When writers edit – why we keep missing errors

I was pretty harsh on hindsight about 9 months ago in one of my posts. I might have mentioned the word hindsight alongside words like acid, fire and brimstone. I may have also likened it to a pointy-edged object. But I’ve grown lately, and I’ve come to understand that there are reasons I miss editing errors the 1st, 10th and even 40th time around.

I think it has something to do with my capacity to hold new information. Now writing veterans don’t have the same learning curve as I, but there are probably still moments where they fly over an error because they can write without having to be so conscious of mistakes. It’s the nervous performer who often succeeds.

But in my case, when my information funnel is full, I can only fit more in when the contents start filtering through the bottom. And the bottom of my funnel is pin sized and the information is like mud….

So I’m going to take it easy on myself this time around. I wanted to berate myself for sending off queries too early. But I had done my research, am continuing to research and am learning from research. So each round, I’m going to tweak – change the first paragraph of my MS, change my query blurb, take out unneccesary words and scrutinise further.

Why didn’t I do this first time? Well, I did – as far as I could tell. But with queries looming over my head and time dragging on from my final draft ( I needed that belly laugh) I had to send those queries out.

Have you even felt that?

And now that they are out, I feel like the bottom of my funnel is now marble sized, and with that extra room, I can see things I couldn’t before.

Surely, I’m not the only one…




23 thoughts on “When writers edit – why we keep missing errors

  1. Everyone misses errors, even printed books have errors in them. We are only human after all. Do you read your work aloud, that always helps me, and I always pick up so many more errors when I print a story out and edit it that way.

    • I’ve done this countless times ( print it out), but I must admit, I haven’t read aloud the very last draft of my first ten pages. I keep revising every 5 rejections or so, and I see things I didn’t see before. Maybe I’m looking harder, maybe I’m hungry for validation and my senses have become more keen! These proofreading type mistakes are tough, but it’s those content edits and copy edits that I might have to delve deeper into. How’s it all going at your end? Will come visit today πŸ™‚ Today I received a form rejection that mentioned to continue editing :s Although many have received this same ‘form’ rejection, it does get me thinking….

      • I highly recommend reading it aloud. I actually record myself reading it aloud and then listen to myself, sometimes straight away, sometimes the next day, I find it works well.
        Sent four more queries away last week, with a revised query, and got a rejection from one of them the next day, at least they were fast. I think 30 is going to be my golden number. As in, if 30 agents don’t want it I am going to put it on hold for awhile. I want it published but I’m not sure if it is going to be my first. I am working on a MG at the moment that I think has a lot of potential, and is a lot more marketable, and I think I’ll have a lot more luck with it.

      • I’ll hold out a few months longer before I’ll get into book 2 and then query part-time. I’m up to about 12 rejections now and am onto blurb number 3. Will send out another 15 in a week when I have this completed – each blurb takes this long… I was trying to keep the blurb high-concept and get straight into the conflict,goals and obstacles, but I think this meant I didn’t set up the character and scene as much as I need to. And although they say, the blurb is not a mini-synopsis, I see a lot of successful queries set up this way. I think the agent must really need to love the concept. I also had a 2 sentence hook, which I have since taken out, so they get straight into the blurb. Hard to know what to do, but I understand what you mean about marketable. And I see a lot of MG partials requested over YA πŸ™‚

      • If you ever wanted me to go over your query I’d be happy to. Just send an email to me: sharpewords@gmail.com We just have to keep fighting. I’ve sent about 20 out now with about 15 rejections, I did get one partial out of that though but was rejected after that. It’s very draining but you have to be persistent.

      • That’s awesome to have a partial requested. You know your query works and you just have to keep going. I’ll email you Thursday πŸ™‚ thank you for the offer !

      • I would feel more confident if I had more than one partial, but it was nice to get it. And no problem, I’m always happy to help other Aussie writers πŸ™‚

  2. Lorelle, you are definitely not the only one! I’ve used every trick I’ve ever heard about, and a copy editor of some repute, but those nasty little errors still keep on getting through. And yet I’ve received positive comments from readers about the complete absence of typos in early drafts when I later discovered this was not the case, so maybe it’s not the problem our perfectionist writing beliefs insist to us that it is?

    • I hear you. I’ve had an editor miss something on the first 3 or 4 revisions and then pick it up on the 5th. We all fall prey to over stimulation. And that’s what it might be: you pick up on what is glaring at you most and you can only see the small oversights when you’ve dealt with the big ones. I think I could live with proofreading mistakes, but I think I might need more help with copy edits and content edits that will help with style and ‘writing trends’. Pesky adverbs, overusing words, overusing ‘as’ and ‘ing,’ style issues…It may be time to get those first ten pages edited again…

    • True that! There are so many angles to cover and we are so nervous about failing because our concept and genre may not appeal. I can handle one or two minor errors, but I’m worried about in-depth editing now :S. I hear many people saying that they thought their draft was final, before going through another ten drafts…

  3. Yes, I call it premature querying and I’ve done it with every book I’ve thought was completed. What I like about your post is your dedication to going back after rejections and seeing how you can improve the ms, the query, the research instead of calling agents stupid or short sighted. Which, btw, writers do.

    • It’s tough to revise when you don’t know which part to change, isn’t it? But I have to trust that if something is staring at me and a light goes off, then it means that I’m not happy with it and it’s meant to change. Although I’m a practical person, I can’t help but think the issue will hit for a reason at the right time. And by revising, I can at least keep living in hope that THIS draft will be the one that works. If I’m not changing my query and MS, I’ll go crazy. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. And I’m insane enough already lol

  4. You’re not. The last query for an agent I sent out I asked them to consider publishing my book instead of representing it. Oops! I guess I am so used to saying that.

  5. My writers’ group is wonderful at both catching typos and catching unnecessary adverbs, repeated words, sentences that get out of control, logical lapses–I don’t know how I ever wrote without them. Up to ten sets of eyes on each draft!

    • wow, that’s great! I have 3 great ladies that help me out here. They keep me grounded. My biggest problem now is tightening my writing and avoiding those ‘red flag’ mistakes.

  6. Lorelle:

    There is not a single published writer who hasn’t had this experience. The basic problem is that when we read our own work we see what it SHOULD say and not necessarily what it DOES say.

    Let me know when you find the herbal supplement that keeps this from happening. We’ll market it and make a fortune!


    • I know I can’t see content mistakes when I have so much other information flying around in my brain. But every time I master one technique, it allows me to see another. I wish proofreading was my only enemy 😦

  7. Lorelle! Hello gorgeous girl… I found you! Sorry I haven’t popped over here sooner. I will have to have a good wander around your blog and read everything there is to know about you.

  8. No you’re not. I lay in bed at night thinking about things I should’ve changed, wished I’d changed and wondering if I changed all after the fact. Sigh. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog, and glad you enjoyed my post. Look forward to seeing you again soon, doors always open at Jean’s Writing.

    • Even the seasoned professionals have editors, so that always help me put things in perspective. I need to go to that next level of editing, though, where it’s more about content – more of an honest critique of my tone and style that may be offputting…

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