People may think editors are a little too anal, nit-picking over the smallest detail, but sometimes that smallest detail, when it’s wrong, can jerk the reader right out of the story, and that’s the last thing an author would want to happen.
One of the details editors look for is continuity, making sure that the time-line is correct and making sure that an object or a person is properly introduced. You don’t want a character to pick up a gun that was never on the table.
In filming, there is a person who carefully notes what is in a scene, where items and people are, what characters are wearing, etc, so if that scene has to be re-shot, everything will be in the right place. That person also watches the time line, making sure that costume and set changes are made when time has passed in the story.
For novels, it is part of the editor’s job to watch that time line and make sure everything and everybody is in the right place at the right time. But sometimes that doesn’t happen.
For instance, I’ve been reading a wonderful book, Black Water Rising, a debut novel from Attica Locke. The book was published by Harper Collins, so I assumed it had been gone over with that proverbial fine-tooth comb by an editor and a copy editor, and then proofed again by the author. It may have been, but they still missed a few glaring continuity problems.
The latest, which prompted this post, occurred when the central character talks to a woman at a diner. He is asking her how to find a man he’s looking for. She tells him where the man lives and gives him directions to the house. Never is the woman named in this scene, but in the next scene, when the man is driving, he is mentally going over the directions “Wanda” gave him.
That stopped me, and I went back to read the previous scene again, thinking maybe I missed her name, but no. It wasn’t given. So here I am writing a post and not reading any more of the book right now. Which doesn’t mean I won’t finish it. It really is a good book with engaging characters and a strong plot, but part of me wishes the editing had been more thorough so I wasn’t pulled out of the story.
Maryann Miller is the Managing Editor of WinnsboroToday.com, an online community magazine, and a reviewer for Bloggernews.net and ForeWord Magazine. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.