It’s a puzzlement . . .

15 Jun

As frequently happens, best laid plans and all that . . .

Originally, the plan for this week’s blog entry was for it to be about plot. But that notion was derailed the other day by this episode. Plotting may come next week. In the meantime:

When I was younger, I made it a point to always finish reading any book that I started. About twenty years ago, I suddenly realized that there were more books than there was time, so I began to be a bit more judicious. I might give a book 50 pages, and if it hadn’t engaged me by that time, I gave up on it. More recently, I’m not always even that generous with my time, although I’m not averse to giving up even on page 200 out of, say, 250 total pages.

Or, if it’s a mystery that I really can’t figure out, yet I’d kind of like to know the resolution, I may persist and finish the book. But then, I go into my master reading list and put a big NO next to the book’s title, so I’ll know not to try that author again.

A week or so ago, I gathered up a batch of newish cozy mysteries from my library and looked forward to indulging myself. Hah! A couple of them were the second or third book in a series of which I’d not yet read the first one, so back I went to the computer to order the originals in the series.

One of them, however, was indeed the first of a new series, so I started reading. I can only believe that this (previously unknown to me) author somehow blackmailed the editor into acquiring and publishing the book. There can be no other excuse for such a waste of paper, time and money. (Fortunately, not mine!)

Because I don’t want to be sued for stating my opinion, I won’t mention the title or author, but will instead use such an egregious mess as a learning tool.

Most writers believe they can write. (I do, certainly, while realizing that not everyone will agree with me.) Many writers are actually much better story-tellers than they are writers. This is why editors were created. Sometimes an editor can get past the imperfections of the manuscript if the story itself is engaging enough to capture his or her attention. Of course, some writers resist changing any of their precious words, but a sensible one will at least listen to what the editor has to say, and why.

Readability should be the prime concern of both writer and editor. Making it easy for the reader to quit before finishing the book and champing at the bit for the next one to come, is not a good thing. First time authors seldom earn money for the publisher – it takes repeat titles and back-lists to firmly establish an author in the eyes of the public and the publisher. Unfortunately, this does not happen very often, especially in this hurry-up world we now live in.

This particular book—the one mentioned above—is vastly over-written. I should say, the first 25 pages are horribly over-written. That’s when I gave up. Even though the author did a ‘good thing’ by ending a chapter with a hook, prompting the reader to turn the page and continue reading, I had absolutely no difficulty in putting the book down for the night without turning that page. It was also very easy to find something else to read the next day.

The prologue was several pages worth of totally uninteresting minutiae that made no sense at all, and didn’t really seem to be connected to the story itself. Of course, I realize it might have connected somewhere in the next 300 or so pages, but these first pages were so poorly written and full of mistakes that I kept shaking my head over them.

Originally, this book was self-published (sans editor, I’m quite certain). The mystery to me is: how on earth did it get picked up by a large NY house, to be published again, with all these errors in it?

Beats me! But I’ll tell you this much. I’m seriously considering the possibility of blackmail. There just cannot be any other excuse! I’ve read entirely too many better manuscripts in contests for unpublished writers!

‘tis a mystery, indeed!

Until next week – if you have questions or comments, please send them on: bookmechanic@gmail.com

Just please don’t ask the identity of that book! My lips are sealed.

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