Thoughts on Tuesday

As you know, I'm the co-owner of a review blog, The Long and Short of It, wherein we review short stories and novels. All of these fall into the categories of romance or women's fiction. If you didn't know about LASR, please check it out.

But, getting you to know about the site is not the primary reason I'm talking about it today. Our policy is we only give positive reviews. There are enough review sites out there that can be pretty snarky. We don't want to be one of those. On the other side, our reviews are all honest. How can we give only positive reviews and still be positive, you ask? Easy. If we don't like a book or a story, we don't review it. It's that simple.

We've had some wonderful stories come across our desk from authors or publishing houses asking us to review them. However, we've also had some requests recently that have made us sit back and say... how on earth did this get published? And, for the most part, it's not the writing. (Okay, we've had some where the story didn't work for one reviewer, but then another reviewer read it and loved it. It's the nature of fiction. Not everyone will like everything.)

In the past few days, I've read (or started reading) two novels. The stories were okay. One was better than okay. However, there were problems. Problems that could have been fixed easily. Problems that should have been fixed easily. Problems that, if the novel had gone through basic copyediting would have been fixed.

And, unfortunately, no matter how good the writing is, how much research the author has obviously gone through, LASR cannot, and will not, in good conscience recommend a book with so many errors in it. People I'm talking about things like comma splices, using a semicolon where a comma would be indicated, putting commas where they shouldn't be and leaving them out where they are needed. Basic punctuation skills. Or misspelled words that would have shown up had a basic spell check been run. I'm not talking about words like "there/their." Spell check won't catch those. I'm talking about "riefly" instead of "briefly."

And, I was going, "Why didn't the copy editor of this particular publishing house catch these?" Then I thought, "Why didn't the author of this particular novel catch these?" Copy editing is a very important job and every short story, every novel should go through an intensive copy editing procedure. And, sure, even with good copy editing, things are going to slip through. I'm reading another novel for review right now (from another publishing house) and have found three typos/punctuation problems. I've seen them in print books (even, gasp, NORA'S books!) It happens. But, there's a huge difference between three in seventy-two pages and twenty in twelve pages.

So... I'm posing the question. Who is to blame? Is it the author's responsibility, the copy editor's, the publishing house or some combination? I want to know what you think.

And, this doesn't have to do with THESE particular kinds of problems, but for another take on responsibility in writing, go here, scroll down to Randy Ingermanson's response to the question of plot inconsistencies.


Karen Lynch said…
Interesting post! I'm always a stickler for proper spellings and punctuations and I'm often surprised at what I see in published works!
Karen said…
I'll admit, I'm not a genius when it comes to commas. I probably make mistakes with those! But I'm a stickler for the correct use of homophones.
You may enjoy my post:
Mert said…
I have lousy grammar skills... but if you are attempting at writing a book one should probably brush up on the basics... I think both are responsible. I mean, the publisher is selling a product. If you don't check the quality of the product before you put it on the shelves , you're bound to have some issues.
Hmmmmm I'd say some responsibility lies with each of those listed. But it seems to me that if you have an editor their job should be to edit, otherwise why would you need or pay them? Both the author and publisher include an editor for the purpose of catching the things that need corrected in my opinion so I'd lay the lion's share with them. If you ever have the time/interest, I'd love to see what you think of my husband's shorts and novel to compare with other feedback.

Lianne said…
Frankly, in answer to your question, it's the responsibility of both. I think it's the author's job to go through and present the cleanest manuscript possible. But, it's a well known fact (I think) that when you've been with a manuscript long enough, even going over it with a fine toothed comb, so to speak, might not help. An author might sometimes even know what he/she meant, and read it that way. A trick of the eye. That's where the copy editor comes in. They will be looking at the manuscript with a totally fresh eye, and they should catch what the author did not.

Anyway, that's my take on it. :)
kailani said…
I think it's the author's responsibility. After all, it is his/her work and they should take some pride in it. Everyone else is just a back-up.
Warrior Knitter said…
Totally off topic -- but you left a comment on Mir's blog ". . . spend all day making my special Brazilian hot dogs in a lovely sauce of onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic . . .". It sounds yummy! Will you share the recipe?

Meanwhile, I'm going to check out your blogs.

Alice Teh said…
I always doubt my own grammar and punctuation skills, but I'm trying my best to ensure that I get it right as much as possible.

I think the author needs to be responsible for his/her own masterpiece and then the editor is there to ensure that everything else flows. I don't think the editor should be too much of a proofreader. The author should take extra care that by the time the manuscript reaches the editor, it is as good as ready to be published. Just my thoughts...