Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Importance of Editing

Let the Right One In is a novel -- originally published in Sweden -- which was made into a well-received movie released in 2008. I'd seen the movie and, when I came across the book in a bookstore one day, read the first few pages. I really wanted to read the rest, but wasn't "shopping" that day, so set it down and planned to see about reading it later.

Recently, I splurged on that book and one other (for the free shipping) from Amazon. I started reading the book eagerly. Only about 20 or so pages in, though, I was briefly distracted from the story. The book opens in Sweden in 1981. One part reads: "[he] studied the contents of his bookcase. An almost complete collection of the series Goosebumps..." Huh? Goosebumps books were around that long ago? I didn't remember them being around when I was that young. Well, OK, maybe they started out being written/printed in foreign countries and only made it to the US later?

It bugged me enough that I had to look it up. And, as far as I can tell, the Goosebumps books weren't in print in 1981 and there doesn't seem to be any other sort of book, comic, etc. which I've been able to track down and which was in print at that time. I even considered the possibility that this was just a replacement series name for a series which would be known in Sweden but foreign to English-language readers. Given that, later in the book, some magazines are referred to by Swedish titles rather than having American/English analogs substituted in, though, this seems unlikely.

So, unless there's something I've missed (entirely possible), someone made a mistake here. Either the author or the translator created an anachronistic reference in the story. Whoever made the mistake, the editor(s) didn't catch it either. And, it's not like this is some esoteric topic that you'd never expect a literary editor to know anything about. It's, you know, books.

So what? Well, the confusion it created distracted me from what the author was really trying to do -- tell his story. It seems like book editing in general is less robust than it used to be. It seems as if most recently-published novels which I read have one or more obvious spelling errors in them. With older books, this seems to have been less common, though perhaps not as much among cheap paperback houses. When I come across these errors, it has the same effect, though usually less dramatic, as this Goosebumps issue. For a moment or two I'm thinking about the mechanics of reading rather than being tuned into solely to the story.

And while this may be only a nuisance in fiction, it can be downright credibility-wrecking in non-fiction. Consider the recent kerfuffle over Investor's Business Daily choosing Stephen Hawking as their example of someone who "wouldn't have a chance in the U. K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Now, one can discuss the merits and truthfulness of their overall point, but there's a big problem which -- if they'd wanted to be convincing -- should have been caught in editing. Stephen Hawking's, well, British. When such a basic fact as that has been totally botched, it can lead many readers to question the validity of the entire rest of the piece their reading.

Note that this isn't a screed against casual writing in blogs, tweets, etc. There's nothing that says every word written down has to be edited to death and fact-checked by an independent party. But when you're trying to get people to pay money for your books or believe your ideas, it makes sense to put some extra effort into not having glaring mistakes in your writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

New Twitter Fiction(s) & Submission Updates

Three, count 'em, three new Twitter fictions since last I blogged.

Also, The Drabblecast and Weird Tales both rejected my recent submissions. I need to get the stories back out in circulation; I'm starting to have trouble finding markets that seem like good fits for one of the stories.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nothing To See Here... Except a New Twitter Fiction!

This week's Twitter fiction is posted. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Nothing new to report on either of the story submissions that are out there. I'm ever-so-slightly hopeful on one of these due to the time it's been out since Duotrope shows the market having a slightly-longer response time on acceptances than rejections. Of course, it could also just be that things are slow for the summer and I'm reading a bit too much into an editorial pause.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tuesday (Central, Mountain and Pacific) Twitter Posted

This week's twitter fiction is up. I didn't plan ahead for being out all night at a concert, so if you live in the Eastern Time Zone you're stuck with a Wednesday Twitter this week.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Waking Up to Wakefield

Baseball's All-Star Game is Tuesday night and one of the mini-controversies around the game was the selection of Boston's Tim Wakefield to the American League roster, giving the 42-year-old pitcher his first ever All-Star appearance. Wakefield's 11 wins have him tied for the lead in the AL which, for many people throughout the years, would have made his selection perfectly acceptable. But as statistical analysis of the game has flourished, a larger percentage of people have come to the opinion that a pitcher's performance on things largely within his own control (strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed and, to a lesser extent, hits allowed) are better metrics to use when determining who the "best" pitchers are.

On these other metrics, Wakefield's 2009 season has been only pedestrian. His Earned Run Average is more than double that of league leader Zach Grienke. He's given up more than a hit per inning, alongside another three walks per nine innings. Never one to rack up huge strikeout numbers, he's nevertheless on pace for a full-season career low at only 5.1 K's per nine innings.

I confess... There was a time when I hated Tim Wakefield. When his young career hit a rough patch in 1993 and 1994, I expressed some schadenfreude at his troubles. A friend asked what I had against him, since he'd heard nothing but good things about Wakefield as a person. For me, it was simple. At that point in his career he was an absolute Atlanta Braves killer. Through quirks of scheduling and the fact that his Pirates faced Atlanta in the 1992 National League Championship Series, five of Wakefield's first 21 major league starts came against Atlanta. In those five games, he pitched 45 innings (three complete games, 10 innings in one start, eight in another) and went 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA. This was one guy I was really glad to see end up in the American League!

In baseball terms, though, that's all ancient history now. (Well, OK, I'm sure it doesn't hurt that Wakefield's 1995-2009 record against Atlanta is 2-3 with a 5.84 ERA and one save...) He's crafted a very solid career, shifting roles from starter, to closer, to general reliever, and back to starter. I'm glad to see that he'll be in the All-Star Game Tuesday night and I'll be rooting for him to get a chance to pitch. Just not against Brian McCann...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fictitious Updates

No replies yet on the two stories out for review. This isn't really a surprise, though. Most of the time you're looking at a wait of several weeks to several months for a reply. The waiting may not be "the hardest part" but it sure is the most boring!

This week's twitter fiction is posted.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009