Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Something Old, Something New

I have a new Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Superfluous Women, coming out in June. And in March, the first of the series, Death at Wentwater Court (originally published in 1994), will be reissued in trade paperback. Something old and something new.

I was surprised and pleased that Minotaur sent me the page proofs of Death at Wentwater Court to be checked—for the nth time.

Before publication, each ms has already been edited by me before I send it off; read by my Minotaur editor, whose purpose is to make suggestions for improvements, but who also marks typos that jump out at him; by a copy-editor; by me again, reading the copy-edited ms; and finally I get the page proofs, aka first pass pages or what we used to call galleys. In spite of computerization, new typos are sometimes introduced by whoever passes for a typesetter these days.

Most of the errors that turned up in the new proofs of Wentwater Court were the result of the changed format, in particular hyphenization. I don’t care what the Chicago manual says, you cannot hyphenate Wentwater as Wen-twater. It’s obscene. Literally.

One change I asked for was because of a historical error in the original, brought to my attention by a reader: in 1923, British railways had long since abandoned 2nd class carriages.

The other change I hope they have dealt with was a matter of character development. I didn’t know, when I wrote the first book, that Detective Sergeant Tring would be an important recurring figure with his own particular view of the world. One remark he made in Wentwater Court was completely inappropriate to the person he turned out to be. Luckily I was able to find an alternative that wouldn’t completely mess up the pagination, something one has to take into account at this stage of the process.

Of course, the same consideration applied to the page proofs of Superfluous Women, which arrived on Christmas Eve. The author who decides to rewrite at that point may be on the hook for the cost of reformatting/resetting.

Again, there were not many corrections, and most were a matter of a word or two, even a letter or two. Practice/practise was one. I write British English. Practice is a noun; practise is a verb. As both have the -c- in American English (Don’t they? Now I’m thoroughly confused!), I was surprised when the copy-editor changed my noun from -c- to -s-. I changed it back, but the wrong one somehow survived.

The only major error I found was entirely my own, but how it wasn’t caught by anyone in the process I described above beats me. Two major characters in the book, a young woman and her aunt, are surnamed Hedger. Yet on page 305 of the manuscript, I called one of them Hewitt.

Where on earth did that come from?

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.


  1. Is any book error free? I had a similar problem in my latest book. Somewhere along the way, I changed a character's name so it didn't end with an S. Sure 'nuff, one of the original names survived somehow. Don't know how it happened, but it did. Thanks to an English reader with whom I've had correspondence, she caught it and told me. Fortunately, I could fix it and republish.

  2. I doubt any book published is truly "error-free," but I am finding more and more glaring errors in books, magazines, newspapers, and online articles. Editing seems to be taking a backseat. Future readers may not be taught sufficient grammar and spelling to care. Thus the demise of the convoluted, infuriating, delightful, everchanging English language begins. Perhaps we will resort to cave drawings in the form of emoticons? ; )

  3. In my first Blackthorne, Inc. book, the first time we met Horace Blackthorne, he was Blackstone. Nobody caught it until I got the ARCs.

  4. Don't get me started on typo's ... the bane of homey's existence ... I swear my tombstone will read RIQ.

  5. An author's work is never done. There's always something to fix after you think everything is right!

  6. I think my worst ever typo was in the early days of Search and Replace (I used Volkswriter way back then). It was in one of my Regencies. I had a French character called Louis, whom I decided to change to Alain. I'd forgotten my heroine's parents had met in Louisiana. Luckily I caught Alainiana before publication...

  7. Don't you just love computers? They react (to input), but they don't think. Find and replace functions do have a dark side.

    1. Global search and replace is a dangerous tool. It has its uses but I'm very cautious with it now.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.