How Important Is Book Editing?

Apr 8, 2021 | Editor and Editing, Writing

Someone inquired: “You haven’t posted to your blog in over eight months. What brought you back?” Me: A fellow author asked me to read and review his thriller. Here is my critique of the book.

When I began to write my Darcy McClain and Bullet Thriller Series, I had no doubts that once I finished my debut book I would hire a professional editor and proofreader to read/correct the manuscript. But first, I enrolled in a self-editing class to polish the novel as much as possible before submitting it to an editor. 

This class led me to a read and critique group—the Dallas/Fort Worth Writers Workshop, and several members even offered to be beta readers for my novel: an honor. All three of these—the self-editing class, the workshop, and the beta readers—were instrumental in producing a manuscript that I felt confident in turning over to a professional editor for a read.

There are four main types of book editing: developmental editing line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. All are explained in detail here, courtesy of BookBaby Blog: https://blog.bookbaby.com/2016/04/type-book-editing-need/

Over the years, I’ve availed myself to all four phases of the editing process, and in my estimation, editors and proofreaders are invaluable to producing a quality book.

A month ago a fellow author whom I’ll call Jack, asked me to read and review his debut thriller. I was excited at the prospect of adding a new crime series to my library of good reads, and looked forward to starting the book.

When it comes to writing, I believe you can break the rules as long as you make the break work. So I kept an open mind about a male author whose main character is a woman. It’s been done. 

Jack had me hooked on the plot in chapter one and in chapter two he introduced a secondary character that I fell in love with; an alcoholic veteran struggling to stay sober and one step ahead of being a homeless drunk.

The main character in the book, the woman I mentioned, doesn’t appear until chapter four and I had no real problem with that, but what failed to sit well was her inconsistent personality—assertive one moment, passive the next—an uneven temperament. I expected a take-control persona with a “I’ll deal with the fallout later.” But from what I read, she charged, and then retreated. I rooted for her until the end, but she fell flat. In my estimation, she wasn’t the solid main character an author needs to carry an entire series. 

Every story has a protagonist. No protagonist equals no plot. But Jack had a gripping plot and a strong protagonist, only not the female cop. The hero in the book was definitely the recovering alcoholic who faced his challenges and demons, conquered them, and survived to fight another day as a sober individual. What a great main character!

As a writer, it never occurred to me that an author would overlook such an important aspect of his book, never mind a series, by not fleshing out his protagonist. I’m certain that if he had availed himself to a developmental edit, the editor would’ve caught this critical oversight early on, rather than having a reader catch such a monumental flaw, especially since Jack has already published four novels in his series. 

When I diplomatically broached Jack on the subject as to why he hadn’t hired an editor for a developmental edit, but had settled on a simple proofread, it all came down to one factor—money. But why invest that much time and work into producing a book, albeit an entire series, and risk not hooking readers for the long haul? Shortsighted?


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