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.