This month we’re supposed to confess our biggest writing mistake and what we learned from it.  Since they say confession is good for the soul, I decided to play along. 
My biggest writing mistake happened a few years ago.  I’d entered a contest and eagerly awaited my results.  Well, wait a minute.  A little back story is probably in order.  This was my very first completed manuscript.  I knew way less than I thought I did.  I, like so many other new writers, expected to write a good book, sell the book and then smile all the way to the bank.  Write, sell, smile, bank, repeat.  You get the picture. 
Sure, I finished my book, but the domino effect starting with the writing and ending at the bank—well, that didn’t happen.  Before bravely sending it out to an editor, I decided to enter my manuscript in a contest.  You know, get some honest feedback from someone who hadn’t changed my diapers, known me from birth, attended my wedding or helped me write the sucker via some intense critique sessions.   
Someone who didn’t know me from Adam.  Or Eve.
I printed and mailed it in the nick of time—beat the deadline by mere hours.  After a few months, they sent it back as promised. 
I didn’t win. 
Once the shock settled, I decided to find out why my first chapter of my first book hadn’t wowed them.  Other than it NOT REALLY BEING VERY GOOD, I read something that surprised me as much as it must have surprised them. 
There were missing body parts.  Let me set it up for you.  In this manuscript, the heroine and her young daughter are on the run.   They have a flat tire.  It’s snowing and they walk in the dark, past a cemetery, to the only house for miles.  No one answers her knock and the heroine feels defeated.  How is she going to protect her child from the elements and the mob chasing them?  She squats down with her back to the door.  Fresh from the shower, the hero yanks open the door and the heroine falls backward.  I believe the exact lines were “Annie fell back into the cabin and found herself within inches of legs.  Bare legs.”           
I should have proofed it closer.  The manuscript I entered in that contest read, “Annie fell back into the cabin and found herself with inches of legs.” 
INCHES of legs.  Really?  What the heck happened to them?  Now this may not seem like a huge mistake, but I learned a huge lesson from it.  I proof read everything and if I have time, I employ the services of the former diaper changers, the people who’ve known me since day one and the overworked critique partners. 
Heaven forbid any of them should ever find their characters with inches of legs.


Rox Delaney said...

Classic! Looking back to where our writing journeys began is a lesson in humility. LOL We've all made mistakes, some of us more than others. (That would be me.) It can be embarrassing in the beginning, so it's best to try to keep a sense of humor as the journey goes along. But then that's life, too, isn't it?

Love the story, Reese!! I hadn't heard it before now. :)

Reese Mobley said...

I'm sure those contest judges got a big kick out it. Once a little time had passed, I know I sure did. This was a small mistake compared to some, but I learned a big lesson from it.

Joan Vincent said...

Proof reading a manuscript is like finding needles in haystacks. You know the errors are there, you just don't see them until after you send it to someone! Can't tell you how many times I've done this. The eye sees what it thinks it sees, not what is really there.

Rox Delaney said...

I've gotten copy edits back that had me wanting to die from the embarrassment. It seems I don't leave as many words out as often as I create totally new ones. I've found that laughing helps.

Reese Mobley said...

Joan, have you ever tried reading it backwards? I've heard that helps catch the mistakes.

Reese Mobley said...

I doubt they were as bad as you thought, Rox.

Dina Preuss said...

Theresa, What a fun confession! I really enjoyed your word choice about the domino effect-- great visual of me wishing I were in that cycle now. =0)

I actually remember you sending me a portion of this story once. =0) Back when we both knew absolutely nothing.

I agree with Joan... our brain and eyes work against us in times like this and as we're reading along we see words that aren't there, but should be-- or are there, but shouldn't be.

I love your writing style Theresa; you always put a smile on my face... always.

Reese Mobley said...

Dina, you've been a dear writing friend for so long and I treasure you very much! Some day, Sista, we will cross that publishing bridge together. XOXOXOXO

Melissa Robbins said...

Too funny, Reese!

Penny Rader said...

You crack me up, Reese. I hate it when I discover errors like that...after I've sent it off. I try to read what I write out loud (and way, way out of ear shot!) so I'll catch those pesky little (and sometimes big) goofs.