box and basket

How Can a Box and a Basket Screw Up the Entire Book?

I wish there were a way to scream “thank you” to my editor at, Dalia. Because that’s what I’m doing right now.

Last night, while going over the final draft of THE COMPUTER TUTOR, I discovered a mistake. It was just one word, and it could have been ignored, but I figured that if it bothered me it’s going to bother other readers. And, this is what editing is all about.

The word was “basket.” It needed to be changed to “box.” If you look at the book cover above, you’ll see there is a “box” of puppies, not a “basket” of puppies. “Basket” was in the book, not “box.” Both words would have worked within the context of the story. But it bothered me that the cover didn’t go with the story. And I like the word “box” more than “basket,” even though I originally wrote it as “basket.” I think a guy would use a box faster than a basket.

So I e-mailed Dalia late last night and waited to hear if it could be fixed. I’ve seen this happen before with all publishers, even NY publishers, where the book cover doesn’t always coincide with the story. It’s not the biggest thing in the world, I wouldn’t classify it as coverfail, but those little details can really freak me out.

Thankfully, Dalia was able to change “basket” to “box” and all is well. The reason I didn’t catch it sooner is because when you’re in the editing process you’re busy working on tightening sentences, revising paragraphs, and a multitude of things most people wouldn’t even consider while they are reading a book. Most readers only care about the story and whether or not it appeals to them. But there is a lot of work that goes into the writing aspects.

I’m going to write another post about this soon. There is a very loud, critical book reviewer out there who just “edited” an anthology of short erotic stories and all I’m hearing about are how “emotional” the stories are in the pre-promotions. But when I read the few published excerpts released, I’m seeing some bad writing that should have been fixed before this book went to print. We’re talking about passive voice all over the place…and amateur mistakes that should be taken care of during edits. That is, if the editor in question is professional and experienced enough to know better. Clearly, this is not the case. And this time the authors can’t be blamed. It’s an anthology and it all falls on the editor. I know this because I’ve worked with some of the best editors in lgbt fiction…Neil Plakcy and Lawrence Schimmel to name two…and I’ve watched and learned while they edited me.

Editing a book or anthology isn’t just about picking “emotional” stories you love. That’s what readers and reviewers do, not editors. Going for “emotion” is only part of the editorial deal. Real editing is about making the story tighter, going line by line to make sure the author didn’t make any mistakes, and creating a finished work that is as close to perfect as it can get, from dialogue tags to semi-colons. In other words, let the readers and reviewers worry about the storyline. It’s the editor’s job to fix the writing problems so that everything is neat and clean.

As I just proved, two words like “basket and box” can change the look and feel of an entire book. And unless an editor knows what h/she is doing, and what his/her job is, indeed, as an editor, it can be a painful experience for readers and they aren’t even sure why.

Thankfully, I’ve been charmed enough in my life to have worked with the best, like Dalia.