Books I Love · Writing

Still Not Quite Getting It

My eyes have become magnifying glasses! Image via KovacsUr via Wikimedia Commons.

Would you think there is much of a learning curve to edit a book for someone who has a degree in English Literature and teaching experience? I even took special creative writing classes for two years at a magnet high school. But not once was it explained to me to make sure to maintain a character’s point of view, be careful of using “purple prose,” and avoid writing in a passive voice.

I learned a ton when I began working with the editors on Harp Lessons. The knowledge I’ve gained makes me think I might try my hand at working as an editor. When I think about the way my first draft of Harp Lessons read when I first submitted it, I cringe and think how lucky I was that the readers at Astraea Press even saw potential in my story.

So I’ve almost finished the self edits for The Stone of Kings, and it’s easy to think, “This is so much better than the first one. I’ve got this writing thing down. I should start looking into how to handle movie deals.”

Hmm, I think I should start looking for the cold splash of water to shock me into reality.

All this editing has turned me into a different kind of reader and I hope that’s a good thing. But it’s also confusing. I read Michael Scott’s The Alchemyst before I first submitted Harp Lessons. Loved. It. It’s a wonderful modern adventure story with a blending of history and mythology. But I’m currently reading it through a second time and I’m editing as I go along.

Why is that?!

I never noticed the head hopping with point of view, or all the passive voice in that book before. And yet, The Achemyst is currently in a movie deal. Why is it that Mr. Scott could get away with it? Is it because it’s just that great a story (and it really is in my opinion) that it’s easy for a reader to overlook those faults? Is it because he’s got so much writing under his belt (since the ’80s), he’s figured out the secret to getting away with it? The trouble is, that it sets a bad example for us “newbie” authors who are trying to avoid those pitfalls in mechanics of the craft.

Do you have the secret of why a more experienced author can break the “writing rules?” What writing mechanics bother you when you read?

8 thoughts on “Still Not Quite Getting It

  1. New authors have the benefit of new teaching. And consider that authors from the 1980s wrote differently than those from the 1960s, 50s, and prior, and so on. Just as technology improves and changes, so does writing. But the successful “old school authors” (currently those from the 1980s and 90s) have such a fan base already in place, fans who are used to their style of writing and who would be shocked if that changed. But because progress has been made and styles have changed, a new author needs to follow the new rules or s/he will be overlooked.

    1. Thanks Kay! I knew I could count on your words of wisdom 😀 That makes a lot of sense actually. As much as I love reading Les Miserables, such a work would not be published today because of all the ramblings that have very little to do with the actual story. But that was published in 1862. I guess I just thought things hadn’t changed much in my own lifetime. lol

  2. I’ve discovered that I read with a red pen. I never noticed it before, so maybe it’s new…but I now notice errors in everything I read. Some major, but mostly minor. I’ve started marking them in my Nook – highlighting the errors and making a note about why I think it’s wrong. It’s an experiment. I’m hoping that by doing this on a consistent basis, I’ll improve ability to spot errors and edit in my own manuscript. We’ll see how it goes. 🙂

  3. It’s because you have that degree in literature. I was right where you’re at in 2007. I’ve learned the masses prefer a ninth grade reading level. That’s why I prefer Scott Turow, and everyone else flocks to John Grisham. 😛

    1. Hahaha! I’ve only just started reading more modern stuff. I’ve usually stuck to the classics which is why I had such trouble with purple prose in my first book. I’ve really delved into the mechanics of the more popular stuff in the last year, so hopefully I’ll make a better connection to my readers who, unlike me, are not stuck in the 18th century. 😉

      1. Absolutely! 😀 You’ve named three of my more favorited authors. Our boys are named William and Charles for a reason. If we ever have a little girl, she’d be Jane. 😉 I’d be one happy Mom if my kids ever had the talent to write like their namesakes.

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