bad editing

A Writer’s Voice – The Shepherd’s Crown

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Many apologies for my extended absence this time. I still don’t want to talk about it though. Life happens all the time, to everyone, and whining doesn’t do much for me most of the time. Onward and forward is my preferred go-to. My other go-to is reading. I’ve read some fabulous books these past months, which I will post reviews for later-ish, as well as doing a big comment catch up, but for now I’m thinking about how unique us scribblers are.

Real readers are a discerning bunch. They’re just as much of a tribe as writers are, and it’s not easy to pull the wool over their eyes. They know what their favourite authors sound like. They know what the worlds in their favourite books look and feel like. They recognise the voices coming off the pages, and a lot of the time, if those voices don’t seem quite right, they will go to a lot of trouble to investigate and find out why. A lot of readers can research a lot of writers under the table. Sometimes they will be outraged when they find out the reason for their suspicion and dispense with a one star whopper of a scathing review. But sometimes they’ll just have a good cry, and keep a ten star review forever in their heart when they learn the reason for a book that doesn’t sound or feel as it should in some places.

Reading The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett was a very strange experience for me, and to begin with had me thinking that the publishers should have distributed the original unfinished manuscript to some of his die-hard fans to have a go at before sending it to professional editors. Any professional editor that read the finished book would probably have had a couple of issues anyway, even if they’d never read any other Discworld book before, but still, I thought that a couple of us Pratchett groupies would have done a better job at putting words in some of the character’s mouths. But then I completely changed my mind. The Shepherd’s Crown is perfect exactly as it is.

The thing is, it is full of Pratchett, and reading it from cover to cover, knowing that it is his final book—his swan song—was one of the most moving experiences for me precisely BECAUSE of the places where his voice was missing. It broke my heart, but in a comforting way. It was the only Discworld book that made me cry more than it made me laugh. I don’t want to put any spoilers here, but there was one huge thing that happened in the beginning of the book that was so right (even if it would have been fleshed out a-la-Pratchett a whole lot more if he had had the time to finish this book) for this final tale. You can just see “her” settling down next to him wherever he is now, nodding, accepting a cup of tea, and then heading off into whatever adventures are happening in that new to them world.

I haven’t posted a review for this one on Amazon or Goodreads yet, but I have read a lot of the ones already there, and they are so poignant and loving. How could any Terry Pratchett lover post a bad review for The Shepherd’s Crown? Of course I give it ten out of five stars, and of course I’ll read it again, just as I do all of his other books. A most fabulous and fitting end to the writing of a true legend.

It does just go to show though, how very powerful a brilliant writer’s voice can be. In my “day job” editing the books of Indie authors, I try to be as gentle as possible when it comes to their very unique voices, even if my fingers burn to advise a change to something that I would never dream of writing myself. Yonks ago, when eBooks were still only science-fiction, I remember being about twenty pages into The Running Man by Richard Bachman, when I thought, “This is Stephen King!”, and I was right. You can’t pull the wool over real readers’ eyes, and you really shouldn’t try to.