Back in December, Greg from Book Riot posted about the four bookish phrases he would like to see improved upon in book reviews:
A friend once old me about a creative writing professor he had in college who would bracket large swaths of a story in red, and simply write “Do Better.” It wasn’t specific, but he said it sure got his attention. When I hear the following four very common phrases in book-related discussions, that’s the first thought on my mind — arrrrrrgh, do better! It’s not that these phrases are wrong, per se. It’s just that, with a little more effort, something much more meaningful could be said.
I’d like to take a few minutes to go over the four phrases Greg chose, and why I think they’re not as bad as he seems to think. And I’m going to work backwards through his list, just because I’m crrrrazy like that! Or because I’m saving the best for last. It’s definitely one of those two options.
1. “This novel needed an editor.”
If there were unnecessary digressions, explain why they’re unnecessary. If there’s superfluous plot arcs, think about what the author was trying to accomplish by including them, and then think again if they’re truly superfluous.
Even after explaining himself, I’m not sure that I understand why Greg is so upset with this phrase. He seems quite determined to believe that most people who use this phrase are commenting on the length of a novel, saying with a better editor it wouldn’t have been so hefty. While on it’s own, I might agree with Greg that this phrase is questionable, with a little explanation as to why one feels this novel needed an editor, I see nothing wrong with including this phrase in one’s review. In my own reviews, if I mention editing it’s generally to refer to the book’s overall polish, or seemingly lack thereof: grammar issues, poor syntax or a lack of direction; it’s quite rare I employ this phrase to discuss the length of a novel. [Read more…]