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Proofing! Perception? Pet + Peeves

Disclaimers first.

I had this post perfectly written when I happened to glance back on previous blog posts. All I have to say is, "HEEELLLP!!!" Somebody please help me! I want to get back to reading... to pick up my mood... but I can't... because you know why!!!

That expatriate out of the way, I wholly respect editors, proofreaders, or any reading specialist looking out for the best interest of writers and readers. To the contrary of what I may write further along in this post, I have been affably surprised by comments received from editors. One who's feedback I really looked forward to, told me she didn't want to change my sentence structure(s) because she recognized it would disturb my voice, which she found "...and she used some really powerfully trendy words here." Of course this told me she wanted to change my sentence structure, but I was none-the-less very pleased by her work, and the corrections she ultimately made. Luckily I had reached out to a professional editor, and have every confidence there are many more like her.

So what I am about to write is not to dissuade any editor, proofreader, or otherwise book doctor from doing what is innate to he or she to do. In fact, editors and proofreaders can stop reading here.

I'm taking this post to the other side of the editing, proofreading spectrum. But before I get into the story, which is very short, I must take care of a few other housekeeping items.

1) I've said it many times before. All non-fiction should be professionally edited. Having seen it done before... several pairs of eyes mauling one document with as few as several pages, I fully understand (all) the whys of why this is done.

2) Beneath that tune, all published books, whether non-fiction or fiction, should be as consistent and clean (as in error free), as possible.

3) I have no peeves about my novels being mauled over. I’m just not willing to pay for the mauling... if it wasn't requested.

...which brings me to the story, (incidentally told here before) that bolsters my position for staying steadfast against novels scrubbed squeaky clean.

I was in a class where all 20 or 30 of us were told to watch a video of a group of people tossing a ball back and forth. Our instructions were to count how many times the ball passed back and forth.

The video started playing, and we started counting. At the end of the video we were asked how many times the ball passed back and forth. The overwhelmingly majority of us guessed the correct number. But then we were asked, how many of us saw the gorilla in the video, of which the overwhelmingly majority of us did not see. I believe maybe one person said they saw the gorilla, however that one person counted seeing the ball passed back and forth something like four times. Most of us counted 17-18 times. And just let me be clear here as I describe this gorilla. It was large, larger than everyone passing the ball, very dark and very hairy, and throughout the ball tossing did the butt dance several times in the dead center of this passing ball activity!

This is what happens when we focus on counting gaffes in a story. We miss the story. I've even heard some editors admit that they often can't enjoy books because they're so hung up on watching grammar and punctuation. My goodness, can anyone hear Shakespeare screaming!?! ...had someone removed all them exclam marks from his work!?!

All to say, the reason gaffes are important to novels, something I subconsciously picked up on before encountering this 'gorilla' business, is because this is the writer's voiceprint. A natural, untouched voiceprint gives any story its compelling edge. And finding editors like the professional one I reached out to, lets the book stand on its on weight and shine.


  1. I've seen that gorilla video and have used it in my post about Temple Grandin's book about autism and animals! I did see the gorilla, but then I had read a description of it before I saw the video. I love how you apply it to book editing. So true.

    I have been a technical editor for many years and it has been my job to homogenize all reports coming out of a certain organization. But I surely would not like to see novels and creative writing get that kind of treatment!

  2. I have plenty of editor friends who can't read books anymore. I am so glad that I'm not one of them! Great post which I found via She Writes.

  3. Hi Carol, I really got a kick out of that video. I laughed so hard when we finally just watched video, and of course haven't forgotten the lesson. Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate your comment.

    And hello Rena, and thank you as well for stopping by. I have to thank those reading comprehension classes I took as a kid for why I enjoy reading today, and not too bothered by distractions in books.

  4. Can't see the forrest through the trees. I get caught in the story and am the WORST copy editor ever! I write non fiction and still find mistake after 5 people, (that I have paid) already combed it. Ugh! You can never have too many pairs of eyes!

  5. LOL. I find this a big irony, so I must agree, the more eyes the better, even if too, (back in the day), and oh...yawn... here I go again, but writers didn't go through these series of checks and critiques, and 'please watch my hand' for novels.

    Oh well... Thanks for stopping by Jodi! Really appreciate your comment.

  6. I saw that clip - and I totally lost count and watched the gorilla. Which I guess it means I am a big picture person. (Or simply have a "thing" for gorillas, lol!)

    Mostly when reading books I can enjoy them despite the occasional typo. However, if the same typo keeps reappearing - there was one author who used the word "discrete" when she MEANT "discreet", in 3-4 places, I became triggered to look for it - and there it was again! So it became a distraction.

  7. Have to admit things like that do catch your attention, though I read one book full of gaffes, and still loved that story. I will never forget it. It was the cutest story. Of course, this was a rare one. Too many distractions can easily cause a reader to lose patience. Thanks for dropping in Bev.


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