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View Full Version : How did the editor miss this? Finding content errors in well-known books.



RevisionIsTheKey
12-17-2009, 11:43 AM
I just read the discussion of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and someone brought up the dog bringing back the dead girl's elbow. The poster wondered how a dog could bring back an elbow because it's really just a location, a space where two bones meet. It made me think of something I noticed in Jodi Picault's Nineteen Minutes. At one point, someone goes to the neighbor's house to borrow gasoline. The neighbor is a retired fireman. Where does he keep his gasoline? In the basement, of course. Doesn't that go against Fire Safety 101?

I'd be interested to know if any of you have discovered mistakes like this, examples of lazy research, in your reading of novels, YA books, even picture books.

fugsly
12-17-2009, 12:29 PM
I just read a book where an ephinay came for one character from another character saying 'we'. I read back, and back a little more.... She never said 'we', it was all 'I'. Not a big deal I know but enough to be a bit irritating.

And I've read a few books where the author thinks that Scotland and Wales are all 'england' but I can't think of specific examples. That's also irritating.

Nothing as good as your examples are coming to mind though :)

Sai
12-17-2009, 05:04 PM
Just last night I was reading and came across the word 'bemusement' where I'm pretty sure (from context) the author meant amusement. Took me out of the novel for a awhile.

Namatu
12-17-2009, 06:38 PM
I wouldn't necessarily call those content errors so much as logic errors. Maybe the fireman is careless, as evidenced by his keeping gasoline in his basement. Maybe the author insisted it not be changed. Or the author, copy editor, proofreader, etc., missed it. It's not one person's responsibility. It's many people's.

Just saying.

ChaosTitan
12-17-2009, 07:00 PM
There was a looooong thread on this topic a month or two back.

Yes, errors exist. Why? Because authors, agents, editors, copy editors, and typesetters are human beings. Mistakes slip in. Any number of people are responsible for not catching them. I catch logic/continuity errors in films all the time.

Hell, there's a logic error in my own new release (no, I'm not saying what it is). Do you know how many sets of eyes were on that manuscript, multiple times, before it hit shelves, my own included? It happens.

veinglory
12-17-2009, 07:04 PM
Also an "elbow" could mean to bones connected bu cartilege and sinew at the elbow with the long bones broken off. It seems fine to me.

Phaeal
12-17-2009, 07:23 PM
It would have been much more dramatic, though, for the dog to drag home a femur.

Gray's Anatomy does call the ulna (one of the long forearm bones) the "elbow" bone. Meh. I'd still vote for the femur. That's a bone a dog could be proud of!

Here's a nice look at the elbow, for those whose curiosity is now stirred:

http://www.joint-pain-expert.net/elbow-anatomy.html

God, you've got to love the Internet. Lots less excuse nowadays for factual errors. Why, when I was young, you had to walk five miles to the library, uphill, in a snowstorm, both ways.

I'm paranoid about logical inconsistencies. They can sneak in so easily. That's why I produce so many timelines and maps!

RevisionIsTheKey
12-17-2009, 07:38 PM
I'm paranoid about logical inconsistencies. They can sneak in so easily. That's why I produce so many timelines and maps!

Precisely why I brought this up. We get to know our stories so well as we rewrite and rewrite, it's almost impossible not to fall into some inconsistencies. Same for our editors, I would guess. And some inconsistencies are a matter of personal opinion (as with the knee bone.) The gasoline example had no room for a reader's opinion, as I recall, from the context of the detail, though. My guess is that Picoult missed it because she has been writing like a house afire (sorry) for the last few years. Less time to catch these things.

Phaeal
12-17-2009, 07:43 PM
I'm paranoid about logical inconsistencies. They can sneak in so easily. That's why I produce so many timelines and maps!


Wow, Revision and I think exactly alike!

;)

DeadlyAccurate
12-17-2009, 08:09 PM
In one of my books, I had a character remotely access the MC's computer and "move the mouse." I don't know how many times I read that before it dawned on me what I was saying. (I meant "move the mouse cursor. He'd have to be telekinetic to move the mouse). And I was a computer programmer for ten years!

It can be easy to miss things like that if you read with your mind on the intent of the scene rather than the actual words.

Jamesaritchie
12-17-2009, 08:28 PM
Hvaing been diagnosed and treated for a broken elbow by a doctor, I have no problem with the dog bringing back the elbow.

A better question for me is How Does the Writer Make Such Mistakes?

The writer writes the book, the writer gets the last pass at the book before it's published, and the writer's name goes on the cover. Editors do what they can, but it's up to the writer to make sure the book goes to press error free.

Libbie
12-17-2009, 10:33 PM
I assumed the dog brought back a chunk of Susie Salmon that was wrist-through-upper arm. Flesh still there, if somewhat decomposed, etc. "Elbow" might be the easiest way to describe this.

I'm much more concerned with the all-around awful editing I see in Pauline Gedge's books. Good lord. Every one I've read has been peppered with punctuation, spelling, and usage errors. And the paragraph breaks don't make any sense. It's hard to enjoy her good stories with the bad editing getting in the way. I'm hoping the re-release of Child of the Morning will be re-edited.

JamieFord
12-17-2009, 10:36 PM
It happens. You'd be surprised at what can slip through many sets of well-trained eyes when a manuscript is 400+ pages long. Heck, there are mistakes in 100-word posts right here...

Namatu
12-17-2009, 10:58 PM
Perfection is unobtainable. It's a great goal, but nothing will ever be perfect. It's much easier to identify some errors when it's too late to fix them. (Usually because all eyes have had some time to distance themselves from the text.) Familiarity can breed blindness.

Sunnyside
12-17-2009, 11:53 PM
And, of course, there are some people that delight in pointing errors out to you. I had a person I hadn't heard from in YEARS leave a voice mail on my home phone pointing out a punctuation error deep inside my book. Thanks fer checkin' in, pal.

Linda Adams
12-18-2009, 02:46 AM
I do copy-editing of a newsletter, and I can't tell you how many times I go over everything--and still miss dumb stuff. There are some many moving parts that it's just not possible to catch them all. We have no less than five people going over this, and then we get an email from one of the readers pointing out something all of us missed.

RevisionIsTheKey
12-18-2009, 04:10 AM
Wow, Revision and I think exactly alike!

;)

Sorry about that, Phaeal. I really wasn't trying to pull a fast one and take credit for your comment. I am still trying to get used to this system and the quotation marks were lost. I'll give you a rep point as soon as I send this!
:e2hammer:

RevisionIsTheKey
12-18-2009, 04:17 AM
Or the author, copy editor, proofreader, etc., missed it. It's not one person's responsibility. It's many people's.

Just saying.

This is depressing. I had so planned to blame the editor for any mistakes in my first published work.

Medievalist
12-18-2009, 04:25 AM
Bottom line: Content errors, including continuity, are the author's responsibility.

This is so much the case that in some technical publishing/academic publishing contracts there's a clause that specifically alerts the author to their personal responsibility.

Speaking of which--I once made an error in a scholarly article--it was one of those really basic things. I left out "not" in a sentence. But I knew "not" should be there, so I saw it every time I read the article. The other colleagues who read it, and the university press anonymous scholars who vetted the article apparently saw the missing "not" that very much needed to be there as well.

It was out and published for oh, two years or so, before I discovered my screw up. I found my error because someone else plagiarized my article--and kept my screw up.

Is there a word that means something like, I dunno, inverted schadenfreude?

benbradley
12-18-2009, 04:30 AM
Long ago I read an article by Larry Niven, he mentioned that a first printing of "Ringworld" might be valuable because me mistakenly describes the Earth turning the wrong way (ISTR this was about "the game" in which SF readers look for scientific errors in published SF stories).

I recall "Somebody's Gotta Say It", a memoir-and-opinion type book by talkshow host Neal Boortz - there's a sentence that says the opposite of what the surrounding text implies, and having heard him on the radio, I knew it was the opposite of how he really felt. There was apparantly a missing "not" somewhere in that sentence. I didn't mark the page, and rereading through the book later I couldn't find that sentence...

So yeah, most commercially books have a (very) few errors, and I probably don't catch half of them all when I'm reading a book for enjoyment/information. But it is surprising and sometimes jarring when I stumble across something like that.

Ken
12-18-2009, 04:45 AM
... "Pick-Up," by Charles Willeford. Chapter in it titled "Shock Treatment." And there's no shock treatment in it, or anything related. Scene must of been cut, but the title of the chpt retained.

Chasing the Horizon
12-18-2009, 05:20 AM
What I don't understand is how books get printed with errors that would've been caught by a computerized spell checker. I see this amazingly often. Don't they put them through a spell checker before sending them to the printer??

Namatu
12-18-2009, 05:49 PM
What I don't understand is how books get printed with errors that would've been caught by a computerized spell checker. I see this amazingly often. Don't they put them through a spell checker before sending them to the printer??I don't. Usually because there are so many other words in the manuscript that MS Word would identify as misspelled. It's time consuming (never enough time) and eye-blurring and you're likely to inadvertently hit "skip" when you should "correct." Editing and proofing should catch most of those errors. When I spot one (or some, or many) in books, it makes me cringe, but then I also remind myself that if these errors made it through, there must have been exponentially more in the original manuscript. Errors usually don't exist because someone(s) were sloppy.

Jamesaritchie
12-18-2009, 11:48 PM
What I don't understand is how books get printed with errors that would've been caught by a computerized spell checker. I see this amazingly often. Don't they put them through a spell checker before sending them to the printer??


I'd say the great majority of errors I see in books and newspapers are there precisely because someone did rely on a spell checker. Spell checkers are handy little tools, but relying on them is guaranteed to let errors slip in.

Editors do their best, but no writer should ever blame an editor for missing a mistake the writer made. Grammar error, punctuation error, continuity error, plot error, or a silly "error" like I once made in a novel, which was giving every female character red hair, all fall back on the writer, not the editors.

jfreedan
12-19-2009, 12:09 AM
I'd say the great majority of errors I see in books and newspapers are there precisely because someone did rely on a spell checker. Spell checkers are handy little tools, but relying on them is guaranteed to let errors slip in.

Editors do their best, but no writer should ever blame an editor for missing a mistake the writer made. Grammar error, punctuation error, continuity error, plot error, or a silly "error" like I once made in a novel, which was giving every female character red hair, all fall back on the writer, not the editors.

Now wait a second, maybe the author's manuscript was correct and the editor changed it? You have no idea what the manuscript looked like before it got to the editor.

I also think it's presumptuous to assume it's solely the writers fault, especially when it is the editor's job is to catch all the mistakes and correct them. Maybe the writer did make a mistake but so did the editor. They don't get a "it's the authors fault" cop out when they are paid to make sure those mistakes aren't there.

One thing I do know is that sometimes people believe a word is spelled wrong when it is not. On more than one occasion someone has pointed out a word to me that they think is misspelled and it is actually the variant (British or American) spelling of the word.

nitaworm
12-19-2009, 12:12 AM
Yes they do exist. I love the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson, but couldn't understand why these kids that were genetically altered, grew up in hostile environments, never had weapons? I think these happen because things just do. I have read many books with errors in them. As a reader, I skip it and read on if it's a good story.

Medievalist
12-19-2009, 12:19 AM
Yes.

I'd add that I don't blame using spell check so much as no longer proofing in hard copy. I also note, as someone who worked on Microlytics dictionaries, that there are mistakes in the corpora. Some are genuine mistakes, some are the fingerprints of smart-ass programmers.

archerjoe
12-19-2009, 01:15 AM
Regarding spell check, I found my nephew had been adding his misspelled words to the spell checker's dictionary. He thought his variations were acceptable. Yet another reason no one touches my laptop but me.

stormie
12-19-2009, 01:33 AM
.

In response to RevisionIsTheKey, when I read The Lovely Bones, my thought throughout the book was "An elbow?" Of course, I'm clueless on the bones in the body, but somehow if she had said leg bone, arm bone, toe...I would have not stopped short each time she said "elbow." But I guess it was only a few of us since it had to go through editing, etc.

There is not one book, though, that I can honestly say everything checked out--grammar, spelling, content. Best seller or not, they all contain some mistake or two. Unfortunately, it does make the reader stop short.


.

Anarchic Q
12-19-2009, 09:37 AM
The words used in the DooM novels totally make me chortle. He's not that bright, he's a space marine, yet he knows words like ersatz, mulligatawny and enervated. Fun fact, he didn't know the word eldrich.

Wordwrestler
12-19-2009, 12:43 PM
A few years ago my son found an error in a non-fiction picture book (by a very popular, well-regarded author in that genre). It said that Benjamin Franklin's famous letters written secretly to his brother's newspaper were signed "Silence Dogwood." It should have been "Silence Dogood." The mistake occurred both times the name was mentioned. I suspect spell-check may have contributed to the error.

Sad to say, a teacher I know (the author's books are classroom favorites) thought "Dogwood" was correct. I'm sure elementary school kids learning about Franklin for the first time would have thought the same.

Wordwrestler
12-19-2009, 12:50 PM
Yes.

I'd add that I don't blame using spell check so much as no longer proofing in hard copy. I also note, as someone who worked on Microlytics dictionaries, that there are mistakes in the corpora. Some are genuine mistakes, some are the fingerprints of smart-ass programmers.


This makes sense. I'm often surprised by the words my word processor's dictionary doesn't know. I used to second-guess myself; now I just break out my big fat red dictionary and prove the machine wrong and gleefully tell it that I'm smarter than it.

But if it's just a programmer messing with my precious words--argh!

CoriSCapnSkip
12-19-2009, 02:41 PM
(Spoilers for The Lovely Bones, obviously.)


Also an "elbow" could mean to bones connected bu cartilege and sinew at the elbow with the long bones broken off. It seems fine to me.

I read a discussion on the book, and not the book. I would have let the elbow thing go, if the body was chopped into pieces and this piece remained intact enough for the dog to take home. What got me was the logic error--supposedly the dog never had access to any part of the body as it was shut into a safe which was dropped down a well or other very deep hole in the ground miles from where the dog ever was. Unless someone can explain such a glaring error I have no patience with the book or the author.

CoriSCapnSkip
12-19-2009, 02:49 PM
Long ago I read an article by Larry Niven, he mentioned that a first printing of "Ringworld" might be valuable because me mistakenly describes the Earth turning the wrong way (ISTR this was about "the game" in which SF readers look for scientific errors in published SF stories).

Heh, heh, back in the day Ray Bradbury smacked a kid for this and never got busted for assault!

Here's a little quote from his section of the book Mars and the Mind of Man. "You see, nine-year-old boys are always finding me out. A few years back, one dreadful boy ran up to me and said: 'Mr. Bradbury?' 'Yes?' I said. 'That book of yours, The Martian Chronicles?' he said. 'Yes,' I said. 'On page 92, where you have the moons of Mars rising in the East?' 'Yeah,' I said. 'Nah,' he said. So I hit him. I'll be damned if I'll be bullied by bright children. Needless to say, I've never revised The Martian Chronicles based on new information given me by young boys."

AnonymousWriter
12-19-2009, 03:13 PM
I just read the discussion of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and someone brought up the dog bringing back the dead girl's elbow. The poster wondered how a dog could bring back an elbow because it's really just a location, a space where two bones meet. It made me think of something I noticed in Jodi Picault's Nineteen Minutes. At one point, someone goes to the neighbor's house to borrow gasoline. The neighbor is a retired fireman. Where does he keep his gasoline? In the basement, of course. Doesn't that go against Fire Safety 101?


Mistakes happen. Writers, editors etc. are just people, and although they should pick up all the errors, they do miss them sometimes.

Just look at the mistake in your post...;)

ChaosTitan
12-19-2009, 08:15 PM
Now wait a second, maybe the author's manuscript was correct and the editor changed it? You have no idea what the manuscript looked like before it got to the editor.

I also think it's presumptuous to assume it's solely the writers fault, especially when it is the editor's job is to catch all the mistakes and correct them. Maybe the writer did make a mistake but so did the editor. They don't get a "it's the authors fault" cop out when they are paid to make sure those mistakes aren't there.

There seems to be a very consistent misunderstanding here about what an editor does. They don't go in, fix your manuscript for you, then send it back and say "here, all better." No. They mark it up and make corrections, and then send those corrections back to the author to IMPLEMENT.

To make it even simpler: The editor is like a house inspector, who tells you what needs to be fixed to make it more marketable. The author is the homeowner who is tasked to take the inspector's remarks and fix the damned house.

If an author is too lazy or self-absorbed to take an editor's suggestions to heart and change things, then yes, it is their fault. Not their editor's.

Jamesaritchie
12-19-2009, 08:52 PM
Now wait a second, maybe the author's manuscript was correct and the editor changed it? You have no idea what the manuscript looked like before it got to the editor.

I also think it's presumptuous to assume it's solely the writers fault, especially when it is the editor's job is to catch all the mistakes and correct them. Maybe the writer did make a mistake but so did the editor. They don't get a "it's the authors fault" cop out when they are paid to make sure those mistakes aren't there.

One thing I do know is that sometimes people believe a word is spelled wrong when it is not. On more than one occasion someone has pointed out a word to me that they think is misspelled and it is actually the variant (British or American) spelling of the word.


It doesn't work that way. The editor edits, then teh writers gets to go trhough the edited manuscript. When everything is done and the galley proofs are put together, teh writer then gets to go over those.

The writer always gets the last look at a manuscript, always gets to do the final proofread, so if the editor changes something the writer had correct, the writer always has the oportunity to change it back again. So no matter how the mansucript looked before the editor got his hands on it, the writer still has a chance to correct everything in the book.

Nor is it the editor's job to catch all mistakes and correct them. He does what he can, which is usually a lot, but catching and correcting mistakes is primarily the writer's job.

"It's the writer's fault" is not a cop out. It's the writer's book, the writer's name goes on the cover, the writer is, after all, the writer, and the writer always gets the last chance to look at the manuscript and correct any mistakes.

It is the editor's job to help make the book better, and he usually does, but he's not the writer, and he's probably working on fifty-eleven other manuscripts at the same time he's dealing with yours, which means he has every right to expect you to find and correct any errors he misses in your manuscript.

If you want a perfect book to emerge from the press, you must take that last proofread as your chance to make certain your manuscript has no errors.

Wordwrestler
12-19-2009, 10:13 PM
There seems to be a very consistent misunderstanding here about what an editor does. They don't go in, fix your manuscript for you, then send it back and say "here, all better." No. They mark it up and make corrections, and then send those corrections back to the author to IMPLEMENT.

To make it even simpler: The editor is like a house inspector, who tells you what needs to be fixed to make it more marketable. The author is the homeowner who is tasked to take the inspector's remarks and fix the damned house.

If an author is too lazy or self-absorbed to take an editor's suggestions to heart and change things, then yes, it is their fault. Not their editor's.

I think you're onto something here. I don't know if anyone in AW falls into this category, but some people don't know that editors make marks on the manuscript showing the changes that they recommend. They don't indicate errors by actually fixing them in the document. It's my understanding that even with a file instead of hard copy, the editor doesn't type over the parts that are wrong to make them right. They have a system of showing the author the mistakes, not changing them.

Still, the editor is responsible for a job well done. She is responsible for her own mistakes (especially if her suggestions are wrong). But she's not responsible for the author's decisions about which changes to implement. As for the silly mistakes that several people miss, she bears part of the responsibility, because she, too, missed them.

Medievalist
12-19-2009, 10:17 PM
I also think it's presumptuous to assume it's solely the writers fault, especially when it is the editor's job is to catch all the mistakes and correct them. Maybe the writer did make a mistake but so did the editor. They don't get a "it's the authors fault" cop out when they are paid to make sure those mistakes aren't there.

With very rare exceptions—like, the wrong postcript file got sent to the printer, it by golly is the writer's responsibility.

The editor suggests; the writer implements.

There's a reason that the writer's name is on the cover.

Manectric
12-20-2009, 12:14 AM
In one of Zoey Dean's novels, she remarks that a character had a haircut "like Wilma from Scooby Doo." It's Velma, not Wilma. Wilma is a Flintstones character.

In another Zoey Dean book, someone is reading Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This is a huge error. The book that became a famous movie is called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Just because a movie came from a book doesn't mean the book has the same title as the movie. Gosh.

BigWords
12-20-2009, 01:05 AM
Books seem to be held to a higher standard than any other fiction medium. The crap which regularly gets passed off as 'scientific' on television and film would be laughed out of the door in a novel, yet some people (a minority, but still a large enough percentage of the population of this planet to give me doubts as to intelligent life on Earth) actually believe some of the technological innovations in popular fiction have actually come about in real life.

And there might have been a tie-in edition of Willy Wonka with the film's name plastered on the cover...

RevisionIsTheKey
12-20-2009, 04:47 AM
Mistakes happen. Writers, editors etc. are just people, and although they should pick up all the errors, they do miss them sometimes.

Just look at the mistake in your post...;)

You are right about the error. I wasn't sure if it was an a or an o and I was too lazy to check it out, so I used it both ways in different posts. (This is a trick I learned from teaching middle school. Those kids go with the law of averages.) I already spend way too much time on this site. If I checked every little thing, I'd get nothing at all accomplished.

Had I been writing about the author for publication, I would certainly have checked. At least I know that the l and t are silent when saying the name. That should be worth something!

Namatu
12-20-2009, 05:27 AM
There seems to be a very consistent misunderstanding here about what an editor does. They don't go in, fix your manuscript for you, then send it back and say "here, all better." No. They mark it up and make corrections, and then send those corrections back to the author to IMPLEMENT.Excellent. Thank you.

No one person is solely responsible for errors that appear in print. Publishing a book is a collaboration among many parties. The editor has an important role in that collaboration, but is by no means The Great Power.

jfreedan
12-20-2009, 05:56 AM
There seems to be a very consistent misunderstanding here about what an editor does. They don't go in, fix your manuscript for you, then send it back and say "here, all better." No. They mark it up and make corrections, and then send those corrections back to the author to IMPLEMENT.

You know, when you write ....


They mark it up and make corrections

....to "prove" that editors don't make corrections to a manuscript, you're arguing against yourself.

It does not matter who has to actually change the manuscript.

The editor's job is to edit. By the very definition of the word, their job is to find errors. Their responsibility isn't shifted just because they told someone else to fix the errors they found.

When errors still make it into the manuscript that means they made a mistake. It's really that simple.

Now, I didn't say it was solely the editors fault. I said it was not solely the authors fault and that editors share part of the blame.

Besides, with the small fortune it takes to publish, market and distribute a book, I rather doubt editors are letting authors have the final decision on whether a book rife with errors goes into the market.

bclement412
12-20-2009, 06:03 AM
This is more of a printing error, but last night my mom was reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and she discovered that pages 400-476 were replaced with pages from the 100s. I wanted her to keep it because it was kind of cool, but she exchanged it for a better copy :(

RevisionIsTheKey
12-20-2009, 06:37 AM
In one of Zoey Dean's novels, she remarks that a character had a haircut "like Wilma from Scooby Doo." It's Velma, not Wilma. Wilma is a Flintstones character.

This a perfect example of the kind of thing I was referring to in the original post. The lack of research is definitely the author's failure, and I would guess editors don't have time to check on this kind of stuff, nor would they take the time if they had it. But with so many eyes seeing the MS before publication, it would be nice if someone would catch it.

Medievalist
12-20-2009, 06:49 AM
This is more of a printing error, but last night my mom was reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and she discovered that pages 400-476 were replaced with pages from the 100s. I wanted her to keep it because it was kind of cool, but she exchanged it for a better copy :(

That's a signature error, and they do happen.

Medievalist
12-20-2009, 06:51 AM
You know, when you write ....
The editor's job is to edit. By the very definition of the word, their job is to find errors. Their responsibility isn't shifted just because they told someone else to fix the errors they found.

This is absolutely not an editors job--and you've just managed to piss off a lot of editors all at once.

It's not even a proofer's job to "catch errors."

The proofer sees it "in proof," AFTER the author.

And YES, authors have the last word. The final option is to return the ms. and tell the author to keep the advance.

There's a reason STET exists--and that with a BNA you will sometimes find the author STETs everything--and so the book goes out like that.

Namatu
12-20-2009, 07:14 AM
This is absolutely not an editor's job--and you've just managed to piss off a lot of editors all at once. Yes.

Let's step out of the bubble of one editor and one book and into the reality of one editor and a deluge of books - of varying quality - on tight and competing deadlines. Maybe in the fairy tale of Once upon a time, someone sat around and confirmed every single fact in a manuscript and the diligent author thoroughly reviewed every single markup and maybe even found other errors to fix. That is not the real world.

Editors don't tell authors to fix corrections. Editors make change or correction suggestions. They do not hold all the power you seem to think they do, jfreedan.

charlotte49ers
12-20-2009, 07:17 AM
What kills me are all out typos, spacing errors, etc. I know if I catch them on the first read, they should SCREAM to the copy editor.

Plot errors, I can forgive.

Chumplet
12-20-2009, 07:34 AM
I was reading Amy Tan's Saving Fish From Drowning. In a scene where a man and woman are caught inflagrante during a fire at a hotel, the woman is rushing to put on a t-shirt, and three paragraphs down everybody sees her wrapped in only a towel.

It kinda made me feel better about the missed edits in The Toast Bitches. But, only a bit...

Manectric
12-20-2009, 08:07 PM
I don't think spelling and grammar errors contribute to this discussion...I mean, there are (though rare) spelling errors in Harry Potter. I remember the word "site" instead of "sight," in the last book, and yes, J.K. Rowling meant the second "sight," you could tell from the context. However, again, I think these such errors are insignificant in the larger scope of things.

Another error I have noticed (other than the ones I mentioned in my previous post), was a character calling one character by a different character's name. In a Marilyn Kaye book, a girl says "Travis," when she is speaking to Jake, and Travis is nowhere in the vicinity. And she means to be talking to Jake...it's not one of those relationship things where a girl calls a boy by a different name...it was an error.

ChaosTitan
12-20-2009, 08:44 PM
You know, when you write ....



....to "prove" that editors don't make corrections to a manuscript, you're arguing against yourself.


Um, no I'm not. And since Medievalist and Namatu have already made terrific points on the rest of your post, let me simply clarify.

I said:


They mark it up and make corrections, and then send those corrections back to the author to IMPLEMENT.

The majority of work is done now in digital files. Some houses do all edits digitally, which means they send the editors edit suggestions in Word, using Track Changes. Other houses, like mine, still do them on a physical, printed copy, in blue or green pencils.

Whether it's in Word or on paper, the editor's job is the same. She marks it up, makes suggested corrections, asks questions for clarification, maybe even says, "hey, I don't think Chapter 18 works, what do you think about cutting it?" and then expands on her reasons in the edit letter.

NONE of that means the editor is making final changes. She's saying this is what she'd like to see changed. She has sent along an edit letter, anywhere from four to twenty pages long, clarifying her thoughts and in-text edit suggestions. Listening and making those changes is the author's damned job.

You seem to think that the editor wields some amazing power of alteration over a manuscript, and that if they want something fixed, then by golly they'll just fix it no matter what the author thinks. Good editors just don't work like that. Besides, if editors suddenly had the power to change at whim, without author approval, authors would be crying foul.

Jamesaritchie
12-20-2009, 09:23 PM
You know, when you write ....



....to "prove" that editors don't make corrections to a manuscript, you're arguing against yourself.

It does not matter who has to actually change the manuscript.

The editor's job is to edit. By the very definition of the word, their job is to find errors. Their responsibility isn't shifted just because they told someone else to fix the errors they found.

When errors still make it into the manuscript that means they made a mistake. It's really that simple.

Now, I didn't say it was solely the editors fault. I said it was not solely the authors fault and that editors share part of the blame.

Besides, with the small fortune it takes to publish, market and distribute a book, I rather doubt editors are letting authors have the final decision on whether a book rife with errors goes into the market.

But it is solely the writer's fault. By the very definition of the word "writer", your job is to get things right. You are supposed to make certain their are no errors in your manuscript. You can argue it forever, but just because someone is an editor in no way means that person is responsible for making your manuscript error free.

And errors are not a decision anyone makes. Errors are mistakes. And writers do, always, get the last chance to correct mistakes.

This doesn't even make sense: Besides, with the small fortune it takes to publish, market and distribute a book, I rather doubt editors are letting authors have the final decision on whether a book rife with errors goes into the market.

If a book is rife with errors, it's ONLY because the writer didn't find and correct those errors when he made the last proofread of the manuscript.

Editors don't "let" writers do anything. Writers do what they do because it's their job to do it. No editors wants a book to be published with errors, and they do their best to catch tehm all. But it's never a matter of an editor "letting" a writer make a decision about errors. Making that decision is always the writer's responsibility, the writer's job, and he always gets the chance to do that job after the editor has finsihed his work.

Your giving editors far more power and responsibility than they actually have, and giving writers far less responsibility than they actually have.

MaryMumsy
12-21-2009, 12:03 AM
Another error I have noticed (other than the ones I mentioned in my previous post), was a character calling one character by a different character's name. In a Marilyn Kaye book, a girl says "Travis," when she is speaking to Jake, and Travis is nowhere in the vicinity. And she means to be talking to Jake...it's not one of those relationship things where a girl calls a boy by a different name...it was an error.

That is what is called a 'continuity error' in film. Calling a character by the wrong name, the t-shirt/towel thing Chumplet mentioned above. Green eyes on page 43, blue eyes on page 44. I find those frequently. And in books by major and mid-list authors. Don't know why they seem to be happening more, but I just breeze past and keep reading.

What gets me are factual errors. Putting the Superstition Mountains west of Phoenix. Things that could be looked up through Google in two minutes. To me that is just lazy. For some reason I have an enormous collection of miscellaneous and useless knowledge wandering around in my brain, and those factual errors tend to jump out at me just as much as the spelling/homonym errors.

MM

Namatu
12-21-2009, 03:17 AM
He-Man, Editor: I have the power!

http://s3.amazonaws.com/readers/telewatcher/2008/08/08/258271_0.jpg

jfreedan
12-22-2009, 01:51 AM
This is absolutely not an editors job--and you've just managed to piss off a lot of editors all at once.


No, I've (apparently) only managed to upset a few people such as yourself.

It's not even hard to find online sources where authors, agents and editors talk about how the editors proof-read their manuscripts, pointed out errors and also suggested significant plot changes. If I remember correctly, Stephen King's book On Writing has a chapter devoted to how a newspaper editor taught him how to edit by editing his articles.

It is universally agreed that editors point out errors and yet you're actually trying to say an editors job isn't to find them? We are defensive, aren't we? To the point we're claiming although employed to find errors it's not the job to find errors?

You can throw out as many excuses as you like for why an editor didn't catch something; a book that goes to print from a large company has been read by dozens of people and if simple errors make it into the final product, the fault lies with the one who wrote it (the authors) and those who are employed to catch the errors the author didn't notice (the editors).

I'm also fairly certain that, unless publishers are no longer operating as a business, there is a clause in a publishing contract which stipulates the publisher reserves the right to make changes to the manuscript to ensure it is "fit for publication"; or something along those lines.

You know what the most tragic thing is? If there are editors running around thinking their job has nothing to do with quality control, that may very well be a contributing factor to why many books never earn back their advances. When I see threads like this that talk about the errors in books, as a reader I'm a lot less likely to look at other books printed by that publisher. A book does not just represent the author; it also represents the publisher. This is even more true for small presses; I've been looking at a lot of them lately and I check out what find of reviews their books have received. I won't even submit to the ones where the reviews have pointed out a bunch of errors.


But it is solely the writer's fault. By the very definition of the word "writer", your job is to get things right.

The definition of the word "write" has nothing to do with being "right". They are different words.

When you try to prove a logical argument is false, you have to actually use logic.

The biggest problem you have with my post is something my post doesn't even say. Somehow you interpreted my post as, "authors have no blame" into "editors take all the blame". My post actually said, "Editors and authors share blame".


The publishing of a book is a collaborative effort. I am not the one dumping the blame for a collaborative effort onto one individual. That is what your posts are doing.

ChaosTitan
12-23-2009, 04:28 AM
jfreedan - I can't decide if you're just not reading our posts, or if you've simply made up your mind and refuse to understand what we're saying. I don't know your experience, but I do know my experience, and I know the experience of James, Medievalist, and Namatu, who've all said basically the same thing I have.

None of us have said editors don't edit. None of us have said it's not their job to find errors. What are ARE saying is that, in the end, the person whose responsibility it is to make--physically make, in the digital file (or hard copy, if you still do hard copy copyedits)--the changes is the writer.

No one's dumping blame on anyone. Someone asked a question, we're trying to answer it. Our collective experience is obviously contrary to yours.

IceCreamEmpress
12-23-2009, 05:14 AM
Green eyes on page 43, blue eyes on page 44. I find those frequently. And in books by major and mid-list authors.

If it's good enough for Madame Bovary, it's good enough for any novel.

finnisempty
12-23-2009, 07:30 AM
I'm ok with errors and inconsistencies just as long as the book isn't riddled with them.

Bartholomew
12-24-2009, 02:00 PM
I just read the discussion of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and someone brought up the dog bringing back the dead girl's elbow. The poster wondered how a dog could bring back an elbow because it's really just a location, a space where two bones meet.

If someone told me a dog found a young woman's elbow, I would assume -- automatically - that he'd found a broken end of the radius, ulna, or humerus. Outside of a classroom, I'll happily point to the olecranon process and say, "This, friend, is the elbow."

Since the story is from the perspective of a young girl, I assume her vocabulary prevented her from knowing the exact piece of her body that'd been recovered, and that good taste prevented her from giving a vivid image.

Also, if you'll recall, her killer hacked her into pieces--he didn't scrape the meat from her bones. It's quite possible that the dog was carrying the joint, with meat on it, and that the killer had hacked through her arm at some place other than the joint.

I really don't see this as an error.

aruna
12-24-2009, 02:47 PM
I remember reading Mrs deWinter a few years ago, Susan Hill's sequel to Rebecca.
In this story, the deWinter couple had spent several years in Europe, where Mrs deWinter learnt to drive. They returned to England for the first time, and she drove a car for the first time in England.

On this first drive, for some reason she became spooked and began speeding around the countryside, tearing down narrow lanes and around corners.
I immedately thought, no way! When you first drive in England after Europe, or vice versa, you crawl like a snail, getting used to using the "wrong" side of the road.

RevisionIsTheKey
12-28-2009, 07:26 AM
I thought of some recent posts when I read the following in Elizabeth George's Write Away: But if you're using adverbs, you need to keep in mind that the reader's attention will then be drawn to how the line of dialogue is said rather than to what is said. I call the editor of my first twelve Lynley novels the queen of adverbs, by the way. She put them in; I took them back out.

Overuse of adverbs with tags is so commonly condemned in books on writing, it is hard to believe there is an editor out there who continues to weaken the MS after twelve books. I am beginning to think that no generalizations can be made about the author-editor relationship.

maxmordon
12-28-2009, 10:47 AM
The only one I can think off are on the first editions of Good Omens someone says Famine has seven letters, Pterri said it was a mistake.

Manectric
01-03-2010, 09:34 PM
It made me think of something I noticed in Jodi Picault's Nineteen Minutes. At one point, someone goes to the neighbor's house to borrow gasoline. The neighbor is a retired fireman. Where does he keep his gasoline? In the basement, of course. Doesn't that go against Fire Safety 101?


I'm reading Nineteen Minutes, and my copy says that the neighbor is a retired cop, not a retired firemen. However, there is an error I noticed in the book. A criminal in the year 1995 gets busted because he left his cell phone at the store he robbed...and called his number. I don't know how it's possible for a random guy in New Hampshire in 1995 to have owned a cell phone. In 2007, yes. Not in 1995. Did cell phones exist? Yes, but you had to be rich to own one, and the book said nothing about the guy stealing this cell phone.

mscelina
01-03-2010, 09:45 PM
Maybe I can help from a few different perspectives.

First off, as a writer: right now, I'm going through print galleys for one of my books. It's an early book--okay, my first book--and what I'm finding is making me cringe. Now, I can't go back and do a full-scale edit of the manuscript; that's not my job. My job is to go after the formatter/proofer and mark any additional problems I'm finding. Some of these are as miniscule as an extra space after a period. Some are straight up typos. Most were things I should have caught originally but didn't. But see--here's the thing: 340 pages of manuscript manages to look a hell of a lot alike while you're going through it for boo-boos.

(that and I really want to rewrite this darn book but know I can't.)

Second, as an editor: any editorial marks I make on a manuscript--save for egregious technical/grammatical/spelling errors--are suggestions. I can make all the complaints I want to about a plot point, but the writer isn't obligated to follow those. I encourage my writers to defend a particular sticking point to me if they think my suggestion won't work--and usually, in the process, they find a way to make that section better either from streamlining it (90% of the time) or expanding it (the other 10%) for clarity. The idea that editors crack a figurative whip and command a writer to change a scene or else is just a fallacy.

And finally--as a rare book dealer. I have copies of extremely well-known books that are more valuable because of the proofing errors. We use those errors to identify specific printings of older books, and in newer books those identifications can make the difference between regular market value and increased rarity. For example, I have a UK 1st edition printing of JK Rowling's The Goblet of Fire where the binder left an entire twenty page section out of the middle of the book. The number of books where that mistake happened is extremely small--less than 150--so small it doesn't even qualify as a printing run. So where is that book now? In airtight rare book storage, nestled in a box with other such misfits, increasing its potential value in my inventory closet.

So there you have it. Hope that helps. Now excuse me--I have to go back to proofing this galley so I can cringe over my adverbial fetishes once more.

Storm Dream
01-04-2010, 02:38 AM
Regarding The Lovely Bones, I had no problem with the elbow part. The narrator's a young girl who likely didn't know what part of the bone(s) it was, and I figured the dog had just brought back...well, the elbow. Or the section of arm we typically call the elbow.

Regarding editing. I've copy edited for magazines and, more recently, a web marketing firm. The web marketing firm in particular is a LOT of copy that tends to bottleneck with the editors (20 writers/six editors). We're not going to catch everything. We just aren't. We can get the spelling errors, spacing errors and most of the sentences that don't contribute to product description and/or spiral off into nothingness - but we're not going to catch it all.

I typically edit 12-15 product pages a day. They run to about 1100 words, max. I'm trying to imagine editing a stranger's 100,000-word novel that might be full of made-up words, twisting plotlines and dialects...

And then have more than one novel sitting on my desk, deadlines looming...staff cuts meaning everyone's got more on their plate...

It's a nightmare. I chuckle at the occasional typo and extra space I come across in reading, but with some of these giant fantasy doorstoppers, I'm surprised more doesn't get through. Perfection's not attainable. Editors are not going to catch everything, and neither are writers for that matter.

Mr Flibble
01-04-2010, 03:21 AM
I don't know how it's possible for a random guy in New Hampshire in 1995 to have owned a cell phone. In 2007, yes. Not in 1995. Did cell phones exist? Yes, but you had to be rich to own one, and the book said nothing about the guy stealing this cell phone.

I had one. I remember upgrading to a starTAC ( you know, the ones everyone thought were super cool cos they looked like Star Trek communicators) when they came out in 1996

Mind I never used it - it was for work when I was on call and the signal was hopeless in my flat

RevisionIsTheKey
01-04-2010, 03:58 AM
I'm reading Nineteen Minutes, and my copy says that the neighbor is a retired cop, not a retired firemen.

However, there is an error I noticed in the book. A criminal in the year 1995 gets busted because he left his cell phone at the store he robbed...and called his number. I don't know how it's possible for a random guy in New Hampshire in 1995 to have owned a cell phone. In 2007, yes. Not in 1995. Did cell phones exist? Yes, but you had to be rich to own one, and the book said nothing about the guy stealing this cell phone.

1. I guess I would still expect a cop to know better too, but I will grant you it is not as bad as a fireman doing it.
2. I had a cell phone in 1998, and I can guarantee I am usually about ten years behind the rest of the world in technology.
3. Which brings up the issue of readers thinking you made an error when you didn't. Good grief.

SirOtter
01-04-2010, 04:54 AM
I can't believe no one has mentioned Robinson Crusoe's pockets yet. Google, people, google. If Daniel Defoe can make a huge continuity error like that, we can all feel a little less sheepish about our own. Doesn't mean we should try to eliminate them, though. :)

RevisionIsTheKey
01-04-2010, 06:28 AM
I can't believe no one has mentioned Robinson Crusoe's pockets yet. Google, people, google. If Daniel Defoe can make a huge continuity error like that, we can all feel a little less sheepish about our own. Doesn't mean we should try to eliminate them, though. :)

Well, Sir Otter, I took you up on that and found an actual copy of a NY Times article commenting on that very thing. (Aug. 30, 1902) The writer of the article quoted the sections in question and proved his point that,

1. while Dafoe said Crusoe removed his clothes, he did not say all his clothes. That would have been a pathetic defense, but the writer went on to quote a section that talks about Crusoe
2. seeing his shirt and some other items of clothing on the shore, but that he is wearing britches on the boat. This does seem to settle the issue because if Crusoe had indeed taken off every stitch of clothing, wouldn't the plot of the story have gone in a much different direction?

The article's writer did mention that Dafoe had made some real mistakes in the book, but that this was not one of them.

Claudia Gray
01-04-2010, 08:09 AM
Yes, cell phones existed in 1995. Relatively few people had them, but not only millionaires/spies/etc. They were larger than now, but they were around and about from early in the '90s so far as I know.

Jamesaritchie
01-04-2010, 08:59 PM
I'm reading Nineteen Minutes, and my copy says that the neighbor is a retired cop, not a retired firemen. However, there is an error I noticed in the book. A criminal in the year 1995 gets busted because he left his cell phone at the store he robbed...and called his number. I don't know how it's possible for a random guy in New Hampshire in 1995 to have owned a cell phone. In 2007, yes. Not in 1995. Did cell phones exist? Yes, but you had to be rich to own one, and the book said nothing about the guy stealing this cell phone.

You didn't have to be rich, or anywhere close to it, to own a cell phone in '95. I think my wife's cost somewhere around five hundred dollars. Not cheap, but no more than some cell phones cost today. Coverage areas were few and far between, but they still worked pretty well.

Various criminal types were also early adopters of the cell phone. They didn't steal the phones, but I suspect they did steal the mony to buy the phones. At any rate, cell phones were as big a blessing for criminals as for any of us. More so, probably, because they were infinitely harder to tap or locate.