So many tasks can fall under the umbrella of editing: checking for plot inconsistencies, clunky writing, cutting down word count, add to word count, finding typos, repeated phrases, overused words…The list goes on.
Most of these tasks really might be defined as revising.
This month, editing has been on my mind as I’ve been going over my manuscript, FIRELIGHT, as my publisher gets it ready for printing.
Here, when I speak of editing, I’m talking about reading the manuscript at the pace of a snail to find typos, dropped words, and any other bugaboo errors that might be there.
Let me preface this with the following – since the completion of the first draft, FIRELIGHT has been read by:
Eight beta readers
My editor’s assistant
My editor’s boss
A copy editor
Out of that group, me, my agent, my editor and my editor’s assistant have read the manuscript multiple times. Frankly, I’ve read it so many times, I could probably recite the book from memory.
Last week, I read the type set pages for final approval. What does this mean? Well, this is the version that has gone through editorial revisions until the story itself is approved, and then has been picked over by the copy editor for errors (as well as by me and my editor). This is the cleanest version possible –erm, in theory. My job here is to do a final check for any last bugaboos. At the same time, a proofreader is going over it as well.
Okay, so remember how many people have read it? Yeah, I found about ten errors. These ranged from dropped words -such as a missing “in” or “the”; typos –the insidious type in which I used peak instead of peek- and inconsistencies –such as one character’s eyes went from brown to blue (eep!); and the worst, a missing line of dialogue. Blinks.
This is AFTER a group of people have combed the book over.
As it was my last chance to fix anything, I can assure you, I went over this book SLOWLY, trying to be as thorough as possible. Then I turned it in.
And what happened? Well, the proofreader found this lovely little word flip: “God good” instead of “Good God.”
I had to laugh. I was utterly blind to that word flip. As was a dozen other people.
Do I have a point here? Well, yes. (g) My point is that it is damn hard to have an error free book. As writers, we tend to see what we expect to see, making it hard for us to spot our own errors, because our mind fills in what should be there. Readers may do this as well, especially after multiple reads, and especially when they are fast readers.
That doesn’t mean I’m advocating errors in books. Simply, that while going through this process, it really hit me as to how much work goes into putting a book together. It truly is a group effort.
Strangely, I also find comfort in knowing that we are all human, and thus susceptible to human error.
ETA: Speaking of typos. This week, a typo in Susan Andersen's ebook version of Baby, I'm Yours was making the rounds on twitter.
'He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shitted on the ground.'
The typo is laugh out loud hilarious, yet who doesn't feel for her? Personally, I just love Andersen's response to it, and the fact that she addressed the typo herself:
"Shifted - he SHIFTED! I just cringe when I think of the readers who have read this. Hopefully, it's only in the iBook version that I bought, but if it's in yours as well, please let me know. I've contacted the editor and pray this will be promptly fixed."
Bravo to you, Ms. Andersen. :)