Death and typos

Much of the book was written on an iPad, with the sun on the screen. That's no excuse, but it also kind of is... I spent more time editing than writing, that's certainly true. What's worse, I even ported the document from Quip to OpenOffice to Scrivener to Word, and wrote concurrently across Dropbox versions on different computers, and re-wrote parts out of order that were affected by deleting a huge section at the advice of my first-draft editor/assessor.

I also use something like four different keyboards on various computers; my fingers aren't in any nice habits.

Tonight after work I went to the movies and there was a typo 'get you tickets online' in the cinema ads ; then I went home and found a typo of my own (still blushing), but to be fair, the cinema had the same error in ads for two different films.

For the first month after making this website, the page header was 'A New Fanatasy Novel...'

In short, I've spent a lot of time correcting a lot of typos. As the printer joked: "Don't open the book again, and you won't find any typos." Tonight I pushed my luck, and sure enough I found one I can't believe I missed (which always happens). But what worries me to death more than typos is whether the story is actually interesting to other people. After all, now that it's taken flight of its own, we can all stand back and weigh up how it turned out. Up till now, I could just keep changing it whenever I liked. Now if I get a great idea for an addition or a change, I have to stick my hand over my mouth and fume a bit.

With print on demand, and eBooks, there's often nowadays a sort of continual updating to editions, like software patches, in which typos can be gradually ironed out. One of the last books I read was an Alastair Reynolds sci fi story The Prefect, and it had only one typo that I noticed, a 'then' instead of a 'the', or something similar, such as I found tonight, a 'they snow' instead of a 'the snow'. It isn't the kind of error that shows up in spelling or even grammar checkers, but I'm sure everyone will spot it straight away.

I am currently reading Gormenghast, which somehow I never came across until a month or so ago, while I was searching for a book reviewer and found my way to The Conversation, which is an academic online periodical of sorts: https://theconversation.com/gormenghast-can-mervyn-peakes-weird-fantasy-ever-work-on-screen-95159

I asked a colleague if they had this book, and they kindly lent it to me. It was an edition published after the BBC TV series, but was still a feast of typos; so many I almost felt good. All the same, Gormenghast was written in a time before word processors, but I can't imagine a publisher of a new edition wouldn't correct mistakes like: "Of course", he said. Well, as it turns out, Mervyn Peake developed Alzheimer's throughout the period of writing his three books; Terry Pratchett also developed Alzheimer's, but his last books were highly collaborative, and he could hire the best of editors. Editing is expensive and difficult, and even ingesting the corrections of an editor is not easy.

Weighing up typos is a horrible experience, because for each one that's polished away it doesn't mean another is not waiting to be discovered. It isn't like discovering a rare specimen though, it's like discovering yet another spot of rust on a car. They glare out once seen, but actually they are less of a problem than story oversights, missing passages, repeated lines, unfinished sentences, or contradictions. I bought an anniversary collection of Tolkien that includes a history of the editing of the Lord of the Rings editions, which is something of a tale in itself. There's even a wiki page detailing various interesting lapses here and there you may never have noticed: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Mistakes_and_inconsistencies_in_Tolkien's_works

I suppose it's a poor argument that, if the greatest authors, have mistakes, why can't I? Well, I'm very much in favour of incrementally updating books, especially in our age of digital processing. There's a common saying in game development that on launch day more players find bugs than staff can in months of patient QA. Reporting bugs in software tends to improve the software for whoever reports its (and others), but reporting a bug in a book is more of a complaint, like getting a bit of egg shell in an omelette.

Naturally, I have fixed errors that I've found, and the version that's live, so to speak, if you order now, has only one typo I'm aware of. If you find others, letting me know will be a great favour to later readers (and I'll blush all day too).

Errors I made often, that my editor was excellent at spotting, included characters popping in and out of scenes. Weather being hot and cold at the same time. Genders of animals, robots, demons. Directions of things, things happening more than once, things removed that therefore meant other things couldn't possibly happen. I had this notion that distances and time should never be referred to explicitly, but just before publishing I found three or four cases where I did just that. There are other errors too, such as not developing certain features in the story, pacing, not explaining events to the degree they might really need, over using dialogue at the expense of action, behaviour, or 'visuals'. But a typo, once found, is objectively a mistake, whereas other faults are often arguable.

If you find a typo, please send me the page information and describe the error using the Contact Form and if it's a new one, I'll be sure to send you a Promo Code for the second book!