The Eye of the Author…

…is not omniscient. A friend and fellow-writer just sent me a list of the editing boo boos she found in Hidden Boundaries. What an ego-crusher! I suppose three dozen typos in 250 pages isn’t absolutely horrible, compared to some of the self-published books I’ve been reading, but I know they’d be completely distracting if I were reading that book.

How many times did I go over the manuscript? Most chapters, at least a half-dozen times. But in the process of doing what I thought and hoped was the final line edit, I discovered a fatal human flaw. There’s a limit to how long anyone can maintain a strict focus on what they’re doing. You’ll suddenly find that your attention has slipped away, and your eyes are gliding over the words and sentences without really taking in the details. What’s worse, you won’t know how long you’ve been in this semi-conscious state or how far back you need to go to make sure you didn’t skip right over some horrendous mistake.

What’s the lesson here? Do the best you can. Go over and over and over the draft until you’re sure it’s absolutely clean. Then hand it off to someone you trust and be prepared for the fallout.

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4 thoughts on “The Eye of the Author…

  1. OMG, kick.

    I have a friend like that, and I wonder, where does he get these super hero powers of concentration? Occasionally, he’ll ask me to read something of his, and I’ll find silly errors.

    We become wrapped in the message; we begin to memorized what we meant to write, instead of seeing what we did write.

    Have faith, it’s the story that counts with the READER.

  2. “Have faith, it’s the story that counts with the READER.”

    Yes, but… I’m a reader as well as a writer, and when I see too many of those errors, I’m inclined to just not read the rest of the book — unless it’s an exceptionally well-told story. I realize that most readers probably aren’t that picky, but I don’t want to alienate the ones that are. After all, I have a lot of stories in the pipeline and if I turn off readers with my very first book, they may not bother to try the next one.

  3. After too many reads, especially if I don’t take enough time away from a project, my brain auto-corrects mistakes and I don’t see them anymore; rather, I see what I meant to say. This is why we have to have other eyes on a piece before we hit print or send. None of us are infalliable, and being the creator of the work, we are also at the disadvantage of knowing what we meant to say.

  4. Wait! I’m not infallible?

    Even after taking time away, changing the font face and size, it’s still kind of a bitter blow to know that I overlooked so many typos. Of course, it was a teeny bit of comfort to see that my friend had marked one error in a sentence but overlooked another one in the same sentence. Which should tell us something about why even professionally edited books have errors.

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