Monday, June 18, 2012

Guest Post and Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

Please welcome author, Ruthie Knox, as she tells us about the complicated editing process.  But first, I'll share my thoughts on her latest book, About Last Night.

Author: Ruthie Knox
Publisher: Loveswept
Date of publication: June 2012

Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart eBook original romance from Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.

My thoughts:

Ruthie Knox is quickly becoming a favorite author of mine! I thoroughly enjoyed About Last Night.  Nev and Cath may be opposites, but they are so suited for each other.  The chemistry alone just sizzles off the page.  Nev is definitely smitten from the first, but Cath takes a bit longer to admit how she feels.  I loved both characters because while they are opposites, they are really searching for the same thing..their true self.  I don't want to give away the end, I'll just say that what Nev does for Cath in the end had me choked up.  If you haven't had a chance to pick up this book, take some time to check it out!

On Writing, Editing, and Errors by Ruthie Knox

Recently, I read an amazing book — Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. The hero is a starving ex-con, the heroine a pregnant, widowed mother of two who needs a husband. The romance is knock-your-socks-off fabulous. Super-awesome-amazing.

Morning Glory is an older title, originally published in 1989 but reissued for Kindle. And I love that — I love that it’s possible for me to hear from a friend about a book issued thirteen years ago, to find it immediately, and to buy it and download it and start reading it on my Kindle.

There was really only one thing I didn’t like about Morning Glory, and that was this: every time the word “preciate” was supposed to appear in the text — which was pretty often, given that this is a book set in late 1930s Georgia, and people were polite back then — the book actually said “predate.”

As in, “I predate that, ma’am.”

This is the kind of error that makes readers scratch their heads and wonder, “Did anybody even read that book? What do editors do, anyway, if errors like that can show up in print books? Do they just spend their days sipping lattes, or what?”

Now, in the case of Morning Glory, we’re almost certainly looking at an OCR error. That is, a print version of the book was scanned, optical character recognition software was used to turn the scanned image files into text files, and then some combination of spell-checker and human eyeballs checked over the files for errors but missed the substitution of “predate” for “preciate.”

Fair enough. But we’ve all seen worse errors, haven’t we? I know I have, and I used to wonder how they got in there.

I mean, the author writes the book, right? And then the editor combs over it and helps make sure every word is in the right place, and someone checks all the grammar and whatnot, or maybe that’s the proofreader, who knows, and somehow in the end the book comes out. How can they fail to catch the errors? Where’s the quality control?

Except, the thing is, that’s not really how it works. The book you buy isn’t so much a perfectly combed-through finished opus as it is a snapshot of where the manuscript was at on the day it finally got transmitted from editorial to production. Which isn’t to say that perfect isn’t the goal — it is. It’s just to say that humans aren’t perfect.

Here’s how it really works: The author writes a manuscript, and probably rewrites it, gets opinions from friends, rewrites it again, sweats blood over it, etc., until by the time the author thinks it’s good enough to submit to her agent or editor, she can’t even really read it anymore, because she’s read it so many times, she’s lost the ability to see it. But her test-reading friends tell her it’s good, so she sends it off. The editor reads it and loves it (except for A, B, C, and D, which are totally fixable), so she offers a contract, and the book gets bought.

Next, the editor tells the author about A, B, C, and D, and the author revises. And it’s difficult, but the author still loves the book, and the editor has a fresh perspective and also loves it, so that’s gratifying for everybody. The editor reads the revision. So much better! Except maybe C still needs a little work, and also now that A, B, and D are fixed, she’s noticed E and F are problems. Can the author fix those? Sure!

Once the author has worked through E and F, it’s time for “line edits” — that is, line-by-line, nitty-gritty adjustments to the whole darn book. These are hard work for the editor, sometimes painful for the author, but all in the interest of making the writing livelier and the whole book sharper. But unless they’re very carefully done and very carefully checked, line edits also lead to new errors, new repetition, new weirdness — some introduced when the line edits are inputted by the editor, some when the author reads and makes changes, and some more when the tracked edits are “accepted” into the manuscript file.

And by the time the editor’s been over the book with a fine-toothed comb, she’s read it four or five times and lost her fresh eyes, too. So now the editor can’t really read the book anymore without missing problems, and neither can the author.

Next comes copyediting, where clarity, consistency, and correctness are the goal. Fiction copyeditors do things like change “10” to “ten.” They also look at timelines and consistency errors, so they tend to ask questions like, “Is she still carrying her purse?” and (in one memorable case for me) “Did she ever put her shirt back on?”

Copyeditors bring fresh eyes to the project, which means they find new errors in the book and suggest new ways to fix them. Which is awesome. But unless they’re very careful and their work gets very carefully checked, they can also introduce new errors to the text. And so can the author when she checks the copyedits. And so can the copyeditor when she accepts the changes.

Sensing a theme?

Finally, the edited book gets laid out by the production department, and production also sometimes introduces errors when it’s coding e-books for vendors or laying out print books for the page. The laid-out and/or formatted book gets proofread by several sets of eyes, most of them weary because they’ve read the book nine times already,  and then it’s off to an e-reader or bookstore near you.

Probably with some errors in it.

So on behalf of editors and authors everywhere, I just want to say that we do try to bring you the cleanest possible product. It’s just that a book is a moving target, and perfection is difficult to achieve.

We predate your understanding.

Where to find About Last Night:


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