It was an ugly experience running through my first book again and correcting the constantly repeated error I made. Ugly, but necessary.
One of the most basic rules of grammar: punctuation goes inside the quotation marks. I messed that up on probably 70% of the times it appeared in the book. 70%!!! Insane!
There were a few more errors I uncovered (most related to punctuation and quotes), but the predominant issue was the above.
I have no idea how that could happen. I’ve been writing dialog for years; long before my venture into writing novels. To mess that up on almost every chance I had beggars my imagination. I just finished reviewing What Next?, the second book. Know how many times that error appeared? Zero. (I did find some omissions worthy of submitting a new version, but not that one).
I use Microsoft’s excellent grammar and spell checker tool in Word. It has vast flexibility and customization. I could not imagine how it would miss that common error in its checking, so I brought up the control box for the feature. More than a dozen choices, but nothing about punctuation in quotes. But it’s a basic rule of grammar, it had to be there! I felt like Mathew Broderick at the end of War Games…it should have been on the list!
Clicking on the settings button next to writing style brought up a bunch more choices, including “punctuation required with quotes”. It said “do not check”. Hum, yeah. You know those tech support guys who ask you if your computer is plugged in? Yeah, I think that question was created for me.
Ok, so I turned it back on and tried it out on my recently finished re-edited first book. Guess what, it flagged a whole bunch of sentences. Except none of these sentences were dialog. They were words or phrases within quotes that I was referencing (i.e., he was going to “educate” him for good). I’m just guessing, but I’ll bet I turned that option off to avoid the constant incorrect reminders, thereby preventing the software from protecting me from myself.
What a mess. In the meantime, three years have passed, dozens of people have read and reviewed the book and no one noticed the error or, more likely, thought it was not serious enough to bother me. Oh, you nice and generous readers, you! Thank goodness my plans to ramp up my marketing and work for greater publicity haven’t started yet.
These posts aren’t really necessary. You only want to know that the books are corrected and my future writing will not have errors. You don’t need the whole megila. I need it. These posts serve as my public whipping post; my personal catharsis. I need to jettison the self-anger and disappointment and let it go. Fix the books and move forward.
My publisher was concerned over my reputation because of these errors. I had to chuckle. I haven’t sold enough books to have a reputation. All kidding aside, it was my self-respect I was most concerned with. Tomorrow, I’ll draft up an apology email to all the book reviewers who requested a copy of my book. It’s the only honorable thing I can think of for having sent them an unprofessional copy to review. That will make me feel better, too.
Last week, my nieces lost their cat they had throughout their youth. This week, a longtime friend’s youngest daughter gets married. Tears of sadness, tears of joy. A much better reason for crying than a bonehead job editing my first book.
Still, what a waste.