This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Every reader hates typos, we all know that, but there’s a kind of typo that, as a reader, throws me over the edge. The wrong detail. I was reading a ‘big six’ published book this week and the heroine went to meet her new father-in-law-to-be, only he had her surname, rather than the hero’s. Cue head scratching and me having to go backwards in the book to try and work out if it was the heroine’s father acting very strangely, or whether the surname was wrong. What might seem like an innocent oversight made me wonder about the entire quality of the book. So just how do we try and make sure all the details in our books add up?
Now, I’m no stranger to the odd wrong detail in a novel. We all know I made mistakes when I first self-published Millie and the American Wedding, and I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to know I had written a scene in where I’d put the wrong characters’ name in. Embarrassing, confusing for the reader, and very hastily changed.
Since then, I’ve started getting my books professionally line-edited and that’s made me cast a more critical eye over my manuscripts. I’ve tried to become more methodical and I now spend a day ironing out little details. First on my agenda is my time-line. I plot on paper the time-line of the novel chapter by chapter, and fix dates to each event. Even though those dates will never feature in the novel, they help me make sure that throwaway comments in the chapters, e.g. ‘I can’t believe two weeks have passed’, fit with the time-line and that it is really has been two weeks. I chop and change my manuscript too much to be able to do a time-line until near the end of my editing process, but I make sure that I’ve done it before my final read through so that I have it handy to check the dates whenever a time reference is given.
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I also pay special attention to names. I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s had to change a character name half way through a manuscript, only sometimes these old names can hang around like a bad smell. I make sure that I search for the old name used, just to check. I also do a quick search on names that are similar to my main characters too, just in case I’ve spelt the name wrong. In my latest WIP a prequel to Millie, I ran a search on ‘Mille’ as during a speed read that looks almost identical to Millie, and it doesn’t come with a wibbly red line either. I also ran a search for Kirsten (my character is called Kristen) just in case I was having an off typing day.
In my next WIP, I’m determined to do character questionnaires, noting down key characteristics including physical descriptions.
If you want to know more about character questionnaires Novelicious’ Cesca covered it in one of her fabulous Beat the Block videos.
What do you do to keep track of the details? Do you have any top editing tips to try and avoid detail howlers?