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Advice Needed

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Rowan
Bibliophile
Posts: 1462
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
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Advice Needed

Post by Rowan » Mon September 9th, 2013, 8:13 pm

My Dear Friends and Total Strangers,

I know this isn't a writing forum, per se, but I don't know where else to turn for truly unbiased input. I have a current problem that is truly causing me no end of stress. If you're the type of person who gets physically ill when you dread doing something, then you can identify with how I am feeling.

First a little bit of my background. I graduated in 1995 with a BA in English from a small college in Central Louisiana. I had really no idea what to do with the degree, other than to know I didn't have the patience to teach. It wasn't til approximately 4 years later that I found something to do that was worthwhile: editing. Since I love reading and have a degree giving me the technical experience with grammar, I thought what better way to make some money. My work was online for small print publishers where I would exchange emails with the authors in an effort to work through the edits and get it ready for publishing. I did this work until 2003.

I haven't really done much editing since that time, but I've never been able to silence my internal editor whenever I read anything. It hasn't really ever stopped me from enjoying a good book, until now.

A friend of mine has recently had a book published and while it's not in a genre I typically read, I agreed to buy a copy and read it to show my support. That was a huge mistake. It wasn't edited at all. The publisher she went with took it as is and sent it to print. I am struggling to read this book because my inner editor wants me to just throw it against the wall.

I am ultimately afraid that when I tell my friend that it needs to be edited very badly, her feelings will be hurt and it will cause a rift between us. I'm so stressed over this, I truly regret my degree and editing work from the past. It would be so much easier if I hadn't made that life choice in the past.

Any advice you can offer would be enormously appreciated. If none of this is appropriate, moderators, feel free to just delete it and I will seek advice elsewhere.

Very humbly,

Rowan

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Misfit
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 9581
Joined: August 2008
Location: Seattle, WA

Post by Misfit » Mon September 9th, 2013, 8:39 pm

Oh, I feel your pain. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. In the end, it would be a kindness to tell your friend, before getting gob-smacked with reviews on Amazon or elsewhere. How to say it? Hopefully there are better ideas from other members here. I've never been the tactful one :o
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon September 9th, 2013, 10:53 pm

I have been there. In the end, I decided to be honest, because the beta readers who have helped me most have been the honest ones.

Accept that there is going to be some space between you and your friend when you explain that the book needs work. Although this may end the friendship, it will probably only cool it for a while. She will hear the same from others, soon enough, along with much praise from friends and family. Then, if the woman has half a brain, she will realize that you were one of the few with enough integrity to tell her the truth.

On the other hand, if you say only nice things, (however faint the praise) time will show her that you weren't honest.

I remember a writing group I once belonged to, where a member asked to read my whole (first) opus. She praised it highly and I was over the moon. Later, when I was working on a prequel to that work and submitted a chapter for the group's review, this same lady showed no familiarity with the main protagonist. Meaning she hadn't read the first book.

I've never had any use for her opinion since, because I know that she will say whatever she thinks I want to hear. For that, I can talk to the mirror.

Oh, and the next time? Charge 'em. They'll be more likely to listen. Free work is a waste of everybody's time.

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Misfit
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Post by Misfit » Mon September 9th, 2013, 11:37 pm

I had a short story I picked up recently on the freebies that wasn't beyond bad grammar (a friend shelved it grammar felon on GR). I will quote said unnamed book:
"She does not like her job per say."

"They’re food arrives and they eat ravishingly."

"As they walk towards the beatnik looking guy with long hair pulled back into a pony tale, with cut off shorts and a tank top on."

“Let’s go to the Thompsons Island Site that sounds interesting."
It would be a kindness to spare a good friend/family member such embarrassment. Look at it another way, say a friend/family member had something in their appearance they'd missed whilst getting dressed. Or someone you came across in the store/restaurant and they didn't realize there was food hanging off their chin, or food stuck between the front teeth. Shirt inside out. Use your imagination.

Isn't it more a kindness to let them know, instead of letting them out into the world for everyone to see? I know I have some slight numbness on my jaw from surgery years ago, and don't always realize the pizza left a string of cheese behind. I appreciate it when my coworkers let me know.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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Madeleine
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Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Tue September 10th, 2013, 8:39 am

I don't think you should regret your degree choice Rowan, as it provided you with work, and I don't think that's the real issue here; it's always difficult in a situation like this and I think honesty would be the best policy here, but stress you hope it won't damage your friendship - personally I think it's the so-called publisher's fault for not doing their job properly in the first place. Perhaps you could say that you're not too familiar with her chosen genre, and maybe suggest she get another editing opinion?
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

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Lisa
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Joined: August 2012
Favourite HF book: Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman
Preferred HF: Any time period/location. Timeslip, usually prefer female POV. Also love Gothic melodrama.
Location: Northeast Scotland

Post by Lisa » Tue September 10th, 2013, 8:49 am

I agree with the others - tell her. I'd suggest that you don't point out specific errors since that would make her feel worse, but do praise something else at the same time, such as the characters or storyline, so that everything you say isn't totally negative.

I'm also an editor and people are used to me noticing every little mistake in signs, menus, leaflets, newspapers, etc. when we're out, so she could be expecting to hear this from you anyway. I would just be wary that once you've told her it needs edited, if she's a close friend, she may ask you to do it as a favour or very cheaply (I've had that before too, sometimes people don't realise what a big job it is when they ask "oh you're an editor, could you just read over my novel/thesis/business proposal." Argh!)

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Rowan
Bibliophile
Posts: 1462
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I love history, but it's boring in school. Historical fiction brings it alive for me.
Preferred HF: Iron-Age Britain, Roman Britain, Medieval Britain
Location: New Orleans
Contact:

Post by Rowan » Tue September 10th, 2013, 4:54 pm

Thanks for all of your thoughtful responses.

I agree it's the publisher's fault, but I think it's one of those places that I guess would be considered a self-publisher. I don't know of any self-publisher who provides editing. At least none I've heard of.

She didn't ask me for my opinion as an editor, but with things as bad as they are, it's a struggle for me. I don't really mind the genre, it's just not one of my favourites. It's a vampire series she's working on. Trying to follow in the steps of Anne Rice, not Stephanie Meyers. I can see there's a good story idea in there, but there's editing that needs to help shape it into something better. It's almost as if she started out with the book in third person POV and as she was drafting, thought it might be better in first person and simply changed the appropriate pronouns.

LadyB, I would do the first book for free, because she's low on funds at the moment, but I would definitely charge for subsequent manuscripts.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 5706
Joined: August 2008
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Post by Madeleine » Tue September 10th, 2013, 6:44 pm

Your comments on her work sound reasonable, and positive ie you're not criticizing, just pointing things out; you sound very fair.
Currently reading: "Longstone" by L J Ross

annis
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Post by annis » Wed September 11th, 2013, 5:10 am

Although it's difficult, I truly believe you'd be doing your friend a favour by gently telling her that you believe her book would do much better if it was edited properly.

This is a real problem these days - with so many people self-pubbing, a vast amount of stuff is getting onto the market which in the past wouldn't have seen the light of day. And even if the story is a good one, poor phrasing and spelling and grammatical errors will really put readers off. With so many sales now coming through word-of-mouth recommendations, this can make or break a writer's chances.

I personally feel that best investment an aspiring author can make is to hire a reputable editor (pleeease don't rely on Mum or your best friend!). It might cost a bit, but it is worth it in the long run if you want to build up a good rep.

DanielAWillis
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Post by DanielAWillis » Wed September 11th, 2013, 6:32 pm

I have to join the chorus. The only way a writer is going to learn about an area where imprivement is needed, is if someone tells him/her.

However, there are more tactful ways to go about it. During that conversation, start off by telling her the part of the book you liked. You could go with something like "This is a genre I don't normally read, but I love what you did with .... However, as a friend I would be doing you a disservice if I did not point out the need for an editor."

I would also point out that no writer, no matter how good or famous they are, can adequately edit their own work. It takes a set of eyes that are fresh to the material and not emotionally attached to the wording to do any work justice.

One of the hardest parts of pointing out the need for an editor is the simple fact that decent editors cost an arm and leg. This is a good area where you can empathize with your friend and let her know we have all been right where she is now.

Hope this helps.
Daniel A. Willis
Author: Chronicle of the Mages series
www.DanielAWillis.com

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