by Kathleen Ernst
I just finished my final read-through of Old World Murder. Today it goes back to Midnight Ink, and on to the printer.
Many authors, I suspect, savor this moment. (I'm done! I'm done!) Me? Not
It's not that I'm not excited about publication. Of course I am! But a refrain keeps circling through my brain: What did I miss?
I can't even count how many times I've carefully worked my way through these pages. Dozens and dozens. Hundreds, maybe. Lots of writer-friends and content specialists have reviewed it as well. And still, on this final pass, I found more than a few mistakes.
After Midnight Ink accepted Old World Murder, I cut about twenty thousand words in order to get the manuscript down to the publisher's target length. I tried to smooth over the cuts, but I did find a couple more disconnects on this final round. For example, very late in the novel I refer to a character saying such-and-such, when in fact, that line in Chapter 1 was deleted.
Then there were the awkward bits. Here's one clunker: "A headband striped with yellow and green and blue kept a curtain of shoulder-length braids swept back from her shoulders." How could I have missed that double "shoulder" earlier?
Old World Murder is set in 1982, which provides a few extra challenges. One reader informed me that the word "Scrunchie" was not in use then. (Scrunchies, for those not in the know, are hair thingies.)
I have memories of wonderful meals at a place called The Nite Cap Inn back in the '80s, and I wrote it into the book. (I only use real places if I love them.) I thought I'd described it well, but my husband and I recently dined there so I could revisit the fish fry experience. The food is still superb, but I'd forgotten that you have to order first, and wait in the bar until a table is ready. A small thing...but locals would know the difference. I changed my scene accordingly.
Consistency is another bugaboo. A patio table that was made of iron in chapter 4 had magically morphed into wicker by the book's end. My cop character is keeping an eye on a tavern called The Eagle's Nest; I noticed on this round that about half the time I didn't capitalize "The." Ack.
And despite the careful and detailed timeline I've constructed for the narrative, I not once but twice referred to the wrong day of the week.
I work really hard on my books. I hope I've told a good story in Old World Murder, but that isn't enough. I want the writing itself to sing.
So to all patient editors, manuscript reviewers, copy editors, and proofreaders--thank you. I'd be lost without you.
And to all readers--thank you too, for being willing to float over whatever flubs escape the final edit, and make their way into print.