Today on Twitter, someone called out an author for his “bad writing” and, as an author of many years with five published novels, I began to wonder what that term meant. Was the story not logical or appealing or was it more a grammatical problem? The tweeter stated that had the story been properly edited, the writing wouldn’t have been bad. Really?
I have been writing for years and, just as equally, I have been an avid reader. I can tell you that I have read interesting and intriguing stories that I could clearly see were poorly edited, if even edited at all. Some of the punctuation was incorrect and parts of the formatting off, even a few misspelled words. Of course, the lack of proper editing was noticeable to me as an author, but how noticeable was it to most readers? Some of the errors weren’t blatant and were things that only another writer or editor would have even picked up on. It still didn’t take away the intrigue of the story being told.
In contrast, I have also read properly edited books with a storyline that simply didn’t hold my interest. Most readers have read stories that can’t quite seem to make a point, or at least not until the middle of a very thick book filled with “fluff” for length. I can’t tell you how many I have almost given up on because it dragged on and on. An editor’s job is to ensure that the grammar and formatting is correct, as well as the logistics of the story (does it flow well and does it make sense to the reader), but that doesn’t always make it an interesting story.
I once had an editor change nearly the entire storyline of one of my books, even switching its characters to other parts in the story. I flat out refused to change it for the literary agent who insisted it wasn’t worthy without those edits, and I ended up self-publishing the book. I’m certainly not saying that proper editing shouldn’t be done. Literary agents and publishers require professional editing for good reason, but I also don’t consider all unedited stories “bad writing” and unworthy of purchase.
Authors spend a lot of money on their novels and will sometimes skip the editing, trying to do it themselves to save on the high costs, and it is almost always noticeable by publishers and agents. My advice to authors who are writing on a budget is to one, use at least three beta readers who you do not know, avid readers who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings to get your book right and two, use editing software, which is likely to find and correct most errors and while checking your story for sensibility.