Loading... Please wait...

DBPlog

Consistency is Survival by Michelle Levigne

Posted by

If you haven't picked this up by now, I make my living as a freelance editor. That means publishers send me chapters or entire books that they are going to publish, and my job is to proofread, to make sure the books fit the publisher's guidelines and standards, to fix the mechanics (grammar, spelling, punctuation, POV, verb tense) and ask questions when there are holes in the story.

One of my big pet peeves, maybe the biggest one, is CONSISTENCY.

Character names: I edited a YA book where, on the first page, one character was referred to as Mom, Mummy, Mother, Timmy's mother, Mrs. Wilson, Grace Wilson ... see where I'm going? If the reader isn't paying attention, she'll think there are FIVE different characters on the page with Timmy. Uh, wouldn't that be confusing to you? I'm not saying that other characters in the story can't refer to that person by different names -- that reflects their relationship with the character. Timmy sure wouldn't call his mother "Mrs. Wilson" or "Grace," but wouldn't he refer to her by one name? He wouldn't switch back and forth between "Mom," "Mummy," and "Mother," would he? You, as narrator, should refer to the character by the same name, so readers know all the time who you're referring to. And stay consistent through the whole book. I edited another book where a character was referred to as Dr. Smithers for the first three-quarters of the book -- then all of a sudden the narrator started talking about Andrew. Who was Andrew? When did he enter the story? It took three pages of wondering before another character referred to Andrew as Dr. Andrew Smithers, when it finally clicked.

DON'T CONFUSE YOUR READERS!

Another consistency issue I face a lot deals with mechanics, and especially editing books by Christian authors. In one paragraph, they reference a Bible verse as 2 Corinthians 6:12 -- a paragraph later they write the reference as II Peter 1:5 -- then a paragraph later the references is the book of Daniel, second chapter, verse twelve. Or the author puts the Bible verse in italics and indents from both sides with the reference after the verse one-third of the time, and then the rest of the time leaves off the italics or the indents or both, and sometimes puts the reference before the verse.

See the inconsistencies there? Decide on the format you're going to use for referencing things like Bible verses, or books and authors you're quoting from, and STICK WITH IT. Say you quote from an author, and directly after the quote you insert a footnote with the bibliography information in it. Fine. The next time you quote someone, don't put that bibliography info in parentheses. BE CONSISTENT. Either all footnotes, or all parentheses.

Another issue: Capitalizing pronouns for God. I prefer to capitalize, as a measure of respect. He, Him, His, etc. Too many times when I'm editing someone, they start out lowercasing the pronouns for God, then one chapter is capitalized, then they go back to lowercase. Usually when that happens I stick with the formatting the book started out with. But what do I do when the author starts out with both capitalization and lowercasing in the same paragraph -- or even the same sentence? Usually when that happens, I tell the author: Be consistent. I can't decide what the majority is, so YOU have to decide and make the corrections. I can just imagine they don't like that.

When you're being published by a traditional publisher, there are standards you have to follow. Some publishers don't like sentences that start with conjunctions, or a publisher will insist that all pronouns referencing God be capitalized, and another refuses to allow that, and another publisher wants 1 and 2 in front of Peter, Corinthians, Thessalonians, etc., while another insists on I and II. That's fine -- you follow the rules, and if you don't want to follow the rules, get another publisher.

But in self-publishing ... YOU are the publisher. You establish the standards. Once the mechanics are taken care of, it's all up to you. But PLEASE be CONSISTENT. As someone once said, "It's all right if you're wrong, as long as you're consistently wrong." In fact, I think people are less likely to notice the silly mistakes if you don't keep switching back and forth.

Make sense?

View Comments


Who Me, Naked? by Esther MItchell

Vampires may be a red flag category in paranormal fiction, but there's another creature that suffers even more from being under-researched and inconsistently presented. This is the fate of the theriomorph - what writers have taken to lovingly butchering as "were-(insert animal here)." Without getting into the nitty-gritty of why I don't like the term "were-whatever," theriomorphs are one [...]

Read More »


The Perilous Pike by Esther Mitchell

The Perilous Pike: Arcane Artifacts and More in Paranormal Fiction It goes without saying that when you're making up a Fantasy world, you get to make your own set of magical rules, creatures, and artifacts. What apparently needs saying (perhaps repeating) is that when you're crafting paranormal fiction set in this world, you're playing by a set [...]

Read More »


Read For Your Career by Michelle Levigne

Read For Your CareerBesides learning the mechanics of grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure and POV, the best advice I can give you is to READ books about writing. And not just books about writing, but books written by people who have PROVEN they know what they're doing.Yeah, there are probably a lot of people out there who can offer you [...]

Read More »


Poof of Smoke: Paranormal Creatures and Natural Phenomenon by Esther Mitchell

This next segment is part of what I like to call the paranormal author’s catalogue of natural disasters. These are often overlooked by readers, mostly because as a culture we’ve become programmed to accept this incorrect information, as well as to believe the impossible to be not only possible, but required. What are these natural disasters? Put [...]

Read More »


Plotters Vs. Panthers by Michelle Levigne

Ah, yes, the great debate -- should you plot or should you write by the seat-of-the-pants? Both sides of the debate can get rather rabid, even nasty, advocating for what they believe is the right way to write that novel.You know what? It's THEIR right way, and just because it's the way your favorite writer writes doesn't necessarily mean [...]

Read More »


Publishing is War! and The Right Word vs The Almost Right Word by Michelle Levigne

Publishing is WarWhen you join the military, do they send you onto the battlefield with spitballs instead of guns?So why do people who decide to be writers slap words onto the page and never take the time to polish, proofread, fix grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, formatting, etc., before they send those words to a publisher?Yes, I know what [...]

Read More »


Hodag! by Paisley Kirkpatrick

Since we've lived in Tomahawk, Wisconsin, we've been seeing statues of the Hodag everywhere in Rhinelander, a town 18 miles northeast of us. I learned the Hodag is a folkloric animal of the state of Wisconsin, but was stunned when our daughter visited us for the first time and saw one of the statues. She blurted out everything one would [...]

Read More »


I Love You, I'll Kill You: Paranormal Love Affairs by Esther Mitchell

This is a fun area, likely to get a lot of protest from the Paranormal Romance community simply because it’s one of the least-researched problems of paranormal fiction. But after reading hundreds of books in which “Buffy” (an exaggeration for example only) falls for the very creature s/he is hunting so avidly, I decided something had to be done. [...]

Read More »


Lessons by Elise Phillips

Well y'all. 2016 is almost over. It's been a year of ups and downs that's certain. I know that for a lot of folks, 2016 was rough. But it was totally my year. It's the first year that I have fully dedicated to writing. Not writing for school. Not writing without any purpose in mind. Nope, I spent the [...]

Read More »