Friday, August 7, 2015

Wrong Before The Opening Page—And It Hasn't Even Been Published Yet

By Art Taylor

With my first book coming out in just a few weeks—On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories debuts on September 15—I'm still waiting for full perspective to answer this week's question: "What’s the biggest blunder you made in a manuscript, and did you catch it before publication?" But sadly, I already know of one error that shows up even before page one, and no way now to get it fixed.

In the Acknowledgements section of the book, I note that two of the stories appeared in an earlier, different form in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and I give the dates of each issue: "Rearview Mirror" in the March/April 2010 issue and "Commission" in the May 2014 issue.

...except that it was the May 2015 issue.

The reason I got it wrong? I'd cut and pasted the information from the "selected bibliography" of my work on my own website.

...where I'd also gotten it wrong.

Basically I need an editor for every aspect of my writing life.  Though I corrected the mistake on my website, the book had already gone to the printers, so too late to fix it there. Maybe I'll hand-write the correction for every book I sign....

Going through the editorial process for this book with the folks at Henery Press was enlightening—focusing on larger structural and storytelling issues in the first round before narrowing down to the line-level stuff. Still, it's amazing how many small troubles slip through; even at the printed ARC stage, my final time through the manuscript before publication, I was still catching the occasional misspelling, a missing or repeated word, those types of troublesome details that my own eye too often glosses over. As Tracy hinted at earlier this week, by the time the manuscript gets this far along, we've read it and read it and read it to the point that we don't really see it clearly. And it was at this final point that I wrote and inserted the Acknowledgements—introducing a fresh error in the process.

I don't usually go back and reread my short stories after they're published, because all I see are the sentences and passages I might have written differently if I was doing it again—never a good feeling. So far, however, I've not heard back from any of the readers of those short stories about major errors having crept in. About the biggest I heard was from my own dad, who read my story "A Drowning at Snow's Cut" and pointed out that boaters these days don't use CB radios anymore but VHF—a good point and one that I simply didn't know, since my own boating has been far too limited for far too many years.

If you ask me this question again in just a few weeks, when the book is finally and officially out in the world, there's too good a possibility that I'll be able to provide a laundry list of troubles and errors in response. I sure hope not, but guess we'll see soon enough!

Want to find out for yourself? Here's a half-dozen places below where you can pre-order the book—and if you're in the DC area, you can come to my launch party at One More Page Books on Saturday, September 19, and tell me in person about each place I went wrong. Fun for all!


Art Taylor said...

And, of course, spent this morning fixing some small errors in this very post now that it's gone live....

Paul D. Marks said...

It's always hard to look back on a finished story/book. We'll always find something wrong. Or like you said, a different way of wording something that would be so much better. It can drive you nuts.

Good luck with your new book!

(Boy, this time I got to pick all the pix with surfboards -- no food pix. But now I want to go surfing.)

Susan C Shea said...

Congratulations on the launch of your book, which sounds intriguing - I like the structure. I've been disappointed twice with publishers who don't want me to read past the galley stage, who seem okay with knowing there are or may be fixable errors because it costs money to fix them. If your publisher cares more about quality, count yourself lucky. (Good cover, by the way!)

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Paul and Susan, for chiming in here! Appreciate the good wishes—and the kind words on the cover, Susan!

....though Paul: surfboards? Is this something to do with proving you're not a robot? I only have to click a single box!

Hope y'all are having a fun weekend. :-)

Judy Penz Sheluk, author said...

Art, we were offering the first 4 chapters free of The Hanged Man's Noose before we released. That included the acknowledgments. Finally, one kind reader emailed to say that I'd thanked my "edioter." Kind of funny, now!

Art Taylor said...

That's hilarious, Judy! ...though not funny at the time, I'm sure. Of all the words to misspell.... Thanks for sharing!