Errors Happen, no matter how careful you are.
I’ve done a series of posts on Cleaning Up Our Manuscripts but the truth of the matter is, Stuff Happens. THEN, when I’d read an author’s book and find an error, I’d think, “An error! Couldn’t someone catch that? I mean Reeaaaly.” I lifted my naïve arrogant eyebrow over it. The truth also is that editors at publishing houses are busy. The job isn’t what it used to be, at least I understand it to be this way. Authors need to take more and more responsibility for many things, and sending clean work to the editor/publisher/agent is one of them. I’m proud of how clean my manuscript is by time I send it—and they are happy to get my cleaned manuscript. Still. Stuff Happens.
Before I go on, folks, this absolutely does not excuse sloppy lazy work. I’m talking about the stuff that seems to hide in an author’s manuscript despite hard diligent work.
Author writes the manuscript draft. Then author begins re-writes. That means things most certainly will change and if they don’t, well . . . they probably should, really. During these first few “read throughs” of the manuscript, errors are found, but not only that, scenes/details change, and those scene/detail changes may affect/effect something that happens later on. In subsequent “go throughs” these should be found, one hopes.
Author reads manuscript repeatedly, fiddles, tweaks, and then is ready to send it to the editor at the publishers for them to do their thing. The ms is sent and the Author then waits, sweating, hoping the editor likes the work. What? You ask. Back up, you say. But, don’t they already know what the book is about? Don’t you already have a contract at that point? Well, thing is, they haven’t read the entire manuscript. So, all that work you did could be for naught if the editor thinks it doesn’t work. So far, I’ve been lucky in that respect.
*whew; wiping brow*
So, let’s say the book works. The editor makes his/her marks and/or suggestions/questions and sends those comments back to the Author. The Author begins reading/tweaking again based on those found errors/suggestions/comments—maybe there is a big change in scene(s) or maybe there are only little nitty things. Author may not agree with something and defends it, or Author may agree, or author agrees to give in. While going through the manuscript with the editor notes, Author also feels compelled to make a few more little tweaks. Author sends it back to editor at pub house.
Then comes the galley proof, the “This is it. You best find any lingering errors because all chances are gone after this.”
So Author pants and sweats, and once again, scours the manuscript. Reading it line by line to catch an error that may have sneaked by. Perhaps she has a friend or a spouse read it as well, just in case. What shocks Author is she/he reads the pages after spouse/friend does, and even though they have scoured it, and the editor has scoured it, the Author still finds sneakity sneakers in there! How how how? Author wails. How could there possibly be any errors at all? The work has been read and read and read and read—and by multiple people. Line by line. Carefully. Author really feels exceptionally nervous about this. However, deadline is deadline and fingers are crossed, so are eyes. Exhaustion sets in.
Then comes the Final Galley. Author can look at it quickly but there is no time for a slow line-by-line reading. There is time to make sure everything looks okay at a glance: Margins, headings, paragraphs, etc, and maybe a quick flip through, but that’s it, because to make changes at this point is a pain in the arse for the editor, so you better have found them all before this. And editors have more than one author they are working with so asking for changes at this point is frowned on and big arse acher. Really, by now, it’s a matter of just glancing over it to make sure nothing looks wonky.
The publishing house sends it to print. How the book actually goes to print and comes out a book with a cover and words inside that Author and Readers will hold in their hands is a mystery to this author. Author quivers over the chance of some weird glitch in code that could happen that wasn’t caught in the galley. What if a margin or two is off? What if a page is missing? Or what if when making a hurried change in the galley proof, Author made an error, or changed something that affects/effects something later on, or deleted a word that shouldn’t have been deleted or inserted one that shouldn’t have been, or what if editor fixed something and it was a wrong fix or or or, things went so fast, the deadline rushed up so quickly . . . oh! Dear! But, there’s nothing to be done about it once it goes to print. It will be discovered only upon reading the final published version where some one may point them out with glee or with pity or with “oh dear how embarrassing for this author” or with their own naive arrogance, or et cetera.
Author gets his/her published book and reads it, hoping there are no blaring errors. Hoping she/he and the editor have been very very lucky—because luck has a lot to do with it too, along with hard work and a keen eye.
So you see, my friends, with all the back and forth going on, with the changes and deletions and insertions and thises and thatses that are flying around fast and furious once that manuscript is sent to the editor at the pub house, it really is a miracle if a manuscript goes out without an error. I see this Now. See how much work goes into creating a clean and lovely manuscript, but I also see that no matter how many times I read a “cleaned” version of it, I always found something else that either needed to be changed, or simply could be changed to make it better. The first one scares me much more than the second one.
Knowing what I know NOW versus THEN, I am much more understanding to authors.
Yup, my arrogant naivety had its ass kicked by reality.