More Than Words

close-up of fingers on a keyboard

A definite upside to narrating and editing audiobooks is getting to absorb their content. Derek is on a roll with a bunch of non-fiction books in a row. Some are more interesting than others, but I find that all self-help, you-can-do-this books are uplifting. It’s not a chore to listen to my husband read words of affirmation and encouragement for several hours as I help with editing.

We recently finished collaborating on a long, multi-character novel. I also wrapped up narrating a second book of poetry by the same author. (Repeat business is important!) Now I’m narrating a well-written book about dogs. But there’s a repeating theme that I find disappointing and that’s the lack of professional editing in a number of books we narrate.

I don’t care who you are, you need someone else’s eyes on your writing. After you’ve gone over and over the manuscript to perfect it, you stop “seeing” what you’ve written. This used to happen to me routinely in this blog. When I’d wake up to an email from my Mom, I knew it was a correction or an alert to a missed word. (How I miss those emails.)

Many of the mistakes in these books could have been easily caught by editing software, even the Editor in Word, the document in which the manuscript was likely written. So, I know for sure that some of the authors didn’t even do that much. Sentences start out plural and end in singular. Or they begin as something introspective and awkwardly end referring to someone else’s perspective. Or the author falls in love with a word or a phrase and repeats it ad nauseum. (And lucky me! I get to say it over and over and over…)

Granted, not everyone will notice. Or they might think, “that sounded strange”, and not analyze it for the specific reason why. But those who do notice get taken out of the story. It’s distracting. If the goal is sales, a writer has to understand the high-quality sandbox they’re climbing into. It’s sort of like dressing for the job you want. If they want to be taken seriously, they have to get serious.

I know how these things happen. I’m currently writing fiction that centres on a man and his company. Early on, I referred to his wife but after starting and stopping the book, when I needed to refer to her again I couldn’t remember what I named her! Thank goodness for Word’s search function. (It was Alyssa, by the way.)

Everybody makes mistakes. When I first started getting published (in a now-defunct magazine) I lived in fear of making an error. After I submitted an article, I was on pins and needles waiting for feedback. Now, if it happens my reaction is, oh, I missed that? Thanks for catching it. Heck, I once caught an error an editor missed! No one is perfect.

When an unedited manuscript goes to a narrator to become an audiobook, mistakes show themselves. And here’s how it tends to happen: the author hears their words for the first time and they panic. They stop the job part-way through and do another self-edit of the book. If it’s mostly in good shape, it’s not a big deal. But if it’s not, the narrator has to go back and make a million corrections, matching the voice tone so they slip in unnoticed. Many times, the narrator will bill the author (or rights-holder) for the extra time. When it adds hours to the job, it’s only fair. This has happened so often that I wrote a post on Linked In for self-published authors. These issues can easily be avoided!

A professional editor might be more affordable than the writer thinks. I hired Jennifer D. Foster for my previous eBooks. I also hired her to read my novel-to-be and tell me what parts of it were crap! (And she did!) She’s excellent. That was before I got to know local editor Kelly Allistone, who edits, proofreads, and does other good things. I hope to hire her one day, too.

You might wonder why a narrator would read a manuscript’s warts and all. That’s the job. It’s not my job to correct the grammar for authors of audiobooks we’re producing. Doing so can take you down a rabbit hole of free work (and a pissed off author) that you don’t want to enter. (There are exceptions, like minor things that are obvious and rare.}

Cream rises to the top and it’s my belief that writing is creamier after it’s professionally edited. I play a little fast and loose with structure and grammar in my blog, although I attempt to make it as good as I can. Sometimes I know what I’ve done, or I’ve deliberately made up a word. I leave it because this is my real estate and I can do what I want. But a permanent, published, printed work? I wouldn’t dream of moving forward without an editor at my side.

4 thoughts on “More Than Words”

  1. I could never replace your mums editorial assistance, but I’m still here watching but you’ve essentially put me out of a job in more recent years. I don’t think there was ever a financial course I’ve taken where I didn’t submit a number of editorial changes and corrections. Screen Readers are absolutely great for picking up mistakes in the written word, for they know the rules, not the exceptions so they jump out. The F7 key in Word is great for editing, sadly many don’t use it.

  2. This reminds of a badly written book that I read while stuck on a plane (oh, those were the days) with not many other options. Apparently the book hadn’t been well-edited as evidenced by the following passage: “We were welcomed to the table as the host ladled the hearty stew into warmed bowels”.

    1. OMG. The fact that you remember it in such detail – and not for GOOD reasons – proves my point. Thank you! And yuck! LOL

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