This is a guest post from Gerard de Marigny, the author of the geopolitical thriller, The Watchman of Ephraim. I personally think that good self-publishers employ freelance editors and beta-readers to ensure a quality product is published. I used 2 pro editors for Pentecost and urge all self-publishers to budget for editing. It is critical to put out a book you can be proud of.
There's a difference between the ‘art' of writing and the ‘craft' of writing. Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder … but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft.
Are there various, correct ways to employ craft? Yes, there are many different styles of craft that writers employ – just as there are many different ways to build furniture. For instance, some furniture is created by machines, with nary a human hand touching them, while other furniture is completely hand-carved and hand crafted. Yet both can turn out a chair in which you can sit.
With works of fiction, in order for writers to express themselves, a certain amount of artistic ‘license' must be given to them. Artistic license allows writers to tell the story they want to tell, in the way they want to tell it. Many of the greatest fiction writers who ever lived used their artistic license to tell the greatest stories ever told. In so doing, they have broken grammatical rules, used misspellings and omissions and with dialog, they have used all styles of vernacular. From Shakespeare's old English, regionally-inspired colloquialisms, to Mark Twain's characters' distinctive southern drawl, writers have brought their characters and stories alive by breaking the rules.
That is the art of writing. Except in the most extreme cases, art should not be censured. It should not be altered, except by its creators. Editors, in their capacity as such, should never alter, modify, re-write, re-construct or otherwise interfere with a writer's art. Editors may argue that they can make stories better, more readable, more understandable, clearer and ultimately more enjoyable by interfering – to which one can reply that they can indeed do so – but as co-writers, not editors. Editing is a function of craft. Changing the art of writing makes one a co-creator of that work – hence, it makes one a co-writer. Whether the original creator would be open to allowing an editor to become a co-writer is up to him or her. It is, after all, their creation.
Then there is the craft of writing …
While art is defined by its beauty, craft is defined by its function. The purpose of a writer's craft is to make the writer's written work functional. How does one make a written work functional? Well, what is the purpose of any written work … to be read – but to be more specific, the purpose of any written work is to be understood. Making a written work more functional entails making it more understandable. It can be accomplished by the proper utilization of grammatical rules and by the proper implementation and spelling of words.
The purpose of the editing function is precisely focused on those aspects of craft, but here's where the dilemma occurs.
Where does craft end and art begin?
Writers have one answer and editors another. There is definitely a gray, hazy, overlapping area between art and craft – but then again, there are also clearly defined segments of both. If we only focus on those clearly-defined segments, we can bring clarity to the dilemma, and in so doing, we can improve our written works by making them more functional … more understandable to readers.
Specifically for self-publishing this dilemma raises a number of problems. With traditional publishing, a writer signs a contract that states verbatim that the publisher has the right to change, modify, and ask for re-writes for, etc., any written work the writer creates. In that way, contractually, the publisher is assigning a measure of artistic license to themselves. Whether that is a good thing or bad thing and if TRADPUB does a good job of respecting the difference between art and craft is another topic and out of the scope of this piece. However, I think it can be agreed upon by most that, and especially in relation to self-published works, TRADPUB generally publishes high-quality works.
What about self-published works?
The term self-publishing itself answers the question and in there lies the dilemma. Self-publishing means that the creator of a piece is also its publisher. In TRADPUB, the editing function is spread across both writer and publisher. Both take responsibility, yet ultimate approval lies with the publisher. With SELFPUB, there is no two-house congress. SELFPUB is more an absolute monarchy where the writer is King or Queen. There simply is no one that oversees a self-published author; no one to police his/her works; and no one to mandate that unless a certain level of quality is achieved with respect to the CRAFT of written piece, it simply will NOT BE PUBLISHED!
So far, SELFPUBBERS have done a terrible job of their publishing responsibilities! Just take a look at even the summaries of the latest self-published works, filled with grammatical errors, typos and omissions, and you'll see that leaving the policing up to the SELFPUBBERS isn't working out too well. This SELFPUBBER personally is championing the creation of an association that could establish and maintain a Quality Standard … but that's a topic for another article.
For now readers will have to deal with our dilemma – but the self-publishing community better wake up soon and deal with this dilemma … or we won't have any readers left!
Gerard de Marigny is the author of the geopolitical thriller, _The Watchman of Ephraim_, Book 1 of THE WATCHMAN OF EPHRAIM series. The sequel, _Signs of War_ is scheduled for release in September 2011. Gerard de Marigny resides in the beautiful foothills of Las Vegas, NV with his wife Lisa and his four sons. When not bending an arm with friends at the local pub, he's putting to paper the stories and characters that are alive in his mind.
You can find Gerard and all his social networking contacts at www.GerarddeMarigny.com
You can buy his books on Amazon here.
Top image: Flickr CC Selloutboy