Unintentional Mistakes and Their Consequences

Posted on: August 5th, 2009 by Anthony Rapino 15 Comments

Has this ever happened to you?

You spend weeks, months, years, writing a short story or novel. It’s looking pretty good. You like the characters and plot. It flows. You think it will sell, but first it needs editing.

You workshop your novel, taking it through edit after edit, and critique after critique. You spend another week, month, year, perfecting your masterpiece until finally, it’s ready.

You craft a query letter and send them out to a few agents. Then, hope beyond all hopes, you get requests for material! This is great, but you aren’t fooled. You take your time to read over your manuscript and make some final changes before sending it out into the world.

Phew! What a journey it has been. But now you can finally relax a little, and maybe work on something new. But, wait. You’re anxious about this manuscript being read by an agent. Will they like it? Will they offer representation, or send you a form rejection? With these thoughts burning through your head, you decide to read over your manuscript again.

What’s this? A mistake!? But how??? You edited it so many times! How can this be!?

Has this ever happened to you? Because it has happened to me.

A few days ago I decided to peruse my novel. Call it masochism, call it idiocy, call it whatever you want. But I did it. And you you know what? I found a mistake that recurs throughout the novel, from beginning to end, that somehow through dozens of edits, critiques, and polishing, I never caught.

One of my characters can see auras. In fact, she makes a living doing readings of people’s auras. She’s an “aura reader.” At some point during the writing, I started calling her an “aural reader,” saying that she did “aural readings,” and talking about “aural trails.”

I don’t know when or why the switch occurred, but it did. And somehow, the problem never occurred to me. Until now.

Aural: of or relating to the ear or to the sense of hearing.

Aura: a distinctive atmosphere surrounding a given source

What does it mean? It means that there’s an agent reading my manuscript wondering what it means that this character can do readings “of or relating to the ear or to the sense of hearing.” And what that has to do with auras.

Not good my friends. Not good.

15 Responses

  1. Aaron Polson says:

    Um…all the time. Actually, I find errors in published works all the time too. Last night, the word "bad" was in place of "had". Not even the same part of speech.

    Aural/aura shouldn't make or break the deal. Fingers crossed.

  2. onipar... says:

    Thank you, sir. You are a scholar and a gentleman.

    I was hoping it wouldn't be a deal breaker. I can never tell when it's just my anxious writer's brain playing with me, or an actual problem.

  3. Scott says:

    I can totally feel your mortification. I would think though that an agent would overlook that and even point out the mistake. I publisher would edit before printing it anyway, right?

  4. Robert Farley says:

    I agree that shouldn't be a deal breaker either. We all read it, after all, and didn't bother us, geniuses that we are.

  5. onipar... says:

    Hey, Scott. Thanks for the support. Yeah, if it gets picked up there will be tons more editing done. I guess it just bothered me that it was a recurring mistake, which might signal to the agent that I don't know the difference/definitions.

    Fingers are crossed.

    Bob, thanks. Yeah, that one slipped by all of us. I actually like the way "aural reader" sounds much better than "aura reader," which is probably why I didn't catch it for so long.

  6. Catherine J Gardner says:

    It's amazing what we miss first, second, the hundredth time around.

    Fingers crossed.

  7. Kat says:

    I've never published anything, but I would guess that your content will matter more than the mistake you mentioned. As long as the story is compelling you should be okay.

    I hope so, anyway…

    (One of the submissions I sent out had a couple little mistakes, too. Lol. Oh well, "to err is human," right?)

  8. onipar... says:

    Too true, Catherine. Thanks for your support.

    Here's hoping, Kat. I'm trying not to think about it too much, but I guess it's apparent how that's working out. 🙂

  9. Stephanie Faris says:

    Yep. I've found mistakes in QUERIES after I sent them off. I've done the (gasp) horrible thing of accidentally leaving another agent's name on a query as I e-mailed it to a new agent. EEK. Interestingly, I did that to an editor once and she requested the complete. Odd!

  10. onipar... says:

    Forgetting to put the correct name on a query, or misspelling the name, is one of my biggest fears.

    That's cool that they looked past it.

  11. Akasha Savage says:

    I am forever finding mistakes in my work after I've sent it off. It's so frustrating. But I've had a couple of bits accepted despite the mistakes, so don't give up hope. The trouble is our eyes deceive us; we read what we think is there not what is really in front of us. A bad failing for a writer to have! 🙂

  12. Paul West says:

    I can totally relate!!! You know my story as well as I do. We've been through each other's novels so much we can probably quote them, and we still find errors. Frankly, the Aural thing never occurred to me that it was wrong.

  13. Jade L Blackwater says:

    I'm with Kat, I'm betting that the content and context will indicate that you know what you're talking about for the reader.

    I can relate, because not only does this happen to me, but I even go to measured lengths in order to address this… for most important correspondence, email, etc. I will often "pretend" to send it out to trick myself, and then go read it again. I will put email in the outbox, but won't send it – instead, I'll go back and read it to see what I've been missing. I'm not really sure how I manage to fool myself with this small, ridiculous ritual, but it helps.

    Good thoughts on your ms – I'm sure that even with a few errors, it still sings!

    JLB

  14. onipar... says:

    Thanks, Akasha. I totally agree. I've said many times that at a certain point, we start seeing what we *think* we wrote rather than what we did write.

    Too true, Paul. I marvel over the things we can find after so many edits. It reinforces the idea that there's no such thing as a final draft.

    Yeah, I'm not too worried, Jade. As long as there aren't a number of obvious errors, I should be okay.

    Thanks again to everyone for the support. 🙂

  15. Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) says:

    Argh! The trouble with so many edits is that after a while you just stop seeing things. I find the best thing to do is to read the manuscript out loud as a sort of final going through. Amazing what you pick up when you do that.

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