I have often said the world needs editors. This past week, I was reminded I live in the world.
I got my manuscript back from the editor, and there was the usual collection of red ink that pointed out missing commas, misplaced commas, missing words, words in the wrong order, and other silly sorts of typos that my fingers happily make despite explicit instructions to the contrary from my brain. It doesn’t matter how many times I edit one of my manuscripts, I always miss some of these. (Apparently, my eyes also like to go freelancing when they are supposed to be doing something more important.)
It’s funny how our own words refuse to be fully edited. I catch these mistakes all over other writers’ work, but can’t see it in my own. Life’s funny that way.
But I was dismayed to notice I missed a serious continuity error. It’s one thing to not catch typos. It’s another to edit the book several times and not find a really important detail like what the bad guy is actually up to.
Fortunately, the editorial process exists to make sure these things don’t make it into print. I read the manuscript carefully when I got it back, so I would understand all corrections, questions, and suggestions. And there it was, hiding in Chapter 13 (of course!), a mere third of the way into the novel.
Wolf has just arrived in Alfar and survived an assassination attempt. He’s being debriefed by a colleague, and the two are discussing Mustique Starfellow, alleged leader of the infamous Sons of Frey terrorists. Discussing his recent communiques, Wolf’s compatriot reveals Starfellow has repeatedly threatened an unnamed calamity for Revelation Day, just two days from when the discussion occurs.
I stopped cold in the middle of the manuscript. I’d read the book at least five times preparing it for an editor, but it wasn’t until this reading that I realized that bit of foreshadowing was inconsistent with what happened later in the book.
You see, in Chapter 23, the story’s privileged henchmen (the sadistic killer, Ravager), assigns Starfellow the plot from the book’s real villain only a day before Revelation Day. Thus, Starfellow couldn’t have been promising a calamity on Revelation Day if he didn’t know about the plot until the day before it was supposed to happen.
The more I thought about it, I didn’t think it was too logical for Starfellow to be out of the loop on a grand act of terrorism until right before it happened. That would be sort of like Osama bin Laden getting the idea to fly planes into the World Trade Center on September 10, 2001.
So Chapter 23 is going to need a rewrite. I still want the meeting between Ravager and Starfellow to occur, because it builds tension towards the novel’s climax. But they are going to have to have a different discussion than the one I originally wrote.
All this points out the critical need for an editor on your project. It might have been I who caught this particular error, but I saw it because I was going over the edits I received. Sometimes an editor is more helpful than he or she knows.
If you haven’t done it, spend the time and money to find a professional editor, who will work on your manuscript. You’ll eliminate more than comma-splicing and usage errors. You’ll find things you didn’t know were wrong and be able to fix them before you publish.