Easily Overlooked

You’ve written your first draft and you’ve read it over, perhaps focusing on some particular aspects of writing (like using your pet words too much, or checking for “ly” words), and after rereading your manuscript until you think you could recite it from memory, you feel ready to publish.

Not so fast! First, let’s check for some common mistakes. In a novel I recently read, I was reminded of two kinds of errors that are easily overlooked.

One involves words left out, and the other, words left in.

Here are some examples.

Sometimes, as you re-read, you realize that you’ve used a character’s name too many times within a few sentences, or you might have used too many pronouns when you should have used a name once in a while. So you make some changes. Let’s say you’ve used the name too often, so you put in “her” instead of “Miss X,” but you don’t take out “Miss X” until you’ve had a chance to reread the whole section, checking for a good balance of names and pronouns.

You get into your self-editing and several pages later, you remember that you should read it all over. This is when the brain and the eyes start fighting. You’re already getting tired and as you read, your brain tells you, “I know what this is supposed to say. I wrote the thing. I know what it says.”

Your eyes tell your brain, “Yes, that’s what it says. I know because I’ve read it so many times already. It’s fine.”

But is it?

“Miss X” is mentioned several times in the chapter, but now, one of the sentences has “Miss X” AND “her” as well.

The road was rough and the driver reached over to check her Miss X’s seatbelt.

See how easily that slipped in there?

Very often, mistakes like this are added to the text with the purpose of fixing a problem, but it ends up causing a different one.

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Correcting sentences where words have been left out is even harder to do. Again, our brains tell us what we know the text to be, and the eyes go along with it in agreement. But as we read work over too quickly, we think that all the necessary words are in there. That is how many small words are left out (words like: to, at, in, an, it). A good way to catch these omissions is to read your work out loud.

A similar error occurs when we type “and” for “an” or “it” for “if” or “in,”

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A word of advice:

Don’t work at your self-editing for too long in one session. Take breaks. I have often noticed that when I find mistakes in the writing, they occur close together within a page or two. This tells me that the writer was probably getting tired at that point.

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Self-editing

Wrong name and/or wrong pronoun

Lately I’ve been irked by a certain kind of error that I’ve run into more times than I should have. As I was reading some novels for pleasure (as opposed to reading them as a copy-editing job), I was shocked to come across the names of main characters being switched around.

When Tom was meant, Luke was used instead, and vice versa. This happened several times in one novel. I found the same mistake in another novel I recently read, and the wrong pronoun (“her” instead of “him”)  was used.

The author should have caught these mistakes in the self-editing part of the writing process, but since it is not the kind of error that a spellchecker or grammar checker would catch, it can easily go unnoticed.

If you have changed your character’s name after writing the first draft, you might want to have a closer look  for cases of having used the wrong name.

Have you changed your POV?

Also, if you have decided to rewrite your ms with a different POV, it will require close scrutiny when you check your ms for errors. I’ve done this kind of thing myself, where I’ve written several chapters in third person POV and then decided to switch to first person. It can be awkward to read something like:

I hurried down to the dock to wave goodbye. She hoped I was not too late.

Switching pronouns

Another horror of self-editing can happen if you decide to change a character from female to male. Let’s say you decided that a male character would work better in a certain role. You would have to change all the cases of “her” to “him.” To make the job easier you might want to use the Find and Replace feature in your Word program. But be careful not to make sweeping changes without looking at each case first, or you might end up changing “mother” to “mothim,”  “father” to “fathim,” and “other” to “othim.”

It helps to type a space before and after the word “her” in Find. That would avoid words with the letters h-e-r in them from being selected. Trust me, there are a lot of words with these letters in them. You don’t want to have to sort them all out.

And then what?

Self-editing is good and necessary, but, after you have checked your ms for all of these (and many other) errors, it will still be worthwhile to have a copy-editor go through your work. A good copy-editor can save you from embarrassment, and consequent bad reviews, when readers find mistakes in your published work.

If you would like to know more about my copy-editing work, please click the “Copy-editing Services”  tab on the top of this blog. 

***** ACK! It happened AGAIN!*****

I just put up this post and sat down to read a book. I couldn’t believe it would happen again so soon, but the author of yet another book put in the wrong name. 

Mr. Jones is in a conversation with X, discussing the demise of Mr. Smith. Two sentences later, it is Mr. Jones who is referred to as the dead guy. 

The story is going down, down, down in my estimation. This is after several other smaller errors. Sigh….