If you’re doing a bit of writing at the moment, here are a few things you might like to keep in mind. All of these have come up on a somewhat regular basis in some of the manuscripts I’ve edited over the years, and even a few published books I’ve read, so I thought I would share them with you.
- Names – no one likes their name misspelled, even fictional characters. One of my authors kept switching between two common spellings of Allen and Allan, and with many more creative variations of name spellings these days, getting it right is important. It’s also very confusing if a character’s name changes halfway through a story. Another of my authors changed the name of a character at one point in the writing, and didn’t pick up on it until I asked who ‘Susan’ was. Be sure to double check as you write, to consciously note names as you go, and spell check for names when you’re done. And if it’s a super complicated story, have a name list handy to keep you and your story on track.
- Dates – consistency and correctness is essential with dates, especially if it’s critical to the story, i.e., non-fiction, historical fiction. Nobody wants a reader to get lost in the telling because of an incorrect date, and some mis-dated information can be embarrassing. In my early days as a book editor, one client contacted me after their book was published to say there were two rather unfortunate mistakes. “Not possible,” I naively said, mostly because I was aghast that I had missed something important. And then the author revealed they had incorrectly written both their wedding date and their grandson’s birth date. Ouch! Note to self – take time to check all dates, especially personal ones, even if the question “Are you sure this is the date you got married?” seems silly and unnecessary.
- Tense – books are written in past tense, present tense, future tense, and various types and combinations thereof, but that’s usually deliberate. When it’s accidental, it can interfere with the read of what I am sure is an otherwise great story. An editor can sort that out for you if you find it a challenge, but if you get into the habit of checking as you go, it will help you ensure the telling stays clear and consistent.
There are many other things to keep in mind, including tools (i.e., spell check) that are both useful and not – something to discuss in future blogs. For now, I hope these three will help you in one way or another in whatever you are writing at the moment.
Remember, good habits while writing can mean less cost when editing … not that I want to do myself out of a job.
Write on, friends.