Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crossing I’s and dotting T’s

We authors live in fear of horrible typos creeping into our books. For that matter editors and publishers do, too. In these days of reliance on spell checkers and lack of proofreading at the final stages of production, terribly scary things can happen.

I have an author friend who shall remain nameless (to spare him any more embarrassment) who had an egregious error make it into print. His main character was kicked between the legs and fell to the ground, curling up into the coital position. I can understand how this happened, and why it got missed by so many people during production. He has my undying sympathy. Believe me, he’s taken a lot of ribbing over the years.

I had my own near-death experience with a dreadful typo. I found an horrendous typo at the “blueline stage” (Remember those? If you do, then you’ve been in the game a long time.). One of my characters was wearing a fir coat! Now doesn’t that paint a lovely picture in the reader’s mind? The only reason I caught it – and we’re talking last eyes here – was because the phone rang and when I put down the stack of bluelines, a couple fell to the floor. When I picked the last one up, the mistake caught my attention. I’d already checked off that page, too. Oh, the ignominy that would have followed me to the end of my days had that error slipped through!

Thing is, once you get to the end of the production process, you need a fresh person to look things over. Neither the author nor the editor is seeing things sharply anymore. Even if a fresh person looks at the ms, I guarantee there will be a couple of mistakes. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.”

I did a recording session once that had a repeated figure in the piano part. It was played a few dozen times during the course of the song. In the best take, on only one of the figures, I accidentally hit two notes with my little finger. Since it was up front in the mix, it was pretty noticeable, but not horrible. The mistake was easily correctable by punching in that one instance since I was on a separate track, and the session went on to the overdub stage, problem solved. My brother was an audio engineer at that time, but wasn’t on the session. He did have access to the original master tape, though. A few months later, his mix of the song wound up on my doorstep. He’d replaced every instance of that little lick with the messed up one. I had to listen to my tiny error over and over and over again. It was like a jack hammer going at it on top of my head by the time the song faded to a close, with the repeat the most noticeable thing in the fade. It was funny and all that in retrospect, but I recall that my response was very different at the time.

That’s what it’s like when one of those dreadful mistakes happens in your book. It pays to make as sure as possible that your prose is clean and as error-free as you can possible make it. You’ll never be perfect, but hopefully nothing really horrendous will happen.


On the book front, my next full-length novel, Roses for a Diva, is undergoing editing, and the design studio at my publisher has completed the cover. They’re happy, I’m happy, and I think it will look great on bookstore shelves.

If you remember back a few months, you’ll know the cover image is one I was involved in with my ace photographer friend, Andre Leduc. While the image isn’t quite the way we set it up (I’d done careful close crops of the rose and mask so that they could be moved and the photographed background discarded if that is what the designer decided to do.), I think it’s working pretty nicely. My thanks to designer Courtney Horner who allowed me to make a few suggestions to help things along a bit. (Graphic designers have real issues with leaving things alone, and I’m no exception.)

Let me know what you think. And by the way, yes, the cover image has a lot to do with the plot of the book – in more ways than you can imagine, and because of that, I’m an extra-happy camper.


Charlotte Hinger said...

I love the cover. It's great.

Rick Blechta said...

And I've got the mask to prove it! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Great cover. Line edits scare me silly. Can't wait to see which typos I'll have to live down.

Rick Blechta said...

It can be a humbling experience, that's for sure.

Donis Casey said...

I once dedicated a book to my sister-in-law and was very careful to make sure that her name was spelled correctly in the ARC. Then somebody at the printers decided to "fix" it, and when the book itself arrived, her name was misspelled. I was aghast. It wasn't even my fault, yet I still have to live it down.