I’ve recently taken a role at New Authors Collective on their editorial team for nonfiction. It’s a wonderful position that gives me the opportunity to work with authors to polish their work prior to presentation to publishers. One of the few downsides of this role is that it makes me self-conscious about my own mistakes. I imagine people saying, “What makes her think she can be an editor if she can’t even get her own work right.”
Consider the three levels of edits: structural (a high-level focus on shape and story arc), line (mid-level focus on language, dialogue, show-don’t-tell) and copy (attention to detail, grammar and punctuation). Copy editing is not my forte.
I had a math teacher at school who used to say, “I’m a mathematician, not an arithmetician.” She loved the logic of maths, but made errors in addition or multiplication. This is a bit like my style of editing. I love structural and line edits, but I can overlook details.
This has been evident in a number of prominent mistakes I’ve made in my life to date. Let me confess my sins.
Mistake No. 1: For the last project in my engineering degree, we had to write a computer program complete with a user manual. In final year, we also had to study a subject outside the engineering faculty. I took Beginner French. It wasn’t until after I handed in my project that I realized my front cover read “User Manuel.”
Mistake No. 2: When I was engaged, Barto and I were so well-prepared for our April 1994 wedding that we wrote the service sheet the year before. Nobody dared tell me until afterwards (I was featuring as Bridezilla at the time) that I’d listed the date as 1993.
Mistake No. 3: When I was in Lagos, the Ishahayi Beach School Foundation wrote Nigerian Gems. Our first print run of 3000 copies sold out, so we arranged a reprint with a Foreword to explain our progress. We printed 2000 copies with a Forward. I still cringe every time I think about it.
So please, if you work with me, be warned, I’m a big picture girl, not a copy editor.
What are some of your crazy mistakes?