I’ll be the first to admit it: autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship. It LOVES to ‘correct’ my sh*t, and I absolutely HATE it. If you follow me on Twitter, you are probably well aware of this fact.
However, that does not mean all editing is bad. In fact, solid editing is probably one of the most important aspects of publishing your work. Unfortunately, the process can be long and (after what feels like the 700th time through your manuscript,) tedious. But, regardless of how arduous the process is, you should never, EVER discredit the edit.
Which is a lesson I learned the very hard way.
As some of you probably know, my debut novel, Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles debuted last month!
It was such an incredible experience and something I will never ever forget. But with all the absolutely incredible things that happened that day there was also this one little tiny thing…
That turned into an absolute and total disaster.
I have a feeling you know where this is going, but let me tell you my story.
It’s May 16th. Launch Day. The day I have been waiting MONTHS for. I wake up and make my cup of coffee, then log in to my computer ready to start the day chatting with friends on social media, recording interviews, and promoting the heck out of Alice. Before that though, I hop on GoodReads to check and see if any of my advanced readers have left any new feedback. Lo and behold, there is a brand new review in, so like any eager author, I hurriedly click the link to read it, and my heart drops.
This review, has brought up something that none of my other readers or reviewers have mentioned before: The quote I included at the beginning of the book–part of the Jabberwocky poem in Alice duology–had been credited to C.S. Lewis, not Lewis Carroll.
. . .what.
So as I’m reading this, in my mind I’m thinking ‘No… no, there’s no way. She must have gotten a different edition, or she read it wrong or SOMETHING, because there’s no way I would have done that.‘ Of course, the sinking feeling in my gut as I continued reading completely negated all the denial my brain so considerately manufactured. Regardless, now I have to check for myself. I rush to grab my copy of Alice to check and see,
AND SHE WAS RIGHT.
Somehow instead of typing Lewis Carroll at the end of the quote, I had written C.S. Lewis. Such a small mistake and yet SO BIG at the same time. My story is an ALICE IN WONDERLAND retelling and I had quoted the wrong author.
Naturally, I was upset. Lots of feels in a very short amount of time, namely: frustration, concern, horror, shock, sadness, guilt, rage, and a heaping helping of embarrassment. HOW could this have happened? I know who wrote Alice in Wonderland! Do you know how many times I’ve read, thought, typed, and said the name Lewis Carroll in the past year???? More times than I can even begin to count. So, what the hell?
Well, my friends. What it comes down to is this: EDITING.
Now let me just say, I edited Alice SO MANY times. I did my own revisions, I had critique partners then MORE of my own revisions, and then when I was picked up by my publisher I was assigned a PHENOMENAL editor who helped make Alice so much better than I could have ever thought possible. I edited.
SO MUCH EDITING.
But what it comes down to is, even with all of the time and effort and consideration that went into editing, there was still an error. So what happened?
Well, it’s been a month since the release and I’ve had some time to process, and I think I have an answer. During my edits most of my attention was on the main body of the story. I mean, that’s what’s important right? Turns out, yes and no. Obviously, your story needs to be clean. And I’m pleased to report that the body of the story has not had any issues because it was given so much attention. But here’s the thing: if it’s in your book, SOMEONE is going to read it. EVERYTHING needs to be checked. COMPLETELY.
This is where I went wrong. With the section of the poem I quoted, I only used a very small piece of text. I typed it and I read it over to make sure it was in correctly. When I typed in the name, I’m sure I had a brain fart and typed C.S. Lewis instead (really, an easy mistake to make: similar names, both writers, both British, I mean come on). Then when I was editing, I checked through the poem, and read too quickly. I didn’t pay the proper amount of attention to it, and it bit me in the ass. Plain and simple.
Now, this story has a happy ending. My publisher is ABSOLUTELY phenomenal, and when I called her and told her about the mess, she was on it and making changes to get the book fixed.* Honestly I am AMAZED at how quickly she was able to fix it. We also decided to take our mistake and twist it into a positive and turned it into a launch party game. If you go search #CSLewisCarroll
on Twitter, you’ll see all the tweets yourself. So what could have been an unmitigated disaster turned into, comparatively, a minor snafu.
But I don’t ever want to do that again. I’ve learned my lesson. Diligence in editing should NEVER be compromised. Coincidentally, I am currently editing my next book, a Sci-Fi retell of Peter Pan, and I’m taking some tips I’ve picked up to help make sure my manuscript is clean. So far, they seem to be working. I’m sure I’ll have more to fix, but let me tell you, it won’t be anything like writing the wrong author’s name! So here is my takeaway and what I want to share with you. 5 Tricks that are helping me become a more mindful editor.
JM Sullivan’s Crash Course (literally) in Editing
As you go through your checks, try switching up the text. You’ll be amazed at what changing the ‘look’ of the type does to help your eyes catch small errors.
Listening to the words as they are spoken will help you catch pacing errors and awkward wording.
Take your time. Don’t rush the process. If you notice yourself skimming edits, take a break. It’s better to give yourself a rest and come back fresh than to spend the time rushing through sections and thinking you are finished, when really all you’ve done is miss mistakes.
If it’s a part of your book, edit it. Dedications, acknowledgements, prologues, prefaces, WHATEVER. Mistakes can pop up anywhere– don’t get lulled into the idea that just because it’s a smaller piece of text reviewing it is any less important.
Writing is the time to be brazenly confident and creative. Editing needs to be meticulous and very self-critical. I’m not saying you need to berate yourself, but as you’re editing, be very mindful (and accepting) of the fact that you make mistakes. It will help you to be a more conscientious and critical editor.
So there you have it. My horror story, how we turned our gigantic lemon into a quirky flavored lemonade, and what I’ve learned from the process. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go reformat and re-read this post before I hit the publish button.
FUN FACT: If you pre-ordered a copy of ALICE, hold on to her! She’s one of a very few that have the quote error. She’s a collector’s edition!