#SaystheEditor The Cool Stuff- Author: Susan Helene Gottfried
A few nights ago, I popped a Benadryl in the early evening, and followed it up with another before bed. I did it without a care in the world because a few weeks previously, I’d researched Benadryl addiction for a client’s manuscript.
Today, I was researching a place in Ireland that was a home for unwed mothers and their babies.
I’ve discovered brew pubs in Wisconsin. Even found a hidden town in Ohio that I hope to explore.
Now, I make it clear that I don’t fact check when I edit. Carrying errors and omissions insurance is a little out of my price range right now, and even then, research like this does slow down the process and take the focus off the author’s writing. And my specialty is dealing with the author’s writing, in various focus points. I want to be working with your words, not checking out medicines and what model gun you’re talking about. I want to be making sure the characters’ eye color is the same at the start as it is at the end of your manuscript.
It’s just that every now and then, you’ll have a spelling inconsistency that I need to get to the bottom of. Or something piques my interest and it’s off to Google I go. So I put in the time to discover what’s up. After all, you’re worth it. And as someone who is hard-wired to be a writer and creative type, I’m terminally curious. Taking a few minutes out of my day because you’ve piqued my interest is, as far as I’m concerned, a good thing. I learn something I can probably apply in the future. It also means you’re creating a world in which readers will invest themselves — or, at least, you’ve gotten me vested in it. And that means I want to make sure what you are putting out there for a wider readership is as strong as it can be.
I’m sure I get things wrong from time to time. Thus the disclaimer. A few manuscripts back, I had never seen the term of endearment nena and changed them all to nina, complete with the squiggle over the second n. My author dropped me a note. “Nope,” he said. “That’s slang.” And sure enough, once I Googled it as slang, it showed up where it hadn’t in the other searches I’d done (and I’d done multiples on that one, trying to find it, using various dictionaries and online resources — none of which were apparently good enough).
This is truly the icing on the cake of an already awesome job. Learning new things, discovering things I hadn’t known previously.
Keep up the good work, you authors. Share your knowledge with the rest of us. Keep me, your faithful editor, on her toes — it keeps me from getting bored and finding my way into trouble. And it gives me really cool stuff to talk about in polite society or on a date. But mostly, it makes your fiction richer, deeper, and possessing more authority. And at the end of the day, that’s the goal.
But it’s good to have something to talk about in polite society or on a date. I don’t, however, recommend waxing poetic about Benadryl addiction to someone you’ve only just met. Not that I have tried.