I have a lot of pet peeves. So…so…many. (If one of your pet peeves happens to be ellipses, then let me just apologize for that previous fragment of a sentence. If fragmented sentences are a pet peeve, again, apologies.) (If parenthetical phrases happen to be a… never mind.) Anyway, between you and me, sometimes I have a difficult time distinguishing between what’s a simple and forgivable nuisance, and what’s something that should be addressed as an issue, especially when it’s a correctable one.
When I first started reading books in the M/M genre a few years back now, I came to it straight from reading some pretty well-known mainstream authors: Ilona Andrews, Jeanine Frost, Diana Gabaldon, Patricia Biggs, Kelly Armstrong, J.R. Ward, J.D. Robb… You get the picture. I was reading authors who were being represented by some fairly large publishers with deep pockets, and I have to say that one of the things that astonished me when I first began reading books in the gay romance segment of the fictional population was that I had to very quickly learn to turn off my inner critic, which tends to want to nitpick things like misused idioms and overused clichés and poorly structured sentences. I had to learn not to nitpick over line editing issues that, for me, being a mildly OCD person with a bent toward ADD, is really, really difficult, let me tell you. And let me also tell you that things have got infinitely better over the years, but, in my most humble opinion, there’s still room to improve.
Now, before I go on, I want to be perfectly clear on one thing, and that is that I’m not talking about a missing “and” or “the” a few times in a two-hundred page novel. And believe me, I know from firsthand experience that COMMAS SUCK! I’m not that arrogant. I’ve had the very humbling experience of going back and reading some of my puny reviews days/weeks/months later and have cringed at my grammatical shenanigans. ::shudders:: The point is, is that I grasp the brain’s capacity to read something over and over again, until it starts filling in what it thinks should be there, or overlooking things that are there but shouldn’t be. That’s the simple truth of a very complex machine. No, I’m talking about the sorts of errors that are so frequent—significant words missing from sentences, words placed in the wrong order, words that had likely been deled during the editing process but were never accepted as a deletion before the book went to publication, because those words clearly don’t belong—those are the sorts of things I’m talking about, errors that don’t show up once or twice but a multitude of times, the sorts of things that will jar you out of the flow of the narrative and force you to read the sentence several times over just to figure out what the author is attempting to convey. Those are the things I’m addressing here; it’s been a red-flag-reading period for me recently, which has caused me to, fairly or not, rate some perfectly good stories just a tick or so lower because I couldn’t get past those annoying boo-boos. Honestly, I’ve read one-thousand-plus page books with fewer editing mistakes in them than some of the shorter novels I’ve read in the past few months, and let me tell you, it’s disheartening to me to love a book’s content and dislike its execution.
So, here’s the question of the day: what do you do when you come across a book that’s been so poorly line edited that it makes you kind of want to cry for the author’s sake? Is it fair to downgrade a book’s rating based on, again, not minor mistakes but blatant issues that pull you out of a story? Should reviewers start giving separate ratings, one for content and one for line editing? Because I have to be honest, there are a few times I’ve wanted to do that just to get the point across that, hey, publishing world, this is something that a lot of us readers really care about. Clearly this is something that a few publishers (and self-published authors) have made a priority; I want to let them know that it shows, which is why they’re my “go-to” guys when I’m on the hunt for a good book. As a reader looking from the outside in, it seems to me the author/editor relationship should be a symbiotic one, each making the other look shiny and spectacular so we readers can shout to each other, “PEEPS! READ THIS BOOK RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE!” Because that’s what I love to do.
But there are still some publishers, in spite of how dramatically this genre has grown over the years, that seem not to make that trifecta of a relationship between author, editor, and reader much of a priority, and maybe it’s a simple matter of not having the financial resources to devote to that area of the business, but it’s to those folks I want to shout, “HEY! It matters. Trust me, it matters.”
Does poor editing make or break a book for anyone but me? Is it something that we who opine ought to even mention in a review? (Or whatever it is that I do. Mostly, I think I just ramble.) I am curiouser and curiouser.
And P.S. – Please forgive any editing issues in the above text. 🙂