Fear in Writing: Blood-red Oops

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Monday, September 20, 2010

Blood-red Oops

Gearing up for a big weekend with lots of guests (son's birthday party and all that), my daughter picks up a full bottle of bright red nail polish.  Remember, she's 2 1/2, so not very high off the floor.  And these bottles are made of thick glass--what are the chances?  High in our case.  The bottle slips from her tiny fingers and breaks in two.  Shiny, red nail polish all over our wood floor. 

The spill is quite a study in spatter pattern.  If I hadn't been rushing to clean it up before it soaked in, I might have taken the time to pay closer attention to the way it grouped and congealed.

This was an oops that could be fixed.  Granted, we had to fine non-acetone polish remover and possible refinish the wood floor, but it could be fixed.

Once a book is in print, any mistake you've made is out there.  It's out of your hands and flayed open for the world to read.  I'm sure we're all nervous about this.  It's why we read, reread, and have others read and reread.  Then there are editors and publishers and professional readers and trial prints...But things slip by.

Spelling mistakes?  Frustrating and a bit sloppy, but forgivable.
All out WRONGNESS?  In my, book, not forgivable. 

This comes to mind not because of my daughter's big oops, but because of something I recently read.  The book is quite good.  In fact, I'm still enjoying it.  But the facts are...questionable.

1.  Author talkes about the gold dome gleaming on the top of the North Carolina capitol.  As you can see in the picture at the right, the NC capitol does not have a gold dome.

2.  He refers to the State Bureau of Investigation as the "NCBI," when it is actually the "SBI."

NC State Capitol
 These are facts easily checked.  The second is more understandable than the first, but who is ok with getting something so wrong that is so easy to find out?  Honestly, it makes me question how thorough a researcher the author is, and how much he really cares about his product.

Many questions could be asked from this post, so I'll just throw a few at you and let you pick...

What kind of mistake do you most fear making in your MS?
What mistake bothers you the most when you are reading?
What steps do you take to prevent printing mistakes in your book?


  1. That sure was an oops moment, and I am glad you cleared up right away- I was careless with paint once, and still have a part of the floor that is blood red.

    And getting facts that are easily verifiable wrong is an absolute no no for me.

  2. Oooh! That WAS an oops! My daughter did that, as a big girl, on the carpet in her room...and it did NOT come out!

    Those are pretty big errors for an author to make! I do a lot of fact checking while I'm doing revisions, and so does my editor. Sometimes I still screw up...but I try really hard not to.

  3. Michele - I once broke a bottle of nail polish - right before I was supposed to leave for work. Not my finest morning.....

    About mistakes? I get annoyed by them, too, and I notice them more if I am familiar with a place. I can handle a spelling thing or other typo because that can happen and it doesn't take away from the plot for me. But facts? That bugs me. I try to do a lot of fact-checking as I write. Errors of fact can simply be checked and changed. I also have two wonderful beta readers who care enough about me to tell me the truth, and they catch things I miss. Among us, we catch all factual problems, and most of the surface level editing stuff.

  4. Rayna- Maybe I should clarify--still not cleaned up! :P Totally agree about facts.

    Elizabeth- My son wrote a big "J" in red permanent marker on the carpet once, and my daughter pulled a red pen from the desk next to her crib at my parents and drew all over herself and their leather (white, btw) furniture! And...at least you try and, from what I've read, get it right!

    Margot- My biggest makeup oops was a dropped bottle of Elizabeth Taylor's 'White Diamonds' perfume. My grandmother gave this very adult perfume to me when I was in middle school and I was playing adult when...crash! Let's just say it stank for a while. A long while. GREAT idea to have beta readers--though I've been trying to understand that term for a while. As long as the facts are right, you should be fine. The rest is probably easier to catch--well, I don't know...

  5. Hi Michele! Looking forward to your Top 10 TV Shows today.

  6. I hate making timeline mistakes because they are so hard to clean up but I hate reading inaccuracies in books I'm reading because it makes the writer look lazy.

    Clarissa Draper from Listen To The Voices