Find an editor who is also a wordsmith.
A book sent to a reviewer for purposes of obtaining a book review–the purpose of which is to provide other potential readers with information that will allow them to choose to read the book or not–should be substantively final. Our reviews are based on the product we receive, published or unpublished.
We will send unpublished books back to authors or publishers with feedback regarding problematic editing errors if we find them, but when the book is published… It’s out there in the world. It’s what’s published. It is what it is.
So it’s what we have to review. And it breaks my heart when a book is so poorly edited that we can’t review based on the merits of the story alone. Sloppy sentence structure and word choice, grammatical errors, continuity problems–they’re all fixable. But when a lack of proper editing impacts the book, it impacts the whole book, up to the point that the book might be unreadable.
Good editing should include questions about how you got from point A to point B if that’s not clear in the reading. It should include comments about incomplete sentences, misplaced modifiers, and verb tense disagreement. Unexplained POV shifts should be flagged–we really shouldn’t toggle between 1st and 3rd person, and definitely not between either of those and 2nd person. Nonsensical word choice should be flagged (e.g. we sleep “through” the night, not “throughout” the night, the definition of “throughout” being “in every part of (a place or object)”, which is not how sleep works). Idioms should be correct. And yes, your editor should also flag things you might not think of while reading your own work.
Maybe you’ll need more than one person to help you. Maybe you’ll need a development editor for plotting and then another editor to do all the technical nitpicking (although I won’t hold my breath about getting rid of comma splices). And if you’re writing about characters from marginalized groups and you are not a member of said groups, you probably want to invest in a sensitivity reader as well, to ensure that your book does not include harmful language or themes.
But please, find a good editor. We know these books are labors of love, and many authors are operating with a shoestring budget and not many other resources, especially if they’re publishing independently. But from where we’re sitting, we’d like to review based on the merits of the story that you’ve spent so much time on and not have to note that problems that should have been caught during the editing process were so distracting that they affected the reading.
2 thoughts on “More Unsolicited Advice for Budding Romance Novelists”
This is a good article. For me read book with a lot of errors is a huge pet peeve because they ruin the reading flow.
This is absolutely true. When I was just a reader, I would toss a poorly edited book and move on, but as a reviewer I have to be honest, and I cringe when this happens. It’s such a bummer!