Fashionably Late

The last line in one of my chapters said “Snow began to fall.” However, it was raining in the next chapter. Big trouble. I had to rewrite a little to make sure the weather in those two chapters was identical. 

In your writing, if your character is wearing a T-shirt and shorts, then the next paragraph cannot have him shrugging off his coat.

You can save yourself a lot of work if you will plan these things out down to the minutest detail before you write. 

It won’t be just a matter of substituting one word (rain) for the other (snow). No, what about the character’s physical and emotional reactions to the weather (He shivered…) or the fact that he/she probably wouldn’t be playing tennis in the snow?

I found it to be, quite literally, a house of cards. Maybe dominoes resting on each other would be a more accurate description. Just one tiny push—one small mistake—and it all comes tumbling down.

It is embarrassing to look at a proof and see gigantic mistakes staring right back at you. (I have literally hit my forehead with the heel of my hand more than once and said, “Duh!”) 

If I need to slow down and miss a deadline, then so be it. Better to be late than produce a book riddled with mistakes.

You may think, “I’ll just leave these things for my editor to sort out and clean up for me.”

From my experience, that would be a big mistake. I had my book edited twice and I still found mistakes on my twelfth read through!  

That’s right. I had competent editors, about eight months apart, go through my manuscript. Still, content mistakes were found as I read through them later.  Part of the reason, I think, is that they don’t—and will never—know the story like I do. Or, maybe they just get caught up in the story and forget what they are supposed to be doing. I’m really not sure. 

But, the point is this: Ultimately, it is your book. The buck stops with you. 

So, be diligent. Be a perfectionist. Make it the best it can be.

Even if, like me, you end up being fashionably late.

Go Ahead and Say It

We authors are all about words, aren’t we? Saying things in just the right way to elicit emotional responses from our readers… creating perfect visual pictures… producing tension and suspense…

The things we fail to say accurately can be just as important in producing that next Bestseller.

They are often little things. The season, the weather, time of day. Perhaps a current event (911 for example), a famous place (Grand Canyon), even an address (1900 Pennsylvania Ave.)

The exact moment is crucial in a book I just started to write. In this thriller, if I fail to leave out a detail that is important to the plot, readers are likely to let me know about it. And I certainly want them to have the best reading experience I can provide.

Keeping our facts straight is important. The best way I have found is dedicating a spiral notebook to each story. I allow six to eight pages per character. On them I list physical characteristics, occupation, emotional ties, personality traits, age, and so on. I refer to it often so I don’t alter important facts.

I have tried charts and pictures, but found they can take up too much wall space. Clutter makes me nervous. I just don’t write well when my space is in disarray. The important thing is not the method you use to keep track of details as much as that you do use something to help you avoid these common pitfalls.