Monday, October 1, 2012

Even Big Writers Need Editors

Terry and I took a road trip recently. We always pick audio books to make I-95 more palatable.  This time we selected a book co-written by a very big New York Times bestselling author and a scientist. I've read several books by the very big New York Times bestselling author. Before I go further, I will not name the book or the writers. As you read on, you'll understand why.

We thought the book would be exciting because thrillers about mad scientists and evil corporate exploiters are such fun to listen to. We got all that and more. The book was 12 CDs, a warning that it might be a tad too long. But, a well written thriller doesn't have to be short. It has to be intense. This was 4 CDs too long.

The plot included bad guys drawn so evilly it wasn't hard to see who was going to do in the plucky band of heroes. We were introduced to about ten characters in about ten minutes. Because I didn't have the written book in front of me, I had difficulty for a couple of CDs figuring out which member of the plucky band had which talent that would be needed when they went on the run from the evil corporate exploiter. We have long, tedious lectures about the science that must be the passion of the second writer. Pages of it.

The book is a mash up of too many plots. Where some writers would have made this a send up of great science fiction movies, these didn't. We have a quest to say alive. We have monsters, human and natural, who chase our plucky band. We have science gone mad, already done in several movies and more books. We have a leader of the plucky band who grows from lab rat to a real leader. Then, four, count them four, CDs before the end, he is killed, leaving us with no one in the plucky band to like.

I could go on about the plot (way too much of it) and growth of the characters (a couple grow, most are fixed in time from the first page). I won't.

I will say the book would have been better with the heavy hand of an editor who is not afraid of the very big New York Times bestselling author. Maybe said author should have read the book his name was on before it was released. I'll give you one example out of thousands in the book:  "He picked up the head lamp and put it on his head." Think about that. Where else would you put a head lamp? On your butt? And it goes on and on and on.

Leave it to say, I won't be buying or borrowing any more books by the very big New York Times bestselling author. Today, I'm going to put the hard copies of his works in my Goodwill box. This experience soured me on everything he's written.

So writer beware. Edit until you are blind. Then find someone to edit your book. Not your mother, unless she's an editor. If you can, hire a professional who will not only proofread your book and correct the grammar but who will also tell you where to cut, what to leave in, what plots are too many. It will pay off in the end.


  1. Great post. I'm thinking perhaps this "very big New York Times bestselling author" has a no-edit clause in his contract. The very top-selling authors do. Sigh....

  2. As I have always said, "Cut out all the crap, mispellings and tipos and then edit."

  3. Great post and a great reminder to us all--edit!

  4. When it comes out of my brain it all seems like genius . . . until I read it again.