Santa is busy checking his list, making sure he has everything right. He certainly doesn’t want to give the wrong gift to a child.


What Santa is doing is similar to what a writer must do before considering a manuscript ready for publication. (It’s what I’m doing with my work in process.) Before Santa takes off for his long night journey he makes sure everything in his sled is where it should be and as it should be. Before I send this story out, I want to make sure I’ve cleaned up all typos, spelling errors, grammar mistakes, and unnecessary repetitions. I also want to be sure the details are accurate and there are no inconsistencies.

Back years ago, when I started writing, I printed everything out and used a red pen to make corrections. I didn’t feel a ms was ready to submit until I saw a minimum of red on the pages. Nowadays, I do my editing on screen, so it’s not as obvious to me that I’ve caught most of my errors. I say most because catching every error is almost impossible. Our eyes and minds like to play tricks on us. We see—or don’t see—what we expect, not necessary what’s actually there. Even when I writer goes over a ms, followed by a line editor going over the ms, and finally a copy editor, mistakes occur.

Recently a writer told me he chose self-publication because he was tired of finding so many errors in traditionally published books. I purchased a copy of his book, and I’m about 20% into the story…and I’m finding errors. Nothing big, but they are there: the simply typos and missing words.

As I go through my ms, I want to make sure I have all the details correct. If a man puts something in his right pocket, I don’t want him pulling it out of his left pocket. If a character’s eyes are blue in the beginning of the story, I don’t want them turning brown or green by the end of the story.

When I critique other writers’ mss, it’s the accuracy (or lack of) I often comment on. If it’s dark out, would the heroine be able to tell what color eyes the villain had? If a man is shooting a revolver, how can he click off the safety? (Revolvers don’t have one.) And if a victim is prone on the ground, how can the detective see what’s written on the victim’s chest (unless the detective turns the victim over).

Consistency is important. If a character in the beginning of the story has an accent, he should still have that accent by the end (unless it’s a Pygmalion story). If the heroine is always using a cell phone in the beginning of the story, she needs to either have one available in the end, when she needs to call for help, or a plausible reason needs to be given why she wouldn’t have one. And if an interesting character is introduced at the beginning of the story, that character shouldn’t simply disappear, never to be mentioned again. There needs to be some resolution as to why the person was included in the first place.

Even though we writers may not be able to produce absolutely perfect mss, and publishers may continue to produce books with errors in them, I feel we need to be as accurate as  possibly. Which means—I need to read through my wip one more time.

There won’t be a blog on this site next week. I’ll be next door stuffing myself with turkey and all the trimmings. As for New Year’s Day, we’ll see. It will probably depend on how many drinks I consume the night before. A list of resolutions might be a worthwhile endeavor. Number one, as usual, will be to lose weight. Number two might be to drink less. ☺

And for those who have heard me talk about my “Old Lady” book…A KILLER PAST has found a home. More on that later.

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6 Responses to Accuracy

  1. Melissa Keir says:

    I think that it is so hard to find all the errors (typos). They aren’t seen by our eyes. Even when we search and search because our brains simply put what should be there in place of the mistake. I can try but in some ways, I have to understand and accept that.

    Now if people are writing stories that have changing character names, changing eye colors or other issues…that’s just frustrating!

  2. CJ Matthew says:

    My biggest frustration as a reader comes from factual errors in books that a few moments of online fact-checking could have prevented. Like attributing lines from Jane Austen movies to her instead of the screenwriter, saying witches in Salem were burned at the stake, telling us Top Gun (during filming of movie) was in FL instead of CA.
    Melissa- a critique partner and beta readers can help to spot typos or consistency errors. Also a PC program that reads your ms aloud.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Excellent points, CJ. The only thing I would add is that a writer needs to be careful about checking facts on-line. There is misinformation as well as accurate information available. Another caution would be writers should not assume information in fiction books is accurate. Writers need to do their own research to make sure a statement actually came from that source or a fact is correct before including it in their own book.

  3. dsoule says:

    A KILLER PAST has found a home. More on that later. Way to go MOM!!!

  4. paula says:

    Congratulations on finding a home (with help from that wonderful agent of yours) for A Killer Past. When I grow up, I want to be just like you. : )