Monday, August 26, 2013

Do NOT, for the LOVE of MIKE, Publish the FIRST DRAFT

Or the third.

Or the fourth.
I don’t claim to know the magic number of drafts that a book should go through before it’s published, but I think if you’re going to take advantage of today’s liberated publishing opportunities, the draft number has got to be higher – in some cases, a lot higher – than what the author would like. And if a novel hasn’t been read by at least a half dozen or so independent readers, then the number of drafts before publication should be higher still.
The internet makes publishing easy. Too easy, many say. I kind of agree with that. I’m reading a book right now that needed a bit more peer review and revision before the author pushed that final button.
The author has an infatuation with the number two, for example. The character is two inches (!) away from the cow. He waits for two days, introspecting his navel. He walks two feet before he notices something. At least the dolphin has the decency to be three feet away from him before he notices it for the first time.
That’s not all. While he was two inches from that cow, an empty pail magically fills with milk – no magic intended; something’s just missing – and he drinks until he’s full. Then he goes outside and battles chickens for pie crusts discarded on the ground and he smells bacon and is ravenously hungry. Right after downing a pail of warmish milk that magically appeared where only an empty pail had been before.
Did no one tell the author about this inconsistency? Or did no one tell the author because no honest readers read it beforehand? I don’t know. I just know, years after the book was published, it hurts to read it. And I don’t trust the Amazon reviews. Maybe I’m just a grump – that’s quite possible. But I can kinda tell maybe, in this instance, I’m not.
There’s no why in this book. There’s emotional manipulative motivation – dead mother and abusive father – but there’s no why. Why is the hero – nearly two-thirds of the way through and the only even partially-developed character – the hero? So far, all we know is that he can follow orders. He’s got the emotional depth of a tuna sandwich. Do my characters also resonate this poorly? I don’t know. And there’s a lot more pairings – two days here, two weeks there. Come on. Nobody’s checking the calendar. Only mention the passing of a specific time period if it’s important. Not. Every. Time.
I don’t want the books I write and publish to hurt this much. I’ll probably make other mistakes. But slowing the process down and inviting several beta readers in on the gag seems smarter and smarter the more ebooks I read.

I don’t really know what’s changed – because I’ve read some stinkers that were published traditionally as well; getting published traditionally doesn’t seem to have had an impact on quality of writing, though maybe the rotten ebooks are more prevalent today because the traditional barriers and gatekeepers aren’t there. But they didn’t stop stinkers from being published before.
Maybe this is how critics are born.

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