I don’t get it. I really don’t. How does anyone produce a spotless manuscript? I can’t tell you how many times my latest manuscript was proofread. By myself, at least a hundred times, but I understand why I can’t see the typos. I know what it’s supposed to say, so I am the worst one to proof it. Yet you take my semi-worthiness and multiply it times, let’s say, conservatively, ten full, slow, looking-for-errors reads—that’s still a pretty decent going-over.
Then there’s my wife. Her nickname is “Hawkeye”. Ironically it has nothing to do with her proofing skills or her husband once living in Iowa; apparently she was in a M*A*S*H unit with a guy named “B.J.” and a really hairy dude who liked to dress in drag.
(Give me a break; it was more original than “Take my wife. Please.” Right?)
Anyway, she read the manuscript as many times as I did (at least).
My great friend Trish read bits and pieces and kibble and bits until it was fully finished and THEN read it at least a couple more times for good measure.
My editor has a keen eye, but admittedly he wasn’t looking for typos as much as content, story, plot, flow, etc. But another set of eyes it was.
Then I sent the manuscript off to my reliable proofreader, and as always she still found a few (by this time, it was about as clean as I would expect a manuscript to be). Now after I get the doc back from Becky, my proofreader, I consider it golden. Particularly taking into account all the proofing beforehand. It’s done.
But I read it again anyway. So did my wife.
And we still found one or two—nothing major, nothing glaring, but there they were, looking back sheepishly and shrugging as if to say “We tried to be found, we really did.”
Finally, you accept that you’ve simply done all you can, and that it’s a LOT. Not as if you just wrote it, perused it, and threw it up there (as I am sure there are some chowderheads that do). So on the Kindle it was published. And it got some rave reviews (and, by God, a couple of emails to me stating “Hey, I found one typo…”). Son of a BISCUIT EATER. So, well, it’s Amazon digital, and I can upload a new copy (which I hate to do because it’s really not fair to the previous purchasers, but since I’m about a million sales or so shy of my first million, I figure, I’ll fix ‘em).
Then I get the paperback proof in the mail. And it looks good. Damn good. There are some font issues and some other crap (and I do end up finding some editorial fixes my editor missed—i.e. things he told me to fix in one spot but I found another place where the same thing needed to be changed). No biggie. I’m over it now. The paperback is about to be done, I put the two documents side by side (digital manuscript and the one formatted for the press), and I start making them identical. Like I said, no big changes (mostly fonts and such with the paperback version), until about three-quarters of the way through, I see it.
The exact sentence?
“You have proof off these allegations?”
It’s not like it’s buried in a hundred-word paragraph somewhere. There are only six words on the line!
I was dumbfounded. Aghast. Pale as Peter’s pecker after he picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Excuse my French but FUCK. My wife could not (and most likely did not want to) stop me from punching myself in the face repeatedly. (That actually took my mind off the typo, believe it or not, and got rid of that pesky tooth that was aching all this time.)
It was all I found, reading every word of the paperback proof, front to back, but for the record: Off didn’t look sorry at all. He looked downright proud of himself, no doubt having shouted “hey, over there, is that ELVIS?” as each of us got to that point in the novel.
Or perhaps he was peering from behind Peter’s peck of peppers.
Oh hell, I don’t know what that little bastard did to escape detection but he deserves the Medal of Honor for Typographical Mistakes for his efforts above and beyond the call of duty. And man did it ever feel good to delete that extra “f”.
Can a book—ANY book—be perfect? I started searching the Internet for proofreading software. There are a few products out there. Has anyone used a third-party software package before? Microshaft Word 2010 just plain pisses me off. I have grammar-checking turned off during the writing phase because it just doesn’t mesh well with my writing style. Fiction writers use everything from sentence fragments to speech colloquialisms to whatever else. HOWEVER, I always do one full grammar check on the manuscript before it’s done-done. I turn on everything. It’s painstaking, and I have to dismiss 99% of it, but here’s the real fly larvae in the pea soup:
While I‘m typing, Word will make a (blue-underlined) suggestion to me if I write “Here’s the think, Dad…” It will underline “think” and ask me if I meant “thing”, even with “grammar-checking as I write” turned off. Sometimes. But it will not find that same mistake during the grammar check.
Nor, apparently, will it find: “You have proof off these allegations?”
You’ve seen “Death to Smoochy”? I’m currently writing the screenplay for “Death to Clippy”, and it’s going to make “Friday the 13th” look like “Saturday the 8th”, I kid you not.
Do me one last favor, however, before the end, and before you comment (if that’s your intent). Read this to yourself:
I cluod not blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd
waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan
mnid. Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch sudty at Cmabrigde
Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers
in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist
and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a
taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.
Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter
by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas thgouht slpeling garmmar
I realize it’s not exactly pickled peppers to pcilked ppepers, but still, it’s the best I can do, so I rest my case.
The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.
Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)