C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Your mistakes taunt you

The original Ruby slippers used in The Wizard ...

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I saw the movie Limitless over the weekend. I loved it (and it helped the loser/hero starts out as a scrambled slacker writer who is hopelessly blocked . It’s a great time, but as I hit the parking lot I thought, (MINI-SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!) how come they left the dangling thread of the unsolved murder? Was it lost on the editing room floor?

There are plenty of precedents for such mistakes. For instance, a truly great classic, Casablanca is brutally flawed if you think about the ending for a moment. The engine of the plot turns on there being only two travel passes so only two people can leave. Will Ilsa go with Rick or Victor? The resistance needs Victor so Rick must sacrifice his desires for Ilsa for the greater good. But there are no Nazis checking passports at the airport!

In fact, in the background at the end of Casablanca just a few little people (they were “dwarves” when the same extras were in The Wizard of Oz) pretend to fuel a cardboard cut-out plane. Rick could have escaped, as well. Instead he stays with Louie and they begin a beautiful friendship that, years later, would inspire the raw, hot homo-eroticism of Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame. (Okay, I made up that last bit.)

Sometimes people underestimate the importance of editing. When stuff is left out, it sticks out. Even if you enjoy a story, as you put it down, you think about that niggling deficit. I guess it’s just the way our brains are wired. You forget praise, but point out a screw up, that you remember forever.

I recently went through a writing sample for an author. I might have seemed harsh though I took great pains to be kind. The truth is, I found a lot to fix. The author wanted to send it off for traditional publication. Without those fixes, there was no way it was going to get past the first gatekeeper.

Publishing has changed. There are fewer editors doing more work and if they accept a new author at all, they do not want to have to do much editing at all.
With To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee‘s acquisition editor took a year off to perfect the book. There is no way in hell that would happen today.

You want your text to be excellent. If you publish it yourself, good might do. Even “good enough” might pass. But is that really what you want? Mistakes in books stand out and stick, burning you at the thought of readers stumbling over a glaring error and questioning your ability, craft or intelligence.

Errata are in all books. They shouldn’t be dancing around in neon taunting you.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: authors, Books, Editing, Editors, movies, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

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