Editing books

Found on Good Experience:

The phrase that got me was like a stone in my shoe - noticeable at first, then irritating, then prompting outbursts.

It was "his heart in his mouth."

This is how Follett described a character who was nervous or anxious or frightened. It’s not the most refined metaphor to begin with, but there it was – and then a few pages later, someone else’s heart was in his mouth – and then, next chapter, another heart in another mouth – and again – more hearts, more mouths – until I finally finished the book and thought, just how many times did Follett use that ONE metaphor in a single book?

Which brings me back to the Kindle. Digital technology changes the experience of reading books. What might otherwise have taken hours, to scour the text for an irritating phrase, now takes just a few seconds.

And the answer is: 13. Actually 17, if you count the four instances of “her heart in her mouth.” (It seems that men are, on the whole, a lot hungrier for coronary snacks.)

Unfortunately it happens, it is not something we pay attention too - really, these cliche expression are the least of our problems. By the time we're done with a book we are dog tired. This is why I don't edit my own books, I have a hound for such things - my wife, who bites when she spots these smelly chunks of literary rawhide. My editor said he's never seen a manuscript edited this well...

1 comment:

  1. Follett is a really good writer regardless. I like his Pillars of the Earth more than his thrillers, and maybe he wouldn't pass a creative writing course, but people vote with their feet.