Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Learning From Others

Sometimes I edit for another publisher. These are manuscripts that they have already accepted, and it is my duty to make sure the grammar is correct, that there are no plot holes or inconsistencies.

I do it as an editor, but as an author, I have learned quite a bit.

For instance, one author – let’s call him Ace – usually writes historical (light) romance set during World War II. I have a few qualms about his writing style, but only one really made me impatient with the story line. I immediately recognized that Ace was telling the story of a couple - relatively minor characters he had introduced in his first book. The girl of this couple was raised in a different place from the others, and it was she he followed in this episode. What irritated me was that he didn’t introduce the male half of this couple until half-way through the manuscript!

Don’t get me wrong; Ace doesn’t write the usual, run-of-the-mill romance, and I don’t expect him to. Strongly interspersed among tidbits of romance are great explanations of the way life was during that time period, shown by what the characters do and expect. But I thought waiting that long to introduce the girl’s love – after spending so much time going through two earlier ‘boy friends’ – was a bit much. It may have me wondering about my own timing in my romances (which I write as Linda Joy).

And then there’s ‘Bill’, who writes contemporary romances. Or rather, one contemporary romance, which never seems to end. There have been five volumes so far, and he thinks the story line deserves at least another five. I find myself getting extremely irritated as I edit these manuscripts. Each one ends on what others would consider a ‘Happy Ever After’, and yet, during the next episode, the main characters immediately continue what they were doing before; jumping to conclusions, keeping secrets, not being truthful, and being super-jealous. They never seem to learn to not be stupid.

I can understand not wanting to set aside characters you’ve lovingly created and worked with for a long time. And many readers enjoy multiple volumes dealing with the ‘adventures’ of characters they’ve read about before. However, there is a reason why the typical romance novel is shorter than other fiction novels; there is usually only so much stupidity a person can tolerate in their love interest before they fall out of love, so to have an HEA ending, the couple needs to realize they are making mistakes and stop making them.

Is it possible to have too many volumes in a series of some other genre? Probably, although other genres offer a far greater variety of adventure types for the main characters to have to deal with and learn from. Still, when I decide to work on another volume for some series that I am writing, I will pause to consider whether the continuation makes sense, if it is significantly different in context from previous episodes, and if the main characters will be learning from it.

I thought I would be boning up on my grammar and punctuation. Sure, that’s happening, but I'm also learning so much more.

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