Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why Writers Need More Than One Pair Of Eyes...

...preferably on someone else.

There is a certain kind of myopia that develops in writers called "rose-colored glasses" effect.  What it means is that once a writer has written a story and gone over it a few, or several, times their vision suddenly conforms to what was written in the mind and imagination.  Not what actually appeared on the printed page.

It's a rather frightening affliction. Things become invisible.  Like certain words that appear over and over.  And over.  A misspelled character name.  The color of the character's eyes in chapter one changing in chapter eight.  A character getting discharged from the hospital twice without ever having been readmitted.

I discovered I had it when, after my first book, "End of the Road", was published and my husband, Paul, was reading it and discovered a mistake.  A BIG mistake.  No, I'm not going to tell you what it was and I'm not giving a prize to whoever discovers it, so don't feel you have to go hunting for it!  All I know is that, after several drafts and three rounds of text block corrections, I missed something that made me pound my head on my laptop keyboard until little key-shaped squared were imprinted on my forehead.

HOW did I miss it?  Well, it was simple.  I didn't see it.  I read right over it because I already KNEW what it was supposed to say, so my eyes "saw" what I was supposed to have written.  Not what I actually wrote.

Second time around, second book, "No Lifeguard on Duty".  FOUR rounds of text block corrections and it was amazing what my second pair of eyes--Paul--saw that I missed. Every time. Not to mention my inexplicable addiction to ellipses.  Let me impart some wisdom: ellipses are not your friends. Yes, I know I used them in this post already, but be warned--they are like those neighbors you invite in for coffee every day because they seem so interesting and helpful and then they take over your life... and every time you turn around, there they are! (See what I mean?!) Roughly half of the corrections I made had to do with corralling runaway ellipses. Bless Billie for her patience and sense of humor ("We could probably shorten the number of pages in the book by doing away with several of these ellipses. Otherwise, we might have to raise the cover price to pay for the extra paper!")

I am, ashamedly, glad that this isn't something that happens only to relatively new authors.  I've seen some mistakes from big name authors with an army of NYC publishing house editors that made it into published books (a character driving a Ford Silverado is one that has branded itself into my memory.  How did they miss THAT???)

It's good to have a fresh pair of eyes standing by after living with a manuscript day in and day out for several weeks or months.  It's preferable to have them on someone who is somewhat of a perfectionist, someone who is detail-oriented yet can see the big picture, and--most important--someone who wants you to succeed and be your very best.

5 comments:

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Ah yes, those lovely little goofs that slip by everyone--I had a funny one in Deadly Omen (a Tempe Crabtree mystery), Tempe drive a Bronco then a Blazer then a Bronco. I constantly interchanged them. In a Rock Bluff book someone drove an Ultima instead of an Altima--well, I'm not much on cars. This was caught by a first editor--first one by a reader long after the book was published.

Amy Bennett said...

In my first book, "End of the Road", I changed a character's name from Donald to David and back to Donald. Despite the fact that I read it over several times, it was my husband who finally said, "You need to make up your mind what this guy's name is!" I never noticed the switch because I KNEW his name was Donald. David. No, it was Donald (I actually had to go back to look at the book to check!) LOL!

Ceremonies of Distinction readings said...

Ah yes, the beautiful blue eyes -- or was it gray? Blue eyes that changed to gray when he was angry? My husband is a professional editor and even he missed a bunch of things on the first go-round. He says it was because he was so interested in the story -- which is kind of good!

Ceremonies of Distinction readings said...

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Leslie Lynch said...

So funny - and so true! My critique partners catch most of these, and we all appreciate the opportunity to laugh at our silly mistakes. :-)

Great post, Amy!