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On The Horror of Getting It Wrong In Print

18 May 2017

From The Literary Hub:

“I love how you don’t care what anyone thinks about you—even your husband!” a young woman, calling herself a fan, wrote to me after I’d published an essay in the New York Times.

I laughed out loud. Not only has my husband read and edited just about everything I’ve ever published (he has been my first and best reader on everything since I was an alt-weekly intern in Texas, 16 years ago), but also I care about what everyone thinks.

Whenever I publish something—anything, anywhere—for a long time afterward I wake up at 3 am, thinking, “Wait, did I say 1988? But it had to be after 1990!”

One time, many years ago, when I was first writing for the New York Times, I heard from someone on the copy desk that in a theater review I’d gotten the director’s name wrong. I burst into tears. They said they’d run a correction. Then I pulled myself together and launched an investigation into how I’d made the egregious error. I learned that I’d been right in the first place, so the Times appended a correction to the correction.

“Have you ever heard the term ‘pure obsessive’?” a mental health professional once asked me.

“No, why?”

“Never mind,” she said.

I thought with my last book, St. Marks Is Dead, I had conquered my fear of errors by providing a flotilla of endnotes. I did roughly 250 interviews for the book and went back to a large percentage of those people with follow-up questions.

And yet, a few mistakes remained.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG says one of the many lovely things about ebooks and POD books is that errors can be almost instantly corrected.

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2 Comments to “On The Horror of Getting It Wrong In Print”

  1. “PG says one of the many lovely things about ebooks and POD books is that errors can be almost instantly corrected.”

    But as was pointed out above, sometimes it’s the correction that is wrong (or changes the intended meaning.)

  2. I was offered the chance to be a beta reader for two authors I like. I said yes! They sent their ebooks to me within hours of each other.

    I just finished the first one. The version I was sent had a duplicate chapter. As in one chapter was included twice with different chapter titles and the actual text of one chapter was missing. I immediately contacted the author who sent out an email asking the beta readers to download the corrected version.

    He was quite grateful to still be in beta!

    It was fun to be involved in this. The way he did it seemed smart to me. He allowed folks to sign up for different stages of beta reading. I signed up for the last stage as I’m quite good at noticing things like a missing closing quote mark or an extra space here and there. I’m not interested in looking for plot holes, etc. so the earlier rounds of editing are not for me.

    He then created a shared google doc for reporting what we find (by chapter). That way he avoided getting a ton of emails about the same issue.

    It did change the way I read the book as I had to focus in a different way. I wouldn’t want to read (for pleasure) like that all the time. I did enjoy it for this book.

    I saw that he thanked all the beta readers by name and sure enough, I’m in there. First time that has happened.

    I was nice to have an easy way to point out the things that I often find in any book I pick up.

    I’m about to dive into the second book!

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