life, writing

He Said, She Said

I’m facing an author’s inner frustration today. Got any advice?

I write character driven stories rather than plot driven. This means the reader must be able to feel the emotions of the main characters.

What if every time my characters spoke their dialogue I didn’t write their body language, their tone of voice, or their facial expression? What if I simply put, “he said,” or “she said?” Could you understand what they’re going through? Would you feel their pain?

I found a book in a drawer that I’d forgotten I bought some time ago that was a featured sale at Barnes & Noble. I never buy unless the plot intrigues me, and I at least skim through the writing skill of the author first. I must’ve forgotten to skim this one.

To be fair, I haven’t read much of it yet. But, I flipped through the majority of the pages to find “he said” and “she said” not sprinkled throughout, but a downright torrential rain. Within two pages I counted the word “said” used as dialogue tags fifteen times. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get through this with those distracting “saids.”

What bothered me most about this was that the book is published by a HarperCollins imprint, which is agent submission only. Don’t the editors over there clean that crap up?

I looked up the author. I’ve never heard of her before, but apparently she is a well-established YA author. Perhaps that’s why they don’t lookover her work as tediously anymore (or did they ever)? They figure fans will buy it regardless?

These authors who land big publishers are more respected than a self-published author like me, and yet they put out something like this book?

Now, I know that self-published authors can be a problem as well. I ran into a few of them who had joined my writer’s critique group when I lived in Florida. They felt they had an idea for a novel or a personal story to tell so they wrote it and uploaded it to Amazon without a second look. They weren’t crazy about the hardcore critiquing we did in our group and didn’t last long with us.

So, I can understand why some might be leery of self-published authors. And I likely have mistakes in mine that weren’t caught by my editor or me. But what makes the big publishers any better if they put out novels like the one I’m referencing?

For me, being an author is like being an unique fish in a sea the size of the entire earth, hoping to find other fish who are like me and enjoy the types of stories I like to read and write.

I just felt the need to express this frustration. Have you ever found a large issue like this from a big publisher?


10 thoughts on “He Said, She Said”

  1. I’ve seen many sides to this issue. There’s no easy answer. Yes, I have seen great self-published books and great traditionally published books. I’ve seen crap on both sides as well. As for publishers, sometimes they don’t have the personnel or the schedules to do much with the books acquired. I had two weeks to edit a book for a publisher. I did the best that I could. But the schedule did not change to allow more time. That happens a lot at publishers. Sometimes I’ve been given more time. And the pandemic added to the chaos with editorial layoffs. HarperCollins has several pubiishing jobs listed. (I checked recently.) So that means they probably didn’t have enough editors working on these books.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi L. Since you do this type of work, I was wondering your thoughts on this. It’s difficult enough to get publishers to read submissions, so with being low on personnel, it’s gotta be so much worse. Thanks for sharing this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t know anything about publishing of any kind, but I like to read, and in my experience, some of the big publisher books are total dreck while there are really good independent authors who can’t seem to get one of those big publisher contracts at all.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lynette. I don’t know why authors desire the big traditional publishers when they put out books with such problems in the writing. Thanks for reading about my frustration. Oh, and yes, thanks for the kind words on the beach photo. That was, of course, the beach I used to frequent when I lived in Florida and got a chance to drive out there.
        Side note: We didn’t move close to the coast for fear of hurricanes.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so right! A pre-publishing cleanup is necessary for all authors – indie and others. I don’t understand anyone publishing a book without first having a professional copy-edit done, but I also agree with you that some of the traditional publishers would do well to check on the quality and competence (or perhaps, diligence) of their company copy-editors. No copy-editor is perfect, but some of the work that passes for a copy-edit is pretty bad. Not all, but some.
    Maybe the companies are cutting corners. I know that a lot of indie writers cut the copy-editing completely because of the financial cost, but often they pay for it in the cost to their reputation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Anneli. This book was published a few years ago (can’t remember exactly). I’m sorry, but to be one of the big-time traditional publishers, they should NOT have a deluge of the word “said” for dialogue tags. I mean, a few, okay, but there must be 100s. It bothers me that people like you and I work so hard to clean things up and we aren’t as respected because we aren’t published by a traditional publishers. Just aggravating. 😠

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.