Friday, November 18

Pre-Thanksgiving Soapbox

Happy End-of-the-Week-Before-Thanksgiving-Week! I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to four days off (sorry it you have to work, Margie!!).

I typically don’t do a lot over Thanksgiving. I have no family to get together with over a huge spread of dishes we’ve slaved for hours/days to make. This year, we’re grabbing a full-fledged Thanksgiving meal from Bob Evans and heading to Chicago to spend time with my step-daughter. She’s in college, and appreciates a good meal that someone else cooks. Funny… I feel the same way! ;-)

Other than that, I’m hoping to get a few solid days of writing in. I admit I hit a bump in the road on Chapter Two. It was a silly problem: I scrapped the original 7+ chapters I had written on this book and started over… but I still like some of what I had written. Trying to marry the good from the previous with the new was a challenge. I did a lot of cutting, pasting, trimming, and re-wording in order to squeeze some of the old into the new.

I had to read and re-read to ensure the old still worked with the new. That is flowed. That I hadn’t missed deleting/changing a small detail (like the color of her bikini). That the position of characters within the scene meshed. These small details are vital and have to be correct. And Word doesn’t put a squiggly line under these details. Hopefully my editor would catch them, but the onus is on me to catch them first.

The point to this is just how excruciatingly crucial it is to edit. Both the self-editing kind and the professional, paid kind. As many critical eyes as you can get to look at your story from all angles, do it!

As writers, we should know the rules of writing. And we should continually strive to improve our weaknesses. And, please please please for the love of all that is holy, pay a professional editor look over our work before you publish! I’m self-published, so I feel I have every right to say this: It takes absolutely no energy or commitment to press publish on Amazon or the other e-book venues. Anyone with access to a computer can do it. It reminds me of Dr. Malcolm’s line from the movie JURASSIC PARK: “Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”

I write this as a cautionary tale. Indy authors don’t get the respect traditionally-published authors do, even within our own trade associations. And to a great extent, we’ve done that to ourselves. Because anyone can self-publish with little to no monetary investment, there’s nothing to ensure we are publishing “quality” work. Or at least work that has minimal grammar, spelling, punctuation errors. Instead, we write something we think is wonderful, have our family/friends read it (and they think it’s wonderful), and feel it’s ready for the world. Stop right there; I can pretty much guarantee you that your story is schlock. Again, just because you can publish, does not mean you should. Instead, join a writer’s group. Enter contests where you get feedback. Have your writer friends critique it. Then edit, edit, edit, re-write, re-write. Do it until you’re ready to chuck the story out the window and forego your dream of being a published author. Then do another serious pass of edits and re-writes. Then send it to a professional editor.

Then you can consider publishing it.

I was recently at an indie author fair filled with a mixture of genres. I admit I did not get around to all of the authors, but did meet a few. And I looked up an even smaller number after the fact. But what I did see made me want to poke out my eyes. Mistakes that Word or any computer program (heck, even chisel and stone!) would have caught. Rookie writing errors (and I can say this because I’ve made all of these same mistakes… and no doubt still do) such as passive structure, POV glitches, wordiness, boring verbs, bad dialogue, etc. Gah!! My small sampling may not be representative of the indie world, but I’ve heard enough comments from other authors to know that these sort of mistakes are common enough to be a problem. And that problem pulls down the entire “indie published” world. It makes us all look bad, and when readers encounter enough bad examples of writing, they are far more cautious in their purchasing decisions. Which hurts all “indie published” authors.

Not unlike the California Gold Rush, the initial jackpot of income for indie writers has waned. Partially because there are just so darned many of us prospecting in the pool of readers. And partially because those readers are finding more fool’s gold than the real stuff. And, yes, I realize I mixed my metaphors here. Rant aside, indie publishing is not something anyone should do lightly. They have a responsibility to the readers and fellow authors. And to themselves for putting quality writing out there, because that will ultimately garner them more money in the long-run.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now, and I’m sorry this post evolved into one. Have a fabulous Thanksgiving, everyone!!


  1. Great post, Ava--your points are so important!

  2. All true! I can especially relate to the part about making changes and then having to be consistent in rewriting throughout the story. I read something that said a high percentage of the errors we see were actually generated because we went in to fix something and caused another problem. Whether changing one word (and forgetting to remove the one we don't want) or changing dialogue, as I did recently, we need to be careful. Cathy Shouse

    1. Yes,I've been running into that a lot, with all the cut & paste I've been doing... and a read-through often misses those errors! Ack!

  3. Ava, as a writer who is contemplating self-publishing, I appreciate everything you've said here. Unless I'm prepared to go to lengths you're talking about, I have no business publishing a book on my own. Thanks for the reality check and the words of wisdom.

    1. Jana - don't let my rant discourage you from going Indie! It's not so bad... I just feel it's important for writers to know you can just throw schlock on paper and expect it to make you famous/rich. A lesson I'm sure you already know! :-)