time. I think reading should be a smooth process, whereby the words slide directly into your consciousness - that experience shouldn't be derailed by little mistakes. But maybe it's not for most people? I'm the grammar pedant English teacher here, maybe I'm just unable to read as a reader anymore, I can't put down the red pen.

So I'm undecided. I feel that quality and editing should be vital parts of the publishing experience. I have one writer friend who rejects the idea that they should have to format stories or proof read. After all, what are editors for if not to edit? I pretty much agree, and I think it's sad that this is where money is being saved. On the other hand, maybe I'm part of a small uptight minority, and most people just aren't bothered anymore. 


Craig Sorensen said...

I am not a natural born editor at all, I've really had to hone my skills to get my self-editing groove going. I'm glad I have improved, and continue to grow in this.

As a reader, without a doubt, a poorly edited, or non-edited story can take me right out of the flow.

While I think people can sometimes be to restrictive and rule oriented when it comes to some elements like punctuation and sentence fragments and such, I do think spelling and proper context of words is very important when writing.

I hope we don't come to live in a world where quality editing goes by the wayside.

Vida said...

Oh, I am a bit of a whore for a good sentence fragment, I confess :) Overuse, though, not so good.

Janine Ashbless said...

Just to cheer you up ...Your fears about e-publishing may be true with regards to smaller cheaper imprints, but my experience of both Ellora's Cave and Samhain is that they put VASTLY more effort into the editing and polishing process than any of the print publishers I've worked with. We did 4 rounds of edits for my latest novel!

I guess they're proud of their quality and their reputation, regardless of the medium.