Thursday, April 25, 2013

Forget that there be dragons out there, mates. Beware of Trolls

I always thought trolls lived under bridges.  That may well be true in fantasy, but not in historical fiction,  historical romance, nor in the mystery thriller genre. They have not hit Sci-Fi yet because they do not understand how to digest it well enough to eat it.

The trolls who threaten our habitat live on Amazon and Goodreads.  They are the folks who read with a red pencil in one hand while they turn pages with the other, careful not to read  for enjoyment,enticing storyline or character development.  These trolls are the undercover word police. They are clones of that First Grade Teacher who loved to knock an A student out of the Spelling Bee because they could not spell disestablishmentarianism or Ulysses. You cannot see them before they strike, but once you have been assaulted, you can unmask  the creature for what he or she is by clicking on his/her (more often a 'her' I have discovered) cybername and you will find that your suspected troll has many other victims besides yourself, but the weapon is the same, the one star rating on Goodreads without a review to explain it, or for the more ambitious troll, an actual review on Goodreads of Amazon that is 1) snide;  2) brutal and  3) usually illustrated by examples of  isolated spelling errors designed to make the writer appear to be an idiot.  As one of my reviewers comments, by pointing out errors that "anyone with half a brain can put aside."

And what is the motive?  Trolls are out to kill Indie Writers. Why? Because they can.  Do you think the traditional publishing houses give a whit if one of their offerings from a best selling writer has spelling errors  and an occasional lapse in subject-verb agreement?  I know two very successful traditionally published writers who have told me that their own complaints to their publsher concerning errors in cover content and interior copy editing went unheeded, and they were told to forget about it and get busy with the next book, to paraphrase Spock, Go Forth and Prosper, or more accurately, Go Forth and Let Us Prosper.

 During the past two years  I have downloaded  647 books to my Kindle library and read all but 13 of them. I find errors in the works of some of my favorite writers, and I do not diss them for an occasional lapse.  When I read another Indie with talent who needs a copy editor or proof reader, or to do a better job of checking facts, I take the time to track him down and share my comments privately. Trolls do not do that.  It diminishes their food supply.

Defending against Trolls is a challenge.The safe way is to avoid using the pathway that goes under the  bridge as a shortcut-- in the language of an Indie, that means stomping out the copy errors, because the only way to kill a troll is to starve it to death.   That may or may not involve hiring an editor.  The best advice I have been given in that area is use an editor but only if you can afford a good one with experience in your genre, references to offer  and a willingness to edit a small sample of your work for free.  Also, if what you need is a proofreader, that is what you should be hiring, not someone with the higher level of expertise of a book doctor.  And there is another message in this little bit of  blogging--if the Trolls can find morsels to devour in your copy, so can you.  

BeforeI decide how best to proceed with my current work in progress. I am going to emulate a Troll. First I am going to read it just as always.  I let my manuscsript sit for 2 weeks; then I read it for content. This is when I prepare to copy edit, which for me is the easy part. This is the time to freeze dry my darlings. ( I never kill them, I just  store them in a file I label 'cryogenics').  Then I spell check and  grammar check, with the caveat that MS Word does not know anything about Marie Stuart's Scotland and will prompt me to fix things that are not broken and overlook what is. After two successive runs in which MSWord thinks I am error free, I make sure that  my auto-correct function is disabled, and I do a line edit.  And I do a line edit.  And I do a line edit.  But because I know there are hungry Trolls awaiting, this time I will wait a week and do a line edit. Then I plan to wait another week, read my final draft from Prologue to Author's notes, and  make decisions about editors.  Because I have a few avid fans who are pressing  me for the next offering in my saga, I may send out some advanaced copies, but I am not going to rush to print.  It's not as if I do not have two other projects to fill the downtime--family first, and second -- there is another book waiting.


  1. Kudos to you for doing good proofing and editing. There are far too many Indie books out there whose authors (and I use that term very loosely) never bother and then wonder why they get less than stellar reviews. The occasional typo is forgivable (though not for a big publishing house and I've blasted one or two in my time for having copy editors asleep on the job). But if every other paragraph contains misspellings and grammatical errors, it thoroughly detracts from the even if the plot is brilliant, the reader can never find it through the maze of errors. And that is sad. Moreover, the plethora of novels out there, self-published and never edited, gives ALL indie writers a black mark....not fair, but true nonetheless.

    What I'm reading here in your post is that editing is JUST AS important as the story. YES YES YES!

  2. I had no idea people would be so mean. I also understand the editing process must be so tedious. I loved reading some of your first offerings, but realize I was unhelpful as far as looking for mistakes that someone would deliberately criticize. That being said, I still can't wait for your next book, but take your time now that you know there are trolls out there.

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