WNW: Words from My Books
Just for the fun of it (because I know I need to lighten up a bit and laugh), I decided to pull out a few words that have caused problems in old manuscripts for one reason or another. As I came up with this list, it cracked me up to realize that every one of them came from Spires of Stone.
Maybe it's because the entire process of writing, rewriting, editing and just getting that puppy to press was so traumatic (see my Writing Journey series for the whole the whole messy story in parts XI, XII, XIII and XIV).
Whatever the reason, here are some of the gems we ran into.
Disclaimer: I mention a couple of frustrating situations I ran into with Covenant's contract editors below. I've published six (almost eight) books plus a short story with them. Their editorial team and contract editors are top-notch. So I mention these experiences below specifically because they were so totally bizarre and out of the realm of my experience. Spires of Stone was my fifth book with them, and I'd never, ever come across anything like this one incompetent line editor before or since, and I doubt I ever will again.
I know the difference. Really, I do:
She peeked around the corner.
The snow fell off the peaked roof.
See? I do know the difference. Even so, I have a tendency to type the wrong one (it's my fingers' fault!), and I have to go back through my manuscripts, checking to be sure I didn't use the wrong word at the wrong time. Inevitably, I miss a couple, and a line editor will have to fix them. I swear, this has happened in nearly every book.
What is my problem?!
Not to be confused with peak or peek even though they're pronounced almost identically, used as in, "to pique one's interest."
The problem I ran into: I had an anonymous line editor for Spires that seriously circled this and wrote, "This isn't a word."
My first reaction was to laugh my head off. (Did she check the dictionary before making fool of herself?) My second impulse was to write in the margins, "You're paying this person to edit books?" (She also inserted four misspellings into the book. I'm so not kidding.)
I resisted. After wiping away the tears of laughter, I simply wrote STET (the editorial term meaning, "leave it the way it was." and moved on. But I still snicker at the memory.
Okay, this one made steam come out of my ears. I had one last brief glance at the final galleys of Spires (one that was happenstance; I had already done my final proof and wasn't supposed to see it again). Long story, but I ended up helping out my editor with some final touches and saw what was supposed to be the final, final proof. And I ran into a lay/lie error someone else inserted without me knowing about it. (It should have been lay but was laid.)
I. About. Died. It wouldn't have been such a big deal for another writer, maybe, but I'm known for being the grammar police woman, the Word Nerd. To have a lay/lie error in my book? ACK!
Readers generally don't know that not every single word is the writer's. A mistake really, truly might not be my fault. I looked at my version, and sure enough, it wasn't there. Granted, my original sentence was a slightly clunky and needed to be smoothed out, and I'm glad someone fixed it. But not with a glaring grammar error, thankyouverymuch.
I was so relieved I caught it in time. (At least, I hope it's fixed. I haven't had the heart to open the book to check.)
One of my early beta readers apparently didn't have a very large vocabulary. She read through a scene and circled this, assuming it was an incomplete word or that I must have meant something else.
I had to explain that no, this is a word, and then give her the definition.
Similar story here, only this time I can give the reader a little room for not knowing what it meant, since it was a guy in my critique group, and guys don't necessarily keep up on fabrics beyond, "It won't shrink if I wash it in hot water, right?"
I won't embarrass the former member of my critique group by saying the name of the person who didn't know what muslin is.
Let's just say the women in the group assured him the sentence was fine as it stood; female readers would likely know what I meant.
Another word inserted into Spires that I was not okay with. I had used the simple term, "woman-hater" to describe Ben. And while I'm generally a proponent for shorter, crisper descriptions, this one didn't wash for me.
I was pretty sure I knew what misogynist meant (nothing more than a woman-hater), but, if I say so myself, I have a pretty large vocabulary, and even I wasn't 100% sure, so I looked it up. I could imagine many, many readers raising eyebrows at that word, assuming Ben was something really, really nasty.
Plus, the word just sounds sleazy. It might not mean anything bad, but the connotation is far worse than someone who simply has a vast dislike for women. I didn't want the connotation; I wanted readers to like Ben. I insisted they go back to "woman-hater."
Ah, the joys of edits and arguing over little bits like that. Amazing how a single word can spark a debate. (Can you imagine the headaches I give my editors when one word can get me so riled up? Go ahead and pity Kirk. He deserves it.)
This is the funniest of them all. When I finish a manuscript, the feeling is fantastic. There's nothing like it in the world. I have a little celebratory moment of writing "The End" and then dancing through the house like Snoopy through a daisy patch.
I usually remember to delete those two little words before submitting the manuscript, because to me, they look amateurish in an actual book. But I have to write them, because the act is so fulfilling. It's the official moment of saying, "I'm done! I did it!"
I forgot to delete them for Spires when I submitted the manuscript. Not a big deal, I figured. I just deleted them from the first edit when I got it.
I got the second edit. There they were: "The End." Odd, I thought. Someone isn't doing their job. They're supposed to take the author's editorial marks and apply them. I deleted them again.
I got another edit. "The End" graced the last page. Another edit. There they were. Again and again and again. Through every content edit, three line edits, and two proofs.
Over and over. No matter how many times I deleted them, they were like a possessed boomerang. With all the other problems that went on with the book, this was just the final straw.
When the galleys arrived with "The End" plastered on the last page, I about blew a gasket.
I sent an e-mail to my editor, gently (I hope) saying that I'd tried deleting the phrase every time I'd seen it, but someone keeps putting it back, and can she please make sure it gets taken off before the book goes to press, because I think it looks really cheesy. Please! I was desperate.
Her response took me totally off guard. Her reply began with something like, "This is too funny." I'm thinking, Oh, no, it isn't. I had no idea. Yes. Yes, it was.
Since the book was a retelling of a Shakespeare play, she assumed I wanted it there, sort of like you'd see "curtain" at the end of a play. She figured it was a literary device I was using, sort of an inside joke to the reader.
She was the one putting it back every time someone (who apparently was doing their job) deleted it.
I might have fallen over laughing at that point. Or maybe I just sat there and cried tears of relief. I don't remember.