Friday, 14 August 2015

Gophirith's Temporary Retirement

As some folks may already know through my Pelsatia website or my Twitter, I've temporarily retired the print editions of Gophirith of the Mountains today to be revised for typographical reasons. Well, I think this is the place to rant about this decision a bit and what exactly has happened.

I've been working on a German translation of Gophirith of the Mountains, my second self-published book, as I have tweeted about in the past but didn't intend to hype on my blog yet (but I guess it's out now, so bam). It's a tiring and monotonous job and it also requires me to devote the maximum amount of attention to the written words and grammatical structures on the pages. In doing so, I've started to notice typos and similar errors, starting in the first chapter already. That's bad.

Now, it's not like I hadn't proofread it. In fact, after spotting a few typos in my finalised version of Ssalia and the Dragons of Avienot (which have, to my knowledge, been corrected in the ebook version and "value" re-release) and feeling really frustrated that those had made it in, I took good care (or so I thought) to make sure this wouldn't happen again. The editing process for Gophirith of the Mountains involved reading over the whole thing and reworking things many, many times. I wanted to be absolutely sure that it's free of mistakes, since it wasn't going to be edited professionally.

I don't really know what happened. I'm embarrassed, but even more so, I am utterly confused how the mistakes went past me. I had been so careful, yet it took me until I decided to write a translation of the book to notice mistakes that should have never been in the original release. Alright, so mistakes happen. I'm only a dragon, after all. The more I found, the more I wanted to revise the book, and I promised as much on my Twitter early on. However, I was prepared not to make a big deal of it and leave the existing version in place for the time being, since these were merely typos.

And that's when I saw it.

The placeholder.

A short line of underscores to be filled in with a name later. I leave placeholders like that in my books while writing them to return to them and fill them in during the editing process at the latest. This one wasn't filled in and it boggles my mind how such a thing could have remained in the book. One single word, but completely unacceptable. Inexcusable.

There were absolutely no alternatives for me at that point. To my knowledge, lack of promotion and perhaps the high cost of print-on-demand means that no one has bought the book in print yet (unlike the digital release), but I certainly did not intend for anyone who may do so in the future to end up having to suffer through a book with such a critical and careless-seeming mistake in it. I rushed to my Lulu account and retired the print editions, announcing it on my Twitter and website, and that was that.

How could this happen in the first place? I haven't the slightest idea. I run a search for all underscores before I finalise my books because they have no legitimate reason to ever be there and will be placeholders. And yet this.

I'm revising the book simultaneously while I write the translation, and when I'm done translating I'll probably proofread it again just to be extra sure. I hope to be done with that within a month if I don't run into major difficulties. Once it's done, it will go up again with the label "second edition" and the mistakes fixed. I can also take the opportunity to brighten the illustrations a bit because they're kind of dark the way they are printed. The ebook version is still available right now because I'm under the impression that people will be able to download newer revisions of it once they have purchased any version at all (correct me if I'm wrong). I think my writing is worth a better editing job and I'm going to give it one.

And if anyone is wondering (which I'm sure someone has been), the name to insert is "lealuck" on page 117.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Purple Without Rhyme or Reason

All the skin-covered digits on Tamara's hands, located at the ends of her arm-like forelimbs like marvellous verdant leaves at the end of a tree trunk albeit not bearing the same colour nor otherwise resembling the aforementioned, impinged upon the pale, white, pallid, achromic, alabaster-coloured, hard, solid, smooth, three-dimensional bodies of plastic known peradventure more commonly with more common awareness to modern common English-speaking inhabitants of such regions as the glorious nation shaped and alas! formerly inhabited by King Arthur, the once and future king, as keys on what shall thus be known as her keyboard, composed thus of the words key and board, in the manner of a butterfly settling on a luxurious burgundy, yet ever slightly so slightly mahogany-coloured flower on an incandescent daylight session of summertide in the northern hemisphere of a planet called Earth, or Terra, orbiting the sun of the Milky Way galaxy, that same magnificent region of the magnificent universe that this magnificent story also taketh place in, in order to type fan fiction on its tiny, small, little butterfly-proportioned laptop, and letters began to form words began to form sentences began to form paragraphs began to form this post on her computer screen in utter disregard for the reader's ability to make any sense of it.

I recently made a post about using repetition in order to artificially stretch a story and what to rather do instead. Well, here's another thing not to do, and as the above paragraph shows if you made it through it (in which case: congratulations), it's likely worse. This thing is fortunately not as easy to do out of habit; much rather, it tends to be the result of too much goodwill. This phenomenon is the result of taking a decent narrative and polishing and enhancing it until it's no longer decent. It's the epitome of shooting so far past the goal that the story lands in the middle of a crocodile-infested marsh in Equatorial Guinea and gives the crocodiles a stomachache because it's so convoluted and full of nonsensical metaphors. It's called purple prose.

Now, it's obviously a matter of taste how detailed one would like the descriptions to be. I'm not personally opposed to elaborating on the various aspects of what's happening and do it a lot myself to control the pace of the story and provide interesting little tidbits for those who care. I actually enjoy reading information that is ultimately pointless to the plot, but helps paint a more vivid picture of the setting, characters and events. However, this is exactly what purple prose generally does not.

So what's the difference then? When does the prose become "purple"?

The answer, I believe, is when it ceases to convey anything meaningful - and I do mean "meaningful" and not "important". Small details may be unimportant, but they still describe something within the story. Prose is purple not because it goes into detail, but because the elaborations are all on the stylistic level and end up stretching it way beyond its purpose of conveying information. What makes it long is not what is written, but how it's written, and that's the point at which - in storytelling - it becomes a problem, in my opinion. The focus has shifted from informing the reader to trying to perform literary acrobatics in a context where it's simply not desirable

That is not to say the writing has to be crudely simplistic, of course. Indeed, an utter lack of polish is not generally desirable and "dumbing down" the style can be perceived just as negatively. However, there needs to be a balance, and the narrative has to remember that it's intended to actually carry a meaning. Add to much decor and it detracts from the meaning. If the paragraph is 1% meaning and 99% embellishment, it becomes a chore to read, and in proportion to that, the reward most likely isn't worth it.

Oh, and here's a better version of the paragraph from the beginning:

Tamara began typing on her keyboard to compose her newest blog post.