Friday, May 4, 2012

Errors: Why They Happen, How to Better Avoid Them

Several people have pointed out to me, with the best of intentions, that there are a few copyediting/consistency errors in Insurgent. I'm not going to tell you what they are, because some people won't catch them and I don't want to spoil the read for them. Just know that if you read something and get confused and think you might be misreading or misinterpreting, it might not be your mistake, but rather mine.

I just wanted to talk about why these errors happen. I used to read books and think "with so many rounds of edits, how can these mistakes slip by?" And that is a fair question. I have a very talented copyeditor and proofreader who catch so many errors it's not even funny. I am also a perfectionist and am generally diligent about checking details. So how did this happen?

What happened with book two was that I wrote a few drafts back to back, and then did several rounds of editing back to back. It's my job, as the author, to make sure that the drafts don't bleed into each other. For example, if a character is a boy in draft 1 but a girl in draft 2, it's my responsibility to make sure that all the "he"s turn into "she"s, etc. I tried very hard to catch all these draft overlaps, but because this all happened in a short time frame, I'm afraid the drafts got a little confused in my mind in my efforts to get everything done on time so it could get to you, the readers, on time.

The thing about writing is that most people need space and time away from their work to see it clearly again. Any writer will tell you that if you stare at your own book long enough, you'll stop seeing the problems that are in it, and that's why you need critique partners and editors to "show" you your own book again. That's why we talk about needing a fresh pair of eyes. But when you're trying to finish a book, sometimes your fresh pairs of eyes read it as frequently as you do, or they're looking for different problems than you are, and that's where the mistakes slip in.

This has been a huge learning experience for me as an author, because I didn't realize until it was too late that these mistakes were there, and I never thought to do a read-through strictly for draft inconsistencies or book 1-to-book 2 inconsistencies. Now I definitely will, for every single book!

Pieces of advice for other writers working with multiple drafts, or with a series:

1. Make sure you read your first book right before you edit your second. One of my errors popped up because I forgot a small detail in book one. If I had read Divergent again right before editing book two, it wouldn't have happened.

2. Do a read-through specifically for draft overlap errors. Do not try to look for or fix anything else. And if you don't think you're far enough away from the manuscript, ask someone else to read through specifically for confusing or inconsistent details.

3. If you find an error after it's too late, don't beat yourself up about it. Mistakes happen and most readers are very forgiving. Just tell someone at the publisher (if you're a published author), or fix it before you send it out again (if you're not published yet).


And for readers: thank you for letting me know that you notice things, I'm glad you are careful readers. I'm sorry for the slip-ups that have affected your reading experience, and I hope you can read on without being distracted by the problems you've discovered. Rest assured that I know about them already and will try to have them fixed in future printings.

Read on, smartypants!

-V



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