Pencils Have Erasers

Today is New Year’s Eve.   I’d like to reassure you before I start: this is a true story and I’m completely sober…

This week’s project is reading the proofs for Artemis Awakening’s mass market (that is, paperback) release this coming May.  As always I was tempted to skip.  I mean, I’ve reviewed this manuscript before.  In this day and age of computer formatting, what could possibly get messed up?

The Page in Question

The Page in Question

The urge to skip was even greater because this is the week between Christmas and New Year.  Jim has taken time off work.   The urge to make this week playtime was even greater because I went straight from undergrad to grad school, then from grad school to teaching college, then from teaching college to being self-employed.  The week between Christmas and New Year has pretty much always been my week “off.”

I’m glad I didn’t skip.  I hadn’t even gotten to the main text of the book when I came across the first error.  It came on the “Acknowledgments” page.  Instead of my expressions of gratitude to those people who helped me make this book a reality, starting with my agent, Kay McCauley, then going on from there, I was startled to read:

He felt a new emotion trembling through her: conciliation.  But the Michael felt he was up on a long ledge, a narrow hard space and, though Jessie was there too, it was she who had put them at risk.

He felt a new emotion trembling through her: conciliation.  But the ods is outlined in white lights, easy to locate.

He felt a new emotion trembling through her: conciliation.  But the Michael felt he was up on a long ledge, a narrow hard space and, though Jessie was there too, it was she who had put them at risk.

Finding a place to park the car is more difficult, but they finally come upon a space where Jessie can wedge the small car in.  Michael has no idea if the spot is legal or not.  It was she who had put them at risk.

As they might have said in the days of my childhood, “Like, wow, man… This is completely cosmic.”

Not only has my tidy little essay somehow been lost, it’s been replaced with something so horribly written that nothing so simple as proofreading can save it.  Is “conciliation” even an emotion?

I don’t think so.  Google offered the following definition of conciliation:

    • The action of stopping someone from being angry; placation. “He held his hands up in a gesture of conciliation”
    • The action of mediating between two disputing people or groups. “Many disputes are settled through conciliation by the official body”

Astonishing…  So, even though this should be my holiday, you can bet I’ll be reading slowly and carefully, just in case some confused computer somewhere has inserted more of the adventures of “the Michael” and risk-taking Jessie into the middle of Artemis Awakening.

Pencils have erasers for a reason.  Time is given for proofreading for exactly the same reason: No one ever means to make mistakes but, nonetheless, mistakes happen.

Meantime, I wish you all a happy and safe New Year’s Eve and a Happy, Happy, New Year!

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6 Responses to “Pencils Have Erasers”

  1. Peter Says:

    Indeed, no matter how carefully or thoroughly you proofread something, tyops happen. And that’s not even getting into the problem of errors introduced by spill chuckers or search and With run amok (happened to Rosemary Kirstein – a rogue regex replaced every instance of the string “replace” – including mid-word, as in “fireplace” – with “With” in one of her books. Happily putting out a correction is a lot easier with an e-book than a print one).

  2. Paul Dellinger Says:

    Good grief, how does a massive mess-up like that happen? Manuscript gremlins?

    • Peter Says:

      Search and replace gone bad, at a guess – I know I’ve done as bad or worse in my time.

      Every medium has its perils – back in the days when “cut and paste” involved actual scissors and glue I can remember buying paperbacks that didn’t have any egregious tyops…but did have repeated or skipped signatures. These days you see a lot of Cupertinos, and it’s perilously easy to hit “replace all” instead of “replace”.

  3. Heteromeles Says:

    Happy New Year to you too Jane!

    I’d venture that someone in production was copying and pasting between windows, and pasted into the wrong window. Hopefully that was the only mistake, and there’s not a whole ring of authors out there with their holidays ruined because some production assistant decided that having 15 windows open was good and copying amongst them would improve efficiency.

  4. Sally Says:

    You may be completely sober, Jane, but I have to wonder about the production department. Or maybe someone was writing their own magnum opus while they were supposed to be working on your manuscript.

    If worse comes to worst and you run into more of these major snafus, maybe you should call them and let them know they need to fix it before you do your run-through. You trying to catch a storm of errors is a) an unnecessary burden for you and b) a recipe for a bunch of small typos creeping in while you’re concentrating on the big problems.

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