I originally wrote this post for the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ blog, but I hope readers of my own blog will also find it entertaining. I certainly enjoyed writing it!
(This is an abridged version of the original post, but you can read it in full on the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ website here.)
Editors: Unsung Superheroes Who Save Authors from Themselves
No matter how well authors polish a manuscript before submitting them for professional editing, and regardless of how dazzling their prose, a good editor will always polish it further. In true superhero style, editors and proofreaders daily avert disaster, and I’m glad I’ve secured the services of two brilliant professionals to help me with my books, Alison Jack and Helen Baggott.
Classic Errors Spotted by Editors
Here are some typical errors recently shared by authors and editors on ALLi’s private member forum, spotted either in their own books or in books by other writers.
Continuity errors are too easy for an author to miss:
two unrelated characters sharing the same surname
eyes or hair spontaneously changing colour from one page to the next
a character’s medication changing from one chapter to the next
someone at the theatre sitting in mid-air (in the front row of the circle, they leaned forward to tap the person in front on the shoulder)
a character entering a flat twice without leaving in between times
a person landing at JFK before the flight has taken off from Heathrow (and in a different model of plane from the one in which the journey began)
Global search-and-replace can trigger disasters:
changing Carol’s name to Barbara was fine until the carol singing scene
swapping “ass” for “butt” resulted in a case of embarrbuttment
There are also comical typos that a spellchecker will let through because the words are correctly typed, but the meaning is wrong in the context:
a bowel full of sauerkraut left on the balcony to ferment
a female character becoming enraptured by the scent of a man’s colon
a trip on an udderless boat
the stoking of cats
an acute angel
the Suntan of Brunei
Serious Consequences (Bad Reviews) Averted by Editors
Author Geoffrey Ashe, in The Art of Writing Made Simple, classifies readers into three different groups:
the critical reader
the lazy reader who won’t make an effort
the one who has the eye for the comic or incongruous
If you’re an author, it’s worth keeping all three in mind while you’re writing and self-editing.
While an indulgent reader of the third kind might simply smile and move on, it’s also very easy these days for dissastisfied readers to post scathing reviews online, deterring others from buying your books in future.
So although this is a light-hearted post, the message is a serious one on the importance of the editor’s role in helping you publish your books to professional standards – or indeed anything else that you happen to be writing for public consumption, including blogs of business reports for work.
In Praise of MY Editor and Proofreader
While ALLi policy precluded me from giving a shout-out in the original post to the professional editorial people that I employ for my own books, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Alison Jack (www.alisonjack-editor.co.uk) and Helen Baggott (www.helenbaggott.co.uk) for regularly saving me from myself when editing and proofreading books for me.
I should add that this post has been edited only by me, so any errors it contains are entirely my responsibility – and proof of how dependent I am on the likes of Alison and Helen!
Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.
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