Profread One Least Time

Nemesis, who brings you just what you deserve

In submitting a manuscript to an American publisher last week, I wrote a cover letter mentioning that one of my books (All Good Children) was nominated for two YALSA awards. I read through the letter and manuscript excerpt, made a few revisions, proofread it a final time, and was just about to send it off by email when I made a tiny last-minute change.

The last-minute change is my nemesis. (As in the divine retribution that comes to the cocky.)

I altered “was nominated” to read “is a nominee.” Oh yes, what an improvement.

Did I proofread my letter again? No. Honestly, why should I? It was perfect last time I looked. I made the change and pressed “send.” And off went the submission into a stranger’s mailbox.

But when I glanced at the letter to jot down a record of the submission, I noticed that I hadn’t quite changed “was nominated” to “is a nominee.” I’d actually changed it to “is a nominatee.” Yup. I had written, ever so proudly, that my book was a nominatee for some awards (very presitidigious awards).

Did I really send that to an editor? Yes, I totality did.

Do I expect the editor to even glance at the manuscript following that letter? No, I reality don’t.

Say, is that a literary agent? Attact!

Those last-minute changes show up as typos all over my letters, posts, and manuscripts. (Like the blog post in which I christened Deadline? What Deadline and noted that the name might not be a good choice for a writer trying to keep her clients and “maybe attact an agent.” Hmm. I don’t think the blog name is the problem.)

But what’s a silly blog post or one weeny cover letter compared to my brilliant last-minute change of name in a manuscript I sent out this summer? I read the whole thing through until it was perfect. Well, almost perfect. Two characters had similar names, which might confuse an inattentive reader. So I did a last-minute search-and-replace to change “Tony” into “Randy.”

What could be simpler? It was a minor character and he seemed even more authentic as a Randy. It would have been a big improvement if it hadn’t left my heroine, Tina, sitting in a srandy silence and complaining about the monorandy of her waitressing job.

Yeah, I sent that one out, too. I’m serial.

It’s not that I don’t proofread. I proofread MANY times. I just can’t leave well enough alone. I always fall for that last-minute altercation.

Take my advice. If you change ANYTHING in your submission, read the WHOLE THING over again before mailing it out.

Just do it. On more timer.


14 comments on “Profread One Least Time

  1. Valerie Sherrard posted this on Facebook so I surfed in. Funny, funny stuff and I am so guilty of some of this. Tony to Randy is soooo hilarious.

    • We all do it, and I know these will not be my last mistakes. I’m very careful with search-and-replace now – I never press “replace all” unless I’ve put spaces around the words I’m changing (otherwise you could change “math” class to “science” and end up with an “afterscience” to some disaster). But it’s the last-minute revision that usually trips me up. I must stop that. Just stop touching it. Enough already.

      • ‘Find whole words only’ is what you want to use, but that can still be dangerous. Back at the dawn of word processing, a friend of a friend changed his character David’s name at the last moment, which was a breeze thanks to the new Search and Replace feature. The book, however, was subsequently published with a reference to Michaelangelo’s Jeff…

      • Aha, thank you! A search-and-replace safety mode. That’s just what I needed. So Randy’s Pizza might have slipped through? No harm done. Although most people would rather have pizza at Tony’s, I suspect. Still, it’s not like a whopping art history error. This is where proofing the proofs comes in, I guess. I bet it was like the Emperor’s New Clothes and the editor, copy editor, and proofreader all thought, “Hmm, I never heard of Michelangelo’s Jeff, but I don’t want to appear ignorant…”

  2. yep. i love when i make mistakes. reminds me i’m human. and if the editor is close-minded enough to shut you down for a simple typo, they don’t deserve your work. we all make mistakes. that’s how we learn. 🙂

    • Oh yes, I am so so human. I think typos can void a submission, not so much because editors are close-minded but because they have fifty other submissions to sift through that morning so they are very happy to find a reason to stop reading mine. I would hope that the editors I know could overlook a typo or two (I wrote “or tow” but then I corrected it – hah! I am learning already!). I think errors do the most harm in cover letters to strangers. (They are the shortest bits of writing to proofread – I don’t know why I can’t stop meddling with mine.) I like to think that this editor shared my “nominatee” boasting with her colleagues and they all had a laugh to liven up a dreary day.

  3. I’ve done this, too! Enough already, indeed….

    • Hi Lindsey! There was a great line in the movie Six Degrees of Separation where a father is marvelling at how gorgeous the kindergarten artwork is and the teacher tells him that she’s not a great art teacher, she just knows when to take the picture away so the child will stop “improving” it. (It’s better in the movie, trust me.) Sometimes I need someone to take my stuff away. I have difficulty moving on….

  4. It’s my firm belief that no one should have to proofread their own writing. After all, when you already know what it is supposed to say, it is difficult to see what is actually on the page (or in the file, these days).

  5. Classic!! Have you heard Taylor Mali’s Impotence of Proofreading?

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