There are times when the vagaries of modern English (previous error in capitalization edited by Stephen Swartz) get in the way of reading what could be a great novel. Some weeks I see six or seven books, both indie and traditionally published, before I find one book worth reviewing for my book review blog, Best in Fantasy.
As authors, we are all overcome with the urge to shout to the world, to immediately show the world our precious child, to rush to publish it now. It is the rare author who can write prose that is fit to read in his first draft–if that author actually exists, I’ve never read his work.
For the indie, this is fatal.
This is why I highly recommend hiring a reputable editorial service to go over your manuscript, even if you plan to submit it to a publisher. After all, why not submit the best work you can, rather than risk being stuck in the slush pile?
An editor will have several reference manuals at his/her hand, and will help you realize your vision, whittling away at the block of granite you gave birth to and love so much, carving away the unnecessary and extraneous words and cliches until the book emerges in all its glory.
When I am editing, I refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, and of course, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. As I have been through the process of being edited and hate that horrible feeling of being called to task on silly things, I often refer to these books when I am second guessing myself in my own work.
What are the silly things, you ask? They are things we learned in grammar school but forgot as we grew older and didn’t use them. Small things like when to capitalize an honorific title, and when not to–something that crops ups regularly in my work as I often write in a medieval setting.
I’ve found it helpful to use the control -f (find) function in WORD to locate every possible mangling I might have made of a particular word. Then I look at and replace each instance on an individual basis. (NEVER click replace all!)
Consistency is important, so we must know when to capitalize titles and honorifics–words like king, and majesty, or even lord. Also, when to capitalize familial titles such as father, mother, son and aunt. If you are determined to do it wrong, at least have your roommate ensure that you have done it that way throughout the entire manuscript, rather than sometimes one way and sometimes another, which is the normal, natural way to write a first and even second draft.
Editors not only correct grammar, they check for consistency. They are worth their weight in gold. They’re more important than the fine artwork for the cover, more critical than the catchy blurb. We live in the wild west of the publishing business, and we find ourselves doing whatever we can on the cheap to get our book published. DON’T skimp in this area, if you value your reputation. Once you have published, it’s a pain in the backside to unpublish, have it edited, reformat it, and go through the launch all over again. Remember, we see what we meant to write, not what is actually there.
But you don’t have to listen to me–experience is the great humiliator.