Word Conundrum

Which comes first, the final edit or the readers?

I have become hooked on the Game of Throne series and noticed that there are places where I skim. In some spots there will be paragraphs of names, as in before a battle starts, when the author lists everyone who’s there. I don’t really care; I want to see the fight. Plus, with all the names I’ll figure out who they are if they show up again.

The point is though, that I skim whole sections. And there’s that old adage that if the reader skims, that should be the part the writer leaves out.

And there’s my dang conundrum. By the time readers are skimming and making note of that in reviews, the book is out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do about it. Hopefully an editor is honest enough to point out the places readers might be tempted to skip, but obviously that isn’t foolproof. On top of that, what one reader finds boring another will not. If you left out stuff everyone skims you’d probably end up with two pieces of cardboard with great cover art and just empty space in between.

That leads to the old dilemma about editing: how to stop. It used to be once a book was published there was nothing more you could do. If there was a typo or a long passage people skipped, it was there for posterity, or at least until the next printing. These days, the temptation is to take the book back, make changes, and republish it.

Think about the chaos that could cause. Multiple versions of your book. And think about the temptation to revise in a series. You could be working on book three or book ten and realize you should have added a character sooner, or tossed in something in book two that would allow you to justify what you want to do to your character in book eight. Readers would be so confused. A clue that existed in version two of book one isn’t in version three, and on and on. I imagine the writer would be pretty confused, too.

However even though it’s possible these days to edit forever, obviously you shouldn’t. Still though, there are those skimming sections that I bet authors wish all the readers pointed out before publication. It’s too bad we can’t do a preliminary publication, similar to an audience screening of a movie. Something where more readers than just five or six would weigh in.

Oh well. Meandering brain this rainy afternoon.

7 thoughts on “Word Conundrum

  1. I think the solution lies in sharing with enough diverse beta readers that you might find those areas before publishing. I haven’t officially published a book yet, but I have the tendency to not reread anything that I have published because I will inevitably find something that I wish I had done better.That is crazy making. When I direct plays, I force myself to stop making changes by the second dress rehearsal. I know some directors who give notes through an entire run. I could do that but then I would simply drive myself crazy with my inability to make something perfect. I think with every creative project there is a time to stop, say it is done, and move on.

  2. Interesting about stopping after the second dress rehearsal. That sounds similar to reaching a point when enough edits have been done. I wonder, too, if the desire to continue to edit isn’t connected to fear of rejection (what if no one likes it, what if there’s a missed mistake, what if I didn’t explain or describe, etc.) and fear of failure. Once we release, we can’t take back and our mistakes are out there for all to see. And I agree that a diversity of beta readers is very important.

  3. I think about this sometimes, with my blog, because I’m convinced many of my readers skim all the writing and mainly look at the pictures. Sometimes it bothers me, other times I’m just glad anyone’s visiting at all. Most of the time I figure I just can’t try too hard to get into readers’ heads, because there’s no end to that. Anyway, I know I’ve skimmed sections of books in the past, only to come back to them years later and find them very meaningful.

    • Wow. Thank you very much. To be honest I’d never heard of this and had to look it up, but it sounds like a fun thing to be involved in.

    • It looks like, from reviewing the rules, that I should answer questions from you, but I’m not sure where to find those questions. Consider me a raw newbie when it comes to Liebsters!

      • I believe that you should be able to find them if you scroll down to the end of my post. I think the link should be in the comment I left you.

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