The Biggest Mistake Made When Writing a Crucial Chapter

type-oCurrently I am reading Spell or High Water, book 2 in Scott Meyer’s “Magic 2.0” series.  The novel series is a best seller, and not only that is a fantastic trilogy of novels that I highly recommend.  However, I reached a point in the novel that was a crucial chapter, a chapter where a lot of the plot details invariably hinge, and found myself in a mine field of type-os and grammatical errors.

Usually there are type-os in every novel we read, but the errors in this particular chapter were so glaring that they drew me away from the action and importance of the plot points in the narrative.  Not only that, there were some strange shifts in the way that dialogue was recorded that threw me off as well.

The normal convention for dialogue is to begin the character’s sentence and then list the “he said” or “she said” in the middle or at the end of the character dialogue with a little concrete description thrown in for flavor.  A writer can also do away with the “he said/she said” all together, but actually a reader will not notice the description when reading dialogue as much as we think they might.  It becomes invisible. However, the type of dialogue description that glares is beginning the description first, then tagging the dialogue at the end like this:

He looked sidelong at her, winked, and then said, “I think we are in for some trouble.”

For nearly three pages, this particular chapter shifted to this type of dialogue structure when they had not used it at all throughout the first part of the novel.  The effect was distracting to say the least.

The one mistake that is made too often with indie authors is not proofing the text enough to remove glaring errors like this.  I have found several mistakes in my own work, but have repaired them, and welcome the notes that readers send to me about the type-os so that I can immediately upload new files to Amazon. The biggest mistake (yes, I’m getting to it) that indie authors make is not proofing enough or hiring a professional editor for one, but the bigger mistake is this: over-editing a crucial chapter until it becomes chop-suey.

The crucial chapter is that chapter in the novel that is the most important climax to the main plot.  This chapter usually is the most difficult to write because it has so many things riding on it being a success.  What often happens is that we go through re-write after re-write and sometimes paragraphs of the chapter end up getting disconnected from the purpose of the chapter and therefore become distracting to a reader.  Not only that, this crucial chapter is revised so much that errors (usually small ones) slip by us when we proof it.

For example, in the aforementioned chapter, I noticed several instances where the word “then” was unintentionally misspelled as “the”.  It happened at least four times, as it is usually the small mistakes that slip by a proof reader. The way to fix this problem is to pull the crucial chapter out and read each sentence beginning with the last sentence first.  Read the last sentence, ask yourself if it stands alone grammatically, then move to the next to the last sentence.  Repeat this process until you have read every sentence in the chapter this way.  I know it is tedious, but in the end your reader will not be rolling his or her eyes when they see mistake after mistake.

A few type-os are forgivable.  It is expected that every document will have a few of them.  The problem is when the type-os begin to draw the reader away from the narrative and causes them to focus on the errors.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

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