Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How To Ruin a Novel

Very seldom will I invest enough time and energy to get halfway through a novel and then put it down and walk away. I have too many books in my TBR stack to put a whole lot of effort into a book that doesn't helod my interest. In the present case, though, I'm going to have to abandon my attempts to plow through my current reading. It's not bad writing or a boring or trite story or bad characters that is driving me away from this one. There is a much more obvious problem with this book: copyediting.

The novel is Every Which Way But Dead by Kim Harris. She has written a good, fast-paced story populated with interesting characters. The main character, Rachel Mariana Morgan, is a witch. She is also a most painfully human character full of self-doubt, often confused by life, as are we all, and prone to the same misjudgements and misunderstandings that plague every person alive. She is funny, aggravating, bull-headed, sensitive, and very vulnerable. I really like her, and I would really like to be able to finish her story, but the quality of the editing is so poor that I cannot.

Someone has done Ms. Harris a serious disservice. The book is riddled with dropped words, doubled words, and several sentences in which the edited text is inter-mixed with the text that it was supposed to have replaced. The net result is a very rough read in which I am constantly tripping over weird sentences and having to go back to puzzle out their sense. The constant interruptions have kept me from falling into the story and, as a result, Every Which Way But Dead will fall by the wayside.

This is a most unfortunate situation for Ms. Harris, or for any writer. While she is certainly not to blame for this foul-up, she has to carry the responsibility. It is her name that will be forever associated in readers' minds with poorly-edited books. She is the one who has to take the hit on future sales. It's her reputation that is being slimed. Hell, no, it's not fair. Hell, no, it's not right. Unfortunately, it's the way the writer's world works.

One thing every writer has to face sooner or later is the fact that the game is rigged. The deck is stacked, the cards are marked, and the other players have aces up their sleeves. Writers are harried by deadlines and stressed by finances. The work is often hard, sometimes painful, and always demanding. Writing the book is only the first part. The writer also has to shepherd her work through the entire publication process. A hands-on approach is the only way that will work. As I said above, it's the writer's name on the book, it's the writer's reputation on the line. Attention to detail is mandatory.

I certainly hope that Ms. Harris has already raised Holy Hell about this. If not, now's the time to start. Taking this kind of hit because of someone else's sloppiness is unacceptable, and the consequences can be dire.

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