For this blog post, I’m going to make fun of myself and some of the crazy stuff I find in first drafts of my novels. I hope you’ll laugh with me. If you want to laugh at me, that’s okay too, just remember I do fix this stuff.
Going through a first draft involves lots of easy fixes: thats that should be whos, weres that should be wheres. A few things are more involved: clarifying a character’s motivation, finding the right balance of action and introspection, getting the word count down to a reasonable level. And some things cause giggles.
Here are a few examples:
Penicillin regiment instead of a penicillin regimen. Can’t you just see row upon row of syringes marching along with M1s slung over their shoulders?
Two liters instead of two litters—because in addition to being unable to walk, the characters in that scene were thirsty. Too bad soda wasn’t packaged in plastic bottles until twenty-five years after WWII.
I’ve had characters play a pick-up game of soccer, and shoot the ball into the net—because fancy goal posts always magically appear when you’re playing soccer, right? Especially if the game takes place on a beautiful British manor.
But by far, the best thing I’ve ever found in a first draft was a disappearing bad guy (and no, I don’t write paranormal). The good guys wrestled his weapon away from him and that was it. No one tied him up. No one killed him. He didn’t come back to try again. He just vanished. Good thing I fixed that, huh?
Of course, there are the inevitable typos that do make it into a final book. In a 100,000 word book, 99.9% accuracy would still result in 100 errors. I can hope for fewer problems, but sadly, my books aren’t perfect. For example, page ten of Espionage is missing a set of quotation marks. There are probably other typos in there too, I just haven’t looked beyond the first chapter. I cringe when I see them, and hope my readers will be forgiving.
So what typos or plot holes have you noticed recently? Did they make you laugh, or cringe?
I’d love to see your novel develop around a penicillin regiment. Exciting stuff there–disease warfare and the soldiers who fight them off. It is disheartening to read, revise, edit ‘millions’ of times (it feels like it at least) and then to see an error in the print copy when you get it. I always want to scream.
I’ll have to file away the “penicillin regiment” idea in case I ever catch up with all the other novels I want to write!
Yeah, I almost didn’t post my first chapter on the website when I saw the missing quotation marks.