Articles / On Editing

Keep it Consistent: Final Thoughts

In this series on keeping things straight in the revision process, I’ve given a lot of focus to those things you should do before you ever put pen to paper, and they are an important part of the process. Yes, it’s a lot of upfront work, but it can save you countless hours in the end. That said, even the most careful planning and attention to detail is not going to be enough.

I cannot tell you how many books I have read that have continuity errors that obviously occurred when the author made additions to the manuscript. And these are published books…books that I paid money for. And it is a frustrating thing to see. There’s nothing like a character stating that his mother is dead in the beginning of the book and then having a scene where she invites him over for a family supper in the middle of the book. Or having a character make a statement about their personality and them having them totally undermine that character trait at some point in the book because the author forgot about it. Or even worse, an author using a specific line or reasoning, trope, dialogue, or even paragraphs of content in a repetitive manner. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve stopped mid-sentence in a book and scratched my head and thought: I read almost an identical paragraph in a previous chapter.

It’s necessary to make sure that things are flowing properly, that the transitions are seamless, that you haven’t inadvertently contradicted a key point in your story, or changed a physical trait of character or setting. And you cannot catch these type of errors by careful planning alone. There is no way around it. You are going to have to read your story before sending it off for final revisions. While you won’t catch all inconsistencies, there is a good chance you will catch some of the more obvious ones. I recommend that you let the manuscript rest a week or do before you sit down and read it. You’ll notice more when looking at it with fresh eyes.

Heavy revisions can lead to heavy continuity errors in your final product. I do not recommend that you seek only a proofread if you are revising after a manuscript assessment or developmental editing. Yes, it’s expensive, but do not forego content editing. A content edit is going to take a hard look at your characterizations; there is a specific focus on tone, voice, and consistency. It’s a lifesaver. And after the content edit, don’t forgo a copy edit and choose a proofread instead. Proofreads are cheaper, much cheaper in fact, but they do not cover issues with consistency. They are used to catch any remaining issues with formatting, spelling, and punctuation. On the other hand, your copy editor is going to tell you if your protagonist suddenly develops brown eyes, if Tony’s name changes to Toni, or if your hero’s two-story townhouse gains a third floor and a basement—among many other useful and necessary things.

You will do your book no favors by skimping and you cannot catch everything by yourself. But with diligence and a little preplanning and careful attention to detail, you can make a huge difference in the consistency of the story. Your editor will catch everything else. 🙂

Now back to writing.


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