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.