Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fixing the Fixable

In my first proofreading pass for Jealousy & Yams, I found a sentence that read, “We put a put on the building.” Oops. Of course I fixed that as well as the many, many other errors I found. I hope that by the time my other proofers and I are done, the book will be 100% free of mistakes. I can’t guarantee that, but that’s the goal.

Very careful editing and proofreading is not about being nit-picky and it’s not about trying to prove I don’t make mistakes. I absolutely do. It’s about keeping the reader engaged in the story. The reader is kicked out of the dream world of the book when the author says something she didn’t mean to say. I know because it happens to me when I’m the reader. These are some recent examples of it happening to me. Everything in italics is a direct quote from a published work.

When her normal sparkling green eyes lit up, his heart would practically stop. Now, they were a deep, intent brown.
I think the author meant to say normally here, which means usually. Normal means ordinary. Calling someone’s eyes ordinary and sparkling in the same breath feels a little… counterproductive. And just as I’ve gotten over that, those eyes change color. I believe at this point I’m supposed to be appreciating how much the hero likes the heroine’s eyes. But I’m not. I’m wondering if they’ll be blue the next time he looks at her.

When the students handed in their test…
Now I’m wondering why all the students get to work on the same test. That’s not how it worked when I was in school.

The organist began playing. She was thankful it interrupted any further chance of continuing their discussion.
I’m thinking it’s kind of rude for the organist to be happy about interrupting people. Also, since this is the only time in the whole book that the organist is mentioned, I’m surprised that we’re suddenly inside her head.

[She] stood up and began to get her pajamas around.
Around what? The room? I don’t understand why this character is suddenly making a mess or why the narrator is so calm about it.

“This silence treatment is driving me nuts. You went to great links to ignore me today.”
Do they call it a silence treatment on the West coast, or somewhere else I’ve never lived? Even so, if she was on the golf course, how would he know he was being ignored?

…he would have spent doing nothing of great importance to kill time.
Here I simply think someone needs to look up the meaning of kill time. Or possibly the word superfluous.

…more cleavage than was already visual through her satin shirt.
Since I wasn’t reading a fantasy novel, this mention of a woman who apparently sees with her breasts really came out of left field. Yeah, I know she meant visible, but that doesn’t stop the ridiculous image from popping into my head. I’m supposed to be annoyed with this character for being flirty. Instead I’m amusing myself with the different body parts the woman might use to hear.

…she thought about the curly, red-headed, child.
This says that the child is curly, not her hair. I have to pause for a moment to imagine what a curly child would look like.

There was just something about a big, soft-haired pup licking your face that made her cave in to his sweetness.
There are too many pronouns in this sentence. I don’t know who is caving to whose sweetness and I really don’t know what a dog licking my face has to do with anything. I’m not in this story.

Three years of concealed, unadulterated love, hanging in limbo, threatened to ruin his future happiness, should he make the wrong decision.
I don’t know. Should he make the wrong decision? Normally I’d say no because wrong decisions tend to be, you know, wrong. But now that the question is out there I’m going to have to think about it.

“Now that it’s getting sickening; what’s the problem?”
I’m going to guess that the problem has to do with something getting sickening. I don’t know what that means, but it sounds like a problem. Even within the context of the book, I had no idea what this sentence was supposed to say. I can only assume that autocorrect is to blame.

I’m not naming these authors or their books because I’m trying to make a point without embarrassing anyone. (I will, however, say that it only took two books to find this many examples and that I cut a few when the post was getting too long.) My point of course is how distracting it is to try to read a book full of typos. I hope I’m careful enough to do readers the favor of telling the story I intend to tell. There will still be people who don’t enjoy my books and those people are entitled to their opinions. My hope is to have removed all the issues that are not a matter of opinion. Using enormous in place of huge is subjective; using effect in place of affect is not.