Last week, I mentioned how much I love to read. This week I want to discuss the perils of being a voracious reader while also being a strict editor. It’s not always a fun mix.
You see, when I read, I can’t help but find errors. It makes me good at what I do, but also hinders my reading experience. Especially if a novel has not been edited well. I’m not simply talking about missing commas – I tend to forgive those when I read. I’m talking about obvious mistakes in the content.
My niche is as a content editor. This means I can look at the larger picture of a novel and pick out any inconsistencies. I recently took on the role of proofreader for a Christian publisher. I love it. For the most part, the books I receive as a proofreader are already edited by a professional. I’m only looking for bits and pieces that might have been missed.
Here’s a great example. I was proofing a book set in 1872. As I was reading, I came across a passage about the characters sitting in Adirondack chairs. For whatever reason, the use of these chairs seemed odd to me during this time period. “How long ago were those invented anyway?” I thought. So I looked it up. Because a good editor looks stuff up. (Not that the other editor wasn’t a good editor – it just didn’t hit them the same way it did me.) I look up stuff all the time. I don’t know everything, but I sure have learned a lot by being an editor and looking up facts!
What I found out was Adirondack chairs were not invented until 1903. Sure, it’s close in time period and I would have accepted it if, in the story, the characters happened to know the creator of the chair. Thomas Lee certainly could have come up with the idea much earlier than 1903. BUT they were original referred to as “Westport plank chairs” because 1) he was in Westport, NY (which is in the Adirondacks – and also not where the book was set) and 2) they were made of planks. I couldn’t find a mention of when the name actually switched to Adirondack.
I absolutely LOVE finding out these kinds of details and also making sure a novel (especially one set in a historical time period) is true to facts. However, it does take my joy away sometimes when I’m reading for pleasure.
My advice to authors? Find a good editor. Or two. Or three. Editors who will ask about the details, not just the commas. (By the way, I just so happen to BE one of those editors and I’m booking clients for 2019. Contact me through my contact page to discuss.) It’ll help your readers have so much more joy if they don’t have to wonder about the details.