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Yes, yes, we all need a good editor, but seriously.
Jason Myers
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 3:58 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 21

I have received some really great feedback on my stuff I have uploaded onto the site. Thanks to everyone for that.

One of the things I have noticed has popped up a couple of times are lines like, "This could really use a good copy editor." Or "You need a serious editor to look this over for issues."

Well yeah, I am pretty sure I do. As do most of us.  We're not posting stuff up here that's been vetted by a professional editor or even a good editing literary agent. Most of the time it's just us writing and editing our own stuff. And when you edit yourself, you will miss stuff.

So that begs the question: is Book Country supposed to be our "editor" to find things that stick out? Or is it just to receive crits on work already combed over and dusted off by an honest editor? What do you think?

Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 8:56 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 224

When I critique, I honestly do not think about editors. I don't think I've ever mentioned getting an editor to someone... I feel these are individuals, just like me, who are looking for help BEFORE being exposed by a house editor (or a hired one.)

I think that this site is meant to help with all factors of writing, but I don't *think* about that as I critique.

So no, I don't think we should mention needing a good editor... but, that said, every writer should be striving to have reasonable quality work for posting. Not perfection (I don't post perfection, I'm submitting it to houses or magazines.)

I want feedback on the stories that need work, or need opinions other than my own. I don't mind if someone tells me I need an editor, I will ignore this comment. I won't let it color the rest of the review, but if all they say is that I need an editor, I'll likely click the thumbs down button.

Just so people know, this is how I do it:

I open a story, begin to read. The *instant* that something stops me from reading, I start typing in the overall review box, spitting out my thoughts. Once my thoughts are out, I resume reading until I am stopped again, or I loved something so much I had to mention it.

Rinse, repeat.

When I get to the end, I add thoughts that I have after seeing it as a whole section, flush out my points I may have glossed over before. When I wrap up each section, I assign the stars. And why I gave those stars.

This site should be for all forms of writing. Rough to polished... but I don't think those who have polished pieces will get as much out of the site, except a lot of ego bruising and heart-ache if they get honest reviewers who spot problems.
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:23 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 103

I agree, this is the step before the MS sees an editor.

In general a critique is supposed to be an assessment of the story and story elements, not a specific commentary on spelling, punctuation, and grammar. But, if a significant amount of basic editing is needed, it's hard to look past that to see the story.

That being said, Jason, I've read one of your stories and I don't believe that to be the case for you. In my opinion, Mayhem, Inc. is perfect for this site.
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 9:33 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

The point of this site, as I see it, is to get story-level feedback on our works. If there are significant or major issues in the basics, it can detract from one's enjoyment of the story. But I tend to look past minor typos and formatting issues, because that could simply be a matter of the file not being converted right when it's uploaded. (I know I've seen where words get strung together when the file is uploaded, but in the actual file all the proper spaces are there.)

The reviews here aren't line edits. They're more akin to revision notes that an agent or editor might send to a client or potential client. We're here to help each other hone the parts of craft that we can't learn entirely from a book, such as characterization, pacing, etc.
Michael L Martin Jr
Posted: Thursday, April 28, 2011 10:16 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 23

I don't consider myself a line/copy editor, so I always act as Beta when I read and I focus on the broad strokes of the story in my critiques. Like RJBlain, When something isn't working for me I make a note of it and continue reading. Then I wrap it all up in a neat little bow when I'm done.

I think the user is free to use Book Country how they choose. Whether you upload polished or unpolished work doesn't matter. It all depends on what you want to get out of the site.

I polished my MS as good as I could on my own and need fresh eyes to look it over. For me, revision is the second best part of the writing process. (First being the discovery of the story/characters/world,etc.) I'm glad when someone points out my problem areas because that means I can fix it! Why would I hate that?

But not all critiques are created equal. They're not all going to be what we're looking for, positive or negative. Some will be perfect, while others will utterly wrong and dishonest. When that happens, I just try to be polite, agree to disagree and keep it moving. What else can you do really? You can't toss the review back into the ether.
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 1:42 PM
Joined: 4/3/2011
Posts: 5

Hi all. I was browsing and had to add my two cents. I read a story for the believable aspects. If this is a true visual of that person and the scene. I am brutal when it comes to flow. If my brain takes a hiccup, I have to mention it. Keeping thoughts together and helping the writer get out what they should or have actually meant to say, but allowed their brain to fill in the empty gaps. I am not by any means a grammatical guru, heck I tend to drop words here and there. I also overly use the word "was". So if you get a critique from me, please don't be looking for line edits. Although I usually do that with my personal critique partners, here I edit for storyline. If it's a romance, I want to be swept away, if it's a thriller, I want to be sitting in the corner of my couch anxiously turning pages. So please, in advance, allow me to apologize for crushing anyone's ego, or brusing their feelings, it's not personal. Whatever I say is in no way against you as a writer, but to help your story get told the way you truly wanted to tell it.
Jason Myers
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 2:43 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 21

@RJBlain Yep, that's way I do my crits too. Almost to the letter.

@Marcie Thanks! yeah, I agree. My writing is perfect for this site. I am at the point in my writing where i need others to give me constructive feedback to help boost it to the next level.

@stephmcgee I completely agree. Line editing is tough enough as it is.

@Michael L Martin Jr Funny you say revision is your 2nd favorite part of writing. It's actually my #1 favorite part. I love fine tuning a story and discover and bringing out thematic elements.

@Ted Cross I too prefer high level. But I'll take whatever i can get. Word echoes, dangling participles, passive voice, etc. But to me it's ten times more important to know if the story just works.

@DebKopfer I am no line editor either, although I have done some crits like that when I think it calls for it. For me, it's easier to critique someone when they have some base level of skill. Someone who is just starting out is hard to critique because there are usually so many things they need to get out of the way before they get to the bigger parts, that I feel overwhelmed by the information I would like to share with them. I've attended workshops by Donald Maass and Bob Mayer, so have an idea on what to look for when critiquing, but I am no expert.

Joe Selby
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 4:54 PM
Joined: 4/26/2011
Posts: 30

I agree with what's been said, but as AudreyT pointed out in her thread, excessive typos can pull a reader out of the story. If people are devoting time in their reviews to comment on your errors, are the being nitpicky or were the errors enough that they could not move past them to focus on the larger work?
Marshall R Maresca
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 5:37 PM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 56

All good points. Plus, of course, the system here isn't exactly suited for line-editing. I agree that the critiques here should be more the broad-brush stroke stuff, "Is this working at all?" kinds of things.
Posted: Friday, April 29, 2011 7:04 PM
Joined: 4/6/2011
Posts: 31

Since the crit system here is so limited, I think that like most people I'm trying to focus on the broader issues with a given story, and not on small things. However, if I see that someone is making a lot of the same kind of grammatical or usage mistake, I am likely to mention that under Overall Feedback. If someone puts something up for feedback without even doing a spellcheck, that doesn't speak well of them to my mind.
Jason Myers
Posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 3:56 PM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 21

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

Alexander Hollins
Posted: Friday, May 6, 2011 10:27 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 416

Personally, when I write my crits, I write them as if I WAS your editor. but thats me.
Posted: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 6:25 PM
Joined: 4/28/2011
Posts: 34

I have a lot of trouble reading a story that is filled with errors, period. (Pun!) And I suspect others feel the same, because I notice that a lot of the stories that ARE filled with errors remain uncritted.

I kinda feel for some of the folks here who have posted like that, because I wonder whether they have a clue, and sit there wondering why nobody has reviewed them.

So I did, two of them, and that is what I told them. (Tried to compliment the ideas)

I guess there is a basic level below which the grammatical issues become the overwhelming problem, and you can't see the forest for the trees. I do go into detail (examples where have run-ons, need question marks, flip tenses, etc.)

I hope they aren't too pissed off, and don't feel like I've given them short shrift for a critique.
Robert C Roman
Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 3:48 PM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

@Jason - I think momgotshocked nailed the core of how I review.

I only mention editing in two cases.

First, if there were enough typos or other similar things that they really kept me from enjoying the story, I'll point that out, because it means I'm going to be harsher than I otherwise would. Not deliberate, just going to happen.

Second, if the text is particularly clean, I'll mention that as a compliment. Just a little 'go you' kinda thing.

I'm feeling more and more blessed to have the beta readers I do. I have two who will actually give me a line-by-line edit of the entire MS if they have time. Helps *immensely*.
Jason Myers
Posted: Friday, May 13, 2011 3:23 AM
Joined: 3/3/2011
Posts: 21

@Robert. I agree. If i have someone willing and able to do line edits, I am most grateful. It's a priceless thing.
Suzan Isik
Posted: Tuesday, May 24, 2011 1:58 PM
Joined: 3/7/2011
Posts: 13

I think the tendency of people when they first begin critting work is to line edit. It takes time to learn how to spot inconsistencies and pacing issues. In general, I think people gravitate towards the familiar, meaning what high school English teacher harped on.

It took me probably longer than most people to realize that what I was doing was not critiquing but line edits. Line edits don't help structural issues in the early stages. Line edits are priceless, but they are also one of the last items on that checklist before you start submissions.

I've actually had a lot of people review mine and tell me I need a good copy edit. Well, yes, yes I do. But that will be one of the final things I do once I get the bigger issues like pacing problems out of the way. Right now, I'm less worried about grammar and more worried about if the story is solid.
Colleen Lindsay
Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011 9:15 PM
Joined: 2/27/2011
Posts: 356

Hi gang!

Sorry I'm just seeing this thread now!

Jason, Book Country is a place for first drafts, second drafts, third drafts and works you think are done but maybe could use another pair of eyeballs.

We envision it primarily as a place for people to work out bigger issues with plot, voice, continuity, character development, etc. But I agree with MomGotShocked; if I'm reading something and the grammatical/syntactical errors interfere with my reading experience, I'll probably say something about it.


Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011 11:09 PM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241

Well I actually am an English teacher and even when I am grading papers I don't line edit. If a student has a major problem with typos, grammar, syntax or something like that, I tell them, maybe circle a couple of examples and kick the ball back in their court, expecting to get a clean paper next time. (This is college English, not HS or lower in which it might actually be my jb to teach those basic things.)

Frankly that level of critique is exhausting when there are more than a couple of problems or pure accidents. I stick to larger ideas and overall structure issues instead.

Similarly, here, if I'm reviewing something I'm going to want to stick to big issues, but if I see more than a couple of little things that are obviously just overlooked typos, that's when I'll say "have someone help you edit," or "this needs a careful proofread."
Robert C Roman
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 12:43 AM
Joined: 3/12/2011
Posts: 383

@Suzan - I think the general consensus is that line editing will only be mentioned if the line-level stuff is *so* bad that its affecting the readers ability to enjoy or even comprehend the story.

@Lily - another teacher! I wonder how many of us there are on here? HS Bio & Environmental here, so I just redmark the typos and grade on content, myself, but it *does* get painful. Amusing anectdote - one of the English teachers sent her students out wth the rubric to have their papers graded by other teachers. MANY of them selected me. Their marks were *not* what they expected, since grammar, punctuation and spelling were part of the rubric.
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 3:05 AM
Joined: 5/12/2011
Posts: 241

I've taught preschool, HS English, college English (both writing and literature) both in-person and online and a bit of (college) media and cultural studies here and there.

Oh yeah, and HS bioethics at a Catholic girls' school which was too fun for words.

Next year I'll be subbing at my kids' elementary Montessori school. Love teaching at all levels in all kinds of subjects. But recently discovered I love writing even more. Who knew?

BTW, sometimes HS English teachers give bad writing advice. Beware.

Sorry, that was a major hijack.
Carl E Reed
Posted: Friday, June 3, 2011 3:59 AM
Joined: 4/27/2011
Posts: 608

Line editing? Well, no, that isn’t—or shouldn’t—be the focus of the review. I’m not a professional line editor, and I suspect most of the readers/critiquers on Book Country aren’t either. I’ll mention something that jumps out at me (or highlight an error that I see the writer making over and over again), but I focus primarily on:

1) Does the writer invoke the senses: not only sight but sound, smell, touch and taste, to put me in their world and bring it alive?

(2) Ray Bradbury advised writers to “stay drunk on metaphor”; I only ask: do your metaphors work? Are they evocative, poetic and appropriate?

(3) Is the writing polished, tonally consistent and professional? (If you tell me this is a very rough first draft, I take that into account.)

(4) I actively work to highlight and praise the writer for particularly strong or otherwise well-constructed pieces of writing.

(5) I try to balance negative criticism with positive criticism, leading with anything I liked about your posted piece of writing. I will highlight and praise an accomplished authorial voice, especially well-written sentences or paragraphs (and explain why I found them so), interesting thematic material or plot developments, “spot-on” characterization, etc.

In any piece of writing that I’ve read or reviewed on this site so far, I have ALWAYS found at least a couple of elements worthy of praise: an especially apt phrase or word choice, a nice “bit of business” within the story proper, an interesting plot development, a break-neck sense of pacing, etc.

I would never tell someone “you need an editor” because, well . . . doesn’t every writer? (Nabokov excepted.) Besides being a “well duh” kind of comment, I wouldn’t find that remark to be especially insightful, helpful or relevant.

FYI: Vladimir Nabokov once opined that editors are “. . . pompous avuncular brutes, whose every suggestion must be countered with a thunderous ‘Stet!’ ” But then, he was Nabokov! Though even he . . . but I verge on blasphemy. . . .

Posted: Tuesday, June 14, 2011 7:05 PM
Joined: 3/13/2011
Posts: 245

Typos are just so little ticket. I think most of us are here for help with the big ticket issues, voice, characterization, plot (too much telescoping rather than foreshadowing? Predictable plot twists?), etcetera. Typos and grammar we can learn to correct on our own. But these bigger issues we sometimes need a second or hundredth pair of eyes to know are present.
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:34 PM
What I'm putting up on this site is a first draft, and I expect my readers to notice typos, repeated words, passive voice, etc. I don't require them to correct every little mistake, as I plan to go over my manuscript once it's finished.

If a reader points out a mistake, I'm grateful, but the story matters more at this point. My inner editor will probably take over upon the third pass.

When reading other entries, I try to maintain a balance between encouragement and critique. Nobody wants a nitpicker, but sometimes they need it. Too much, however, will discourage the writer from continuing.
Posted: Saturday, September 10, 2011 10:41 PM
Kylie, if you need someone to help you with the finer points of your MS, you can point that out in your intro. Then the readers who LOOOOVE to line edit can come through for you. Is that acceptable, Colleen?
Angela Martello
Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 10:18 PM
Joined: 8/21/2011
Posts: 394

As someone who has earned her keep as both a professional writer (science writer) and editor (copy editor, developmental editor, managing editor) for the last 20 years, I have a tendency to look at all aspects of a manuscript: content as well as grammar and spelling. This has been the case for the 1-paragraph web site reviews I used to edit and approve to the 100-page medical monographs I produce now. For me, plot, characterization, pacing, spelling, grammar, and so on all come together. Does this mean I won't review a manuscript filled with grammatical and spelling errors? No. But it does mean that if there is a particular grammar issue that if fixed could improve the overall flow of a story, then I'll point it out.

A J Hart
Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 1:00 AM
Joined: 11/17/2011
Posts: 26

@ Kylie-- Its good to know there is another dyslexic on the site! I feel the same way and was nervous about posting my MS at first, but I have received some wonderful reviews that were not 'you're so dyslexic you should not even consider being a writer', which I was expecting. The bad grammar was certainly pointed out but the reviews focused on the plot, pacing, and charatcers, on the big picture, not my awful grammar/spelling. 
Ron Yoo
Posted: Wednesday, January 11, 2012 4:27 PM
Joined: 5/17/2011
Posts: 3

I am new to the site, but thought the following might be of interest.  I have a finished novel, unpublished but currently posted on Amazon, and it was my first effort.  I started and finished it well before this site existed.

My second draft drew interest from an agent, but he basically said get an editor.  I followed that advise and the result was worth it.  

Two significant changes came out of his work that I never could have arrived at on my own.  First, my manuscript required "major surgery", cuts amounting to about 200 pages out of 650.  Second, the overall plot had three intertwined story arcs and the transitions among these sub-stories were -- in his words -- a fractured mess.  With this help -- and three more drafts -- the book was significantly improved.

Critiques from a site such as this -- if it had existed -- might have gotten me there, but I suspect that nobody would have wanted to slog through the early manuscript long enough to give me this kind of feedback. 

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