I’ve written about the importance of editing and thorough proofreading a few times. (Feel free to check the archives for examples.) The one that sticks in my memory is a post where I listed and mocked errors that had made it into final books. I was trying to illustrate how a sentence that doesn’t say what it’s supposed to say disrupts a story. The reader, at least when the reader is me, pauses to imagine the unintentional meaning. While the point was valid and I didn’t name the books, it sticks with me because I still wonder if it came across a little mean-spirited.
I will try to re-illustrate the same idea with sentences from one of my own books. Let’s all acknowledge a critical difference first though. These are sentences that I found while editing an early draft. None of these mistakes were in the book when it was published.
“It’s the same game,” Audra said, brining it to the table.
Why is she brining the game? And how can she brine it to the table? I didn’t think brine was sticky.
Logan put four kinds on top of the straight.
Even readers who don’t understand the game the characters are playing will understand that there are no kinds in a deck of cards. How did Logan end up with four of them?
She was grateful thought.
The only thing funny about this sentence is that for about half a second I thought the mistake was a missing “a” between was and grateful. Careful. It wouldn’t have been the first time I introduced a typo while fixing a different one.
The shape of Grandma May floated out of the crown and reached the back of the counter as he reached the front.
If his grandmother is floating out of a crown, why is he still moving towards that same counter? That’s too creepy.
We word on the furniture here so there’s regularly some banging and…”
I cracked myself up with this one. What does it mean to word on the furniture? It sounds like a reason you might yell at a toddler. Stop wording on the furniture! But this character says it as though it’s something good. Is it fun? Maybe they entertain each other with furniture puns. Do we need a new table? Let’s postpone that discussion. With a gavel. That’s why there’s banging. I was thinking this made them awfully weird while I was the one thinking it.
That’s be awful.
Something about this sentence makes me picture someone with an eyepatch. “Arrgh! That’s be awful.” Spoiler: There are no pirates in my book.
“And they sell if for her?”
Someone apparently sells if. Does that mean people buy if?
“The lazy part of the creepy part?”
A clown dragging one leg behind it? That’s certainly creepy, but I don’t know if it would count as lazy or why anyone would want to ask about it.
Both sides of the room seemed to be crammed with mostly woodened furniture or various types.
I’m not sure what makes furniture woodened. But mostly I’m wondering why we’re left hanging on what has various types.
She spun around with that lovely pony talk swinging.
I don’t know what pony talk is, but it sure is lovely. I guess it swings, too.
I think that’s sufficient proof that typos can be distracting, that I get distracted even when trying to correct them, and that I can imagine some odd stuff. It probably also shows that I don’t mind making fun of myself. I’m not done. It appears I wrote something else that makes no sense, and unfortunately, I can’t find a mistake to blame. I compiled this list of almost-quotes at least six months ago. (Before The Art of Introductions was published, which I’m sure everyone has recognized as the source.) When I opened the file to use the material, I discovered that I had left a note to myself at the bottom. It said, “Fix book 1. Tap on the floor.”
I stared at that for the longest time. I can only conclude that it’s what I meant to write, I just don’t know what I was trying to tell myself. Now I’m concerned that there might be something I was supposed to fix and didn’t. Yet another reason that clear writing is vital. New note to self: Include more details in future notes to self.