The Devil Is In the Details


I’ve never been a detail person. I consider myself a generalist, and have a reputation of getting a great deal of work done fast. The problem is that I find the details sometimes lacking when you focus on getting volumes of work done.

It seems odd for me, a person with several decades’ experience as an editor, claiming not to be a detail person. Because editing is all about details. Some editors get ulcers stressing about whether they can find every little error in their manuscript. I have learned over the years that you just have to do your best. Mistakes come through, regardless of how careful you are. And you just have to get as close to 100 percent as you possibly can without getting an ulcer in the process.

Now that I am finishing up The Key of Solomon, I am in a similar boat. While I wait for the cover to be completed, I fret over details. I’ve been formatting pages, which to me is an inexact science. When formatting, you have to consider the paper version of the book, as well as the ebook version. Each has its challenges. For the ebook version, it’s always the issue of getting the Table of Contents to work. For the paper edition, it’s the headers (with the author’s name and the title of the book at top) and the footers (with the page number) at the bottom. I’ve been struggling with them for a week, as I always do, and I think I finally have gotten them to behave.

In addition, there are content details to contend with. There’s one place in Chapter Nine when two of my main characters are in Austin, Texas. There’s a reference to the Colorado River running through the city and separating it on the west side. They also talk about “taking Congress Avenue south to the bridge and go west along the river.” I’ve been to Austin many times. In my mind, Congress ran south, but I knew that it crossed the river. But I also knew that the river ran north and south on the west side of the city. So I changed it, then I changed it again. Finally, I got on Mapquest and looked at it. When I saw what happened, I understood. Congress DOES goes south and DOES cross the river, because there is a big curve in the river. At that point, the river is running east-west, rather than north-south, but a mile or two further on, it runs north-south again, and generally speaking, it’s north-south, which makes the story plausible.

Sometimes you just have to make executive decisions. For example, on every map I look at, the river is referred to as the Colorado River. But people who live there refer to it as Lake Austin. It’s not really a lake, but it is slow-moving, and people treat it like a lake. So I decided to stick with Colorado River in my story, despite knowing that I will have some Austinians upset with me.

In any case, the days are dwindling down, and in a few days, I will be launching this as a bona fide book. We’ll see how good a job I did on the editing as well as the writing. The old saying goes, the only time editing is noticed is when they do a bad job. Hope they don’t notice mine.

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