Well, not so much a problem as a poser. I am in a quandary.
Recently (as regular readers will know) I launched myself into the Tweetgeist and am now a regular, some would say prolific, Twitter. (Some would probably say other, much ruder things, but I am not paying attention to them. ;))
One of the things I like about Twitter is the chance to ‘meet’ people. In the short time I have been on Twitter I have met funny people and sweet people and people, like me, who are working hard at this writing thing and trying to navigate their way through the brave new world that is publishing these days.
My problem relates to the latter. One of the people I have become friendly with is a writer who recently released a self-published novel. (Actually this applies to several people I know on Twitter, but I am thinking of one in particular.)
Because I like this person, I acquired the novel in e-book form and read it.
And now, I don’t know what to do.
It’s not that it’s dreadful – not at all. There is a lot to like about it. The story is strong and the characters interesting. There were a few times when I thought the female protagonist was too stupid to live and times when I thought that the male protagonist was a pain in the proverbial, but I am quite prepared to believe that this is just my preference, rather than a weakness in the story. (The writer is a good bit younger than me and is likely to have more patience for stupidity in the pursuit of lerv than I do!) And there was a twist in the tail of the story, that I didn’t see coming at all, which was admirable.
This book needed outside editing. There were several elements that would have been fixed as a matter of course by an editor which ruined the reading experience for me.
For example, there were random changes of point of view. I have no objection to omniscient point of view storytelling. I think it can be wonderful and I regard the current prejudice against it as a fashion which will, I hope, pass. But that’s not what this was. This was sudden, unheralded changes from deep third person point of view into the point of view of a minor character. They were random and jarring to the point where occasionally you didn’t know who was thinking what.
There were typos. It’s not as if one never sees them in printed books, but they don’t happen with such regularity. It wasn’t unreadable, by any stretch. This work had been proofed, but it is an example of why you should always get someone else to read your finished work for errors. After a while, you just don’t see them yourself.
And on that subject, there was a particular turn of phrase used in this novel that jarred me out of the story every time it was used. It was a way of describing something that is culturally normal for this writer in spoken English – I know because I have heard other people from the author’s country say it. Spoken, it’s fine; just an idiosyncrasy which is more charming than anything. But it is ungrammatical and when written, especially repeatedly, it stuck out and started to irritate me to the point where I couldn’t recall anything else on the pages where it appeared.
There were other things too, but they were deeper, more structural things and they might just have been me being picky. For example, I think a little more exploration of motive would have prevented me thinking the heroine was being stupid – but that’s deep stuff and really the province of a professional fiction editor. I think the story could have been improved, but my argument is not, chiefly, with the story itself.
My problem is with the more superficial things that bounced me out of being immersed in this story. Now, it is entirely possible that these things irritated me more as a writer than they would an average reader. But as a writer, I am now left not knowing what to do.
I know the writer of this novel is serious about their craft. But I also know that their novel is doing quite well and they are very happy about that. So what should I do? Should I bring up these issues, in the interests of improving their work? Or should I just stay quiet, let them enjoy the success they are having and let them think I didn’t read it? And what does it mean for books by other self-publishing mates? Do I have to avoid them altogether, now, to avoid this quandary?
What would you do?
I would really like to know.