January 12, 2010 at 11:15 am (Uncategorized)

I recently decided to re-read the first 100 pages of Unleavened Dead before writing more. It’s a good thing I did, because I found an error within the first few paragraphs – Florence clearly says her daughter is getting married “here,” meaning in Walford, but in the next sentence Aviva is thinking about how much she’ll enjoy going to Seattle. (In my defense, it is still the first draft.)

And I had done several public readings of the same scene in Chanukah Guilt the one in which Aviva runs upstairs after her burglar alarm is triggered. The police call to see if everything’s okay and say, “Evesham Police.” Evesham is the name of the township where I live; Aviva lives in the fictional town of Walford. I’m not sure how many times I’d read the same line before realizing the error.

And while in the editing phase of Chanukah Guilt, the manuscript editor and the copy editor and I had gone through the manuscript several times, yet it was only on the final read-through that I realized Aviva was attending an interfaith Thanksgiving service at the Catholic Church on one page, at the Episcopalian Church on the next, and then was back at the Catholic Church. At least I caught that one before the book was published.

I also rewrote, on the final reading, an explanation that I realized made no sense to me, who had written it. Obviously, readers would be confused, too. (Although I guess the editors had gotten it.)

In my defense, I am a first time writer. But what about the established writers whose books are published by major mainstream publishers and appear in print with glaring errors? Are editors too inexperienced to catch the errors? Or are they too afraid to question or correct these best-selling writers?

Some examples:

* In one book, the author describes the character’s navel ring by using the same exact words (something like “her belly button winked”) several times. The first time was cute, the second an error, by the third and fourth annoying.

* A first person narrator approaches a victim who has been shot in the chest and is lying on his back. The narrator then describes what is on the back of the victim’s jacket.

* A woman is hit on the back of the head and falls backwards.

* A Jewish writer describes the holiday of Sukkot as falling a month after Pesach and lasting two days. (Sukkot is in the fall, after the High Holy Days, and lasts eight days; Shavuot is seven weeks after Pesach and lasts two days.)

These are just the ones I can recall right now. There are a lot of others (including some major typos – misspelling a major character’s name in the first line of a new chapter, for example). I’m sure you can come up with several others. Additions welcome below!



  1. Pat Brown said,

    I did something similar in an upcoming book I’m just doing a final edit on. I’d already been through the thing I don’t know how many times and sent it to my editor. I had a scene where my protag goes into a house and discovers his friend has been shot. He’s sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall and my protag sees the wound from the bullet, but later he’s told the victim was shot point blank in the back of his head where my hero could not have seen the wound. I doubt I would have caught it at that point since I’d been over it so many times, but she caught it right off and I was able to fix it. I don’t care if you’re a number one best selling, brilliant author who’s won every literary award in the world, you need a good editor. I know I treasure the ones I’ve had.

  2. ileneschneider said,

    A friend of mine on facebook (someone I actually know, not a facebook friend) asked whether I meant to type “navel” in my orig post or if the character had gone to Annapolis! (I was able to edit the post a lot easier than fixing a typo once a book is in print.)

  3. frankhamallen said,

    Very well put, Ilene. Bugs the living hell out of me, especially when they’re published by long-standing big Publishing Houses. They’re supposed to be professionals, at the top of their game, and yet still such blatant errors creep in.

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