Monday, July 09, 2012

Editors and Lawyers


Big revelation time.  About a decade ago I made a writing mistake.  I know, I know, tremendously hard to believe.  Me, the great and wonderful ooze, made a mistake.  But it happened and I had repressed the horror of it until just yesterday when I finished reading Young Thongor by Lin Carter.  The mistake was this.  In writing a piece for REHupa, the Robert E. Howard apa, I misspelled Thongor as “ThongAr.” Although it passed unnoticed by the vast majority of that august organization’s members, one member (at the time) caught my mistake and gave me a sound thrashing via private email. I was certainly glad it was private so that my shame was not broadcast to the world.  I wish I still had that email.  The upshot was that he had always considered me a fine critic and thought I showed great promise, but that it was simply an embarrassment to make such an egregious error.  I had the feeling he lost a lot of respect for me that day.  Of course, he was right. It would have been easy to check the spelling since I had half a dozen Thongor books on my shelf.  I figured I’d gotten lazy. I also got a pretty good laugh out of it, though.

Cut to today. I’m editing a bunch of stuff for some friends of mine and have stumbled upon a number of such mistakes, mistakes that could have easily been corrected with another moment’s thought and some checking. I’ve realized, though, that the vast majority of these errors are not really careless or lazy mistakes. They’re unconscious mistakes. The writers are making them because their minds have not been trained to think like editors. Editors are like the lawyers of the writing world. And often they get about the same number of jokes told about them.  What do you call 10,000 editors on the bottom of the sea?  A good start!

And now, I’ve become one of them, an “Editor.”  Next thing you know, I’ll be running for public office and declaring that Novels should be counted as people.

And every time I get a little frustrated at some of the mistakes I’m finding in the editing work I’m doing, I just keep saying to myself…ThongOr, ThongOr, ThongOr.
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32 comments:

Snowbrush said...

Yep, they're most often mistakes that weren't caught because it didn't occur to the writer that he or she might be in error.

Keith said...

Even when a document is extensively proofed, there can still be embarrassing mistakes.

Exhibit A: my dissertation. Every time I open that thing (which isn't often) I find things that shouldn't have been missed.

Deka Black said...

Editors... I don't know yet if they are good or bad people. but i think the job must be pretty hard.

And, in a more light note: I must apologize to all editors out there, because the joke made me laugh like a madman ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Books put out by the big publishers contain mistakes; newspapers have mistakes; billboards have mistakes. I get annoyed when I miss something, but it happens.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Anyone who writes had better be an editor, because every time a writer goes over a WIP, there will be new glaring illustrations of the reason why. :)

Ty Johnston said...

For better or worse, I was a newspaper editor for 20 years. But still people find mistakes in my work from time to time. We often can't see our own, our eyes glazing over them because we know what we meant and that's what our mind reads. Being an editor helps in many ways, but sometimes I think it is also a hindrance. Either way, even editors are not perfect.

The Golden Eagle said...

Everyone makes mistakes. But it's definitely frustrating to find them in your own work.

Chris said...

The age of automatic spell checking and stuff is only making it worse in some cases. I find auto-correct to change the words I INTENDED fairly often.

Charles Gramlich said...

Snowbrush, I've been there myself.

Keith, I found errors I made in Swords of Talera even after I'd been through it nearly 30 times.

Deka, glad you liked it! :)

ALex, oh certainly. Thinking like an editor helps, but is no cure all.

Bernard, Exactly!

Ty, except for this editor, that being myself, I'm sure. :)

Golden Eagle, better to find them before an editor does.

Chris, yes, I've had that happen. It happens on facebook even, with names at least.

Grace said...

I totally dig this post! Finding errors in my own text sends me over the hedge. But when unsolicited helpers appear to show me said errors, I am barely able to contain the gurgling in my gut and the growling in my throat.

I have a journalist friend who says, "Everybody needs an Editor.". She is right of course. My only caveat is that Editors should really try to keep that gleeful gleam out of their eyes when they Ferret Out all my niggling little errors lolol.

In Him,
Grace

Charles Gramlich said...

Grace, oh you are right. The gleefullness with which some correct you is a bit hard to enjoy.

jodi said...

Charles-Please. That dude needs to lighten up. Like he never made an honest mistake? Sheesh...

David J. West said...

I am forver amazed that no matter how many times I go over a piece and think I have found everything I could-give it a week or a month or a year and we will find something.

Quite a number writers I know have told me they wish they could take their first books out of print-I wouldn't go that far, but I do wish I could rewrite it.

Ever onward.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Thank god for spell-check and grammar on MS-Word, I make fewer mistakes now. Yours was pretty minor, Charles. I don't like purists, they are not human. So then, who edits the editors?

Deka Black said...

You're welcome, Charles. In fact, i told him to my family at dinner yesterday. They liked it ;)

G. B. Miller said...

Mistakes almost always bother me. I say almost, 'cause the only time I (mostly) accept them is in blogging.

Otherwise, I drive myself nutty if I find them after the fact.

Like now.

I'm refamiliarizing myself with my book as my editor is now reading it, and I'm finding tiny little typos and errors slightly peppered through the entire manuscript.

the walking man said...

My older brother is a two horned devil. 25+ years an editor and now 10 as an attorney.

It is extremely hard for me (and i hoe everyone so I don't feel stoopid) to self edit. Not for content I like seeing a different way to present a piece that has had time to mellow, but those spelling and construction errors. I think mostly because if you didn't see them the first time round your eye just doesn't pick the up as readily the 2nd, 3rd, 4th...

On another note off topic would James Younger be too cheesy for a western writers pseudonym?

Charles Gramlich said...

Jodi, I was laughing with my wife about it last night, saying, looks like he could have cut me a little slack. :)

David J., it's simply a rule of the writing game, I guess. Nothing goes out without errors.

Prashant, who edits the editors indeed. good question.

Deka, cool, I'm glad they laughed.

G.B., no way you'll get away from it, unfortunately. Tis the rule. at some point you make about as many errors correcting a piece as you fix.

Mark, there really was a James Younger. it's a great name. I've always liked Cole a lot but it would be way too obvious probably. James might be better.

laughingwolf said...

well hell, how soon we forget: everyone knows ALL editors are just FAILED writers! ;) lol

but yeah, no matter how GOOD the editorial eye, something ALWAYS seems to be elusive....

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, I've found out that if you want it, editing pays better than writing. Everyone wants to be a writer but they don't all want to do the hardest work of getting there. I just don't like editing enough to charge for it.

Oscar said...

My mistakes would fill up a book, but I'll just move on and try to do better next time.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Shame on him for giving you such a hard time.
There are so many mistakes in print now, I hardly think about it. No money for editors at most places.

ivan said...

Heh heh.

Well, ten years ago, I saw this prurient bit of film, titled Planet Porno.

One of the characters could certainly be called ThongOr.

cloudia charters said...

Yes! The human writer will miss mistakes. It's statistically inevitable (Doc)

That's what editors are FOR, and perhaps JUST a smidge more :-)



Wishing you a pleasant thoughts &
Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral
> < } } ( ° >

Ty Johnston said...

Now that I think about it, Charles, at least you weren't writing about Canon the Barbarian or Koll the Conqueror. :-)

Greg said...

nice post, got a good chuckle out of it. we all screw up, but it's good when you can laugh at it (and keep it in perspective).

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, mine too, and me too.

Patti, yeah, it's definitely not getting better.

Ivan, I don't believe I caught that film.

Cloudia, they help if they do their job, for sure.

Ty, I would have been drummed out of REHupa for such sacriledge! :)

Greg, since it's inevitable I guess we better be able to laugh at it.

Gabby said...

As a proofreader/copy editor for 12 years, I can tell you that it hurts us as much to miss the error as it does to the writer to know that they created the error. Thankfully, in my new workplace, I have a great boss that is our writer, but comes from an editing background, and knows that it's okay to make mistakes. We're not robots.

And, I recently missed something and had to have a whole bunch of cards reprinted before they were mailed out. (Costly? You bet! But better than our company being embarrassed.)

Although, yes, I DO enjoy finding the errors. ^_^

Charles Gramlich said...

Gabby, I made such an error early in my carreer and cost the university a couple of thousand dollars. They did forgive me.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Could really identify with this. I'm with Grace. My gut gurgles.

Charles Gramlich said...

Jess, yes I know what you mean.

Travis Cody said...

I've made spelling errors like that for character and place names, particularly when they are unusual. It's easy to forget how to spell something every time you use it if it's a made up word.