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Editing (Unlike Math) Is Hard

One of the complaints self-publishers get is that their work isn’t well edited. Sometimes that’s true, and sometimes it’s not, and sometimes it’s something in between. There are plenty of ways to get a better final version (many eyes make light work), but the truth of the matter is that typos, grammar whammies and other bogglers get through. They just do.

As a fantastic example of this, I was reading crime author extraordinaire Lawrence Block‘s blog post about a pretty bad editing error he just discovered in one of his books. After the book’s been in print by several publishers for over 20 years.

I did find a few typos I’d somehow missed. Well for wall, means for meant, a word or two left out. And then, remarkably, I found this paragraph:

I nodded. “And Lynn London’s been married and divorced, and half the neighbors on Wyckoff Street have moved somewhere or other. It’s as though every wind on earth’s been busy blowing sand on top of her grave. I know Americans lead mobile lives. I read somewhere that every year twenty percent of the country changes its place of residence. Even so, it’s as though every wind on earth’s been busy blowing sand on top of her grave. It’s like digging for Troy.”

Could some gremlin had added it since my last reading? I checked the eBook version, and saw that I’d somehow failed to notice it in either of my two passes over the text… I studied the paragraph, and it seemed clear to me that the first wind-and-sand line was the one to cut. But why not make sure? So I went and hauled out my copy of the Arbor House hardcover first edition and checked.

And there was the full paragraph, just as I quoted it above, with both sentences about the wind blowing the sand on Barbara Ettinger’s grave. That, evidently, is how I wrote it over thirty years ago. And that’s how it’s been ever since, sailing past Jared Kieling, my editor at Arbor House, and their copy editor, and their proofreader, and everybody else who’s been involved with the book over the years.

It happens to the best of us.

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