...about editing...again.

Monk is one of the few television shows I watch...still watch, even though it’s in rerun mode now. Part of the show’s charm is the quirkiness of the main character, Detective Adrian Monk, who has OCD. His disorder creates problems, but it helps him at times, too. And he has said of it, “It’s a blessing...and a curse.” I can think of other things the saying would apply to, but the one most recently on my mind is the ease with which authors can publish their works today. 


No longer does an author have to spend months or years writing query letters or proposals and mailing packets to agents. And there’s no waiting for months while a manuscript is under consideration by a publisher. Or further long stretches of time while the manuscript is prepared for publication once it's accepted.


No.


Today’s revolution in publishing makes it possible for an author to skip all that. He/she can format a manuscript, upload it to CreateSpace, Amazon, Smashwords, or Barnes & Noble and, voilà! It's available for sale.


It’s a blessing. And a curse.


Because now, too many authors are rushing to publish their works without due diligence in preparation. Making errors is a facet of being human...so, no matter how perfect an author believes his work to be, it needs editing, sometimes lots of editing, to make it ready to meet the world of readers.


And when I speak of editing, I’m not referring only to correcting typos or errors in grammar or punctuation. I’m not talking about finding accidentally omitted words or places where a character’s name magically changes from Steve to Roy. No, I’m talking about clunky phrasing that needs to be streamlined. Redundant words that need to be eliminated. Adverbs and adjectives that need to disappear. Clichés which need to be replaced with fresh imagery. Faulty story logic that needs to be straightened out. And revising behavior and dialogue that isn’t true-to-character (would that particular character say what he’s saying in chapter four? And do all the characters sound alike when they speak?)


Some have pointed out that they've read traditionally published books which have errors. So have I. But that doesn’t justify a sloppily prepared and published manuscript from a do-it-yourselfer. If anything, a book from a self-published author should be even more error-free than a traditional one, because the author doesn’t have to rely on employees at a publishing house to catch and correct any problems. He cares about his story, and he has the opportunity (and responsibility) to ensure his work is as good as he can make it. 


And if he later finds a mistake he overlooked initially, he can and should correct it. I spent four years editing, rewriting, polishing, and re-editing my first novel, High on a Mountain. And guess what? After it was published, I found a couple of errors, which I corrected. I wouldn't want errors to ruin the reading experience for anyone.


My point in saying all this is not to criticize my fellow self-published authors. It’s to encourage us all to take the time to make our work the best on the market. Bar none. (Hey, is that an idiom? Or a cliché? Oh, well...)

Image © Marc Garrido i Puig via stock.xchng


...about How the Scots Invented the Modern World.

I don’t usually like to write book reviews. They are subjective, a matter of opinion. And who’s to say my opinion should carry more weight than someone else’s? Nevertheless, I decided to write a review.

And I didn’t choose a book hot off the press. No. I broke with the usual practice of writing about a brand new book and chose one that was copyrighted in 2001… How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman.

I read this book (along with many, many others) when I was doing research to learn all I could about Scotland prior to and during the writing of High on a Mountain. I learned something from each of the books I read, but this particular book made an enduring impact on me.

Why? Because the information in this book was astounding. The subtitle may give you a notion as to why it astounded me: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It. Wow! Quite a statement, that. But...it’s a true statement.

As Herman points out throughout the book, Scots made changes in ways of thinking and doing that profoundly influenced and affected the development of Western Civilization in modern times. From such mundane inventions as air-filled tires (invented by a Scot named Dunlop) to paved roads (developed by a Scot named MacAdam...did you ever think about where the word “tarmac” came from?) to high-flown ideas like self-government (George Buchanan asserted that political power should reside in the people, not the government), Scots were the inventors of the new, the modern way of doing/thinking.

Herman’s writing style is engrossing, and even when discussing what could be dry subjects, he makes topics interesting. I highly recommend this book.