The Final Write Stuff


This is going to be the last instalment of the Write Stuff. Rather than indulge myself here with a maudlin tribute to all those who’ve corresponded with me over the years, I simply wanted to say thank you, and share a reminder of one of the earliest articles I wrote here back in 2004.

Thank you to everyone who’s read these columns over the years, and I look forward to seeing you on the ERWA blog each month:

Visits from the Typo-Pixies

“Slowly, she stroked her hand up my thigh. With a devilish glint in her eye she unzipped my pants and wrapped her fingers around my clock.”

Don’t you just hate typos?

Particularly in erotica?

No other genre is as unforgiving with this aspect of the writing craft. And few things are more likely to lose a reader’s interest than the struggle to work out if they’re reading what you intended to say, or trying to mentally correct your mistakes.

It’s easy enough to say, “Edit! Edit! Edit!” But even after they’ve been through several edits, words can still be a slippery commodity. Experts will argue that the blame lies with coordination between the human eye and the brain. We read those words we expect to see, rather than those that are really there. And this might be true up to a point.

But sometimes it’s almost as though the words have changed themselves to cause maximum embarrassment. Or, more likely, a malicious group of Typo-Pixies are trying to wreak havoc and mischief in the merry world of erotic fiction.

Admittedly, some of the above might sound like I’m trying to absolve myself from the blame of those typos that are clearly my responsibility. But surely, even given the fact that I’m an idiot, I can’t really make so many mistakes in one piece of work, can I? More importantly: how come, when I’ve read through a piece four or five times, I can discover a typo two minutes after hitting the send key, or as soon as I’ve returned from dropping my copy in the mailbox? Which is the more likely explanation? My incompetence? Or malevolent Typo-Pixies?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Some typos appear in a horribly Freudian way. I once worked with a secretary who inadvertently revealed her opinion of a Mr WALKER with an ostensibly innocent typo.

Others can be minor nuisances that simply interrupt the smooth flaw of one’s writing.

But, for me, the most annoying brand of typos are those howlers that are so easily overlooked in the final edit, yet they make the author look ridiculously inept.

“He had always loved her from a fart.”

“She shivered as the crap struck her backside.”

“He fixed her with a slanted groin.”

I know I’m not the only one to be plagued by cock-ups of this type. In the 1631 version of the King James Bible, or “The Wicked Bible” as it has since become known, the word “NOT” was omitted from one of the Ten Commandments. Many good Christians must have been either puzzled or delighted to be given the instruction: “Thou shalt commit adultery.”

And, although it’s not technically a typo, a disgruntled employee at one of the UK’s leading chocolate factories recently printed a batch of labels that branded the product: “shit bar.”

Typos are all around us, from the innocent and infuriating grocer’s apostrophe that makes most writers cringe, to those warning labels that can didactically (and rather creepily) proclaim: KEEP OUT OF CHILDREN. The Typo-Pixies are clearly an active group and we have no real defence against them.

And they don’t just attack the world of fiction. I suspect Brooke Shields was suffering from the verbal equivalent of a typo when she famously said, ” Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.” Similarly, the Chicago Rotary club must have been looking for a proof-reader when one of their newsletters suggested: “Rotarians, be patriotic, Learn to shoot yourself.”

Personally I’m fortunate in that my lovely wife is also the world’s most tenacious proof-reader. Typo-Pixies throughout the land must tell stories about her and her voracious quest for accuracy. I admit she has an eye for detail that scares me. I’ve long since gotten past the stage where I challenge any of her observations because, like every good husband, I know that she is invariably correct. Not only can she pick up a single typo from an 80,000 word manuscript, she can also tell me if I’ve slipped up with hair or eye-colour, or added extra arms, legs or other appendages in those multifaceted bedroom scene.

But she and I, as well as the whole editorial team at one of the UK’s leading erotica fiction publishers, once missed the inaccuracy on the cover of one of my novels where my pseudonym had been misspelled. Which, I suppose, shows that everyone is susceptible to the wiles of the Typo-Pixies.

And in the war on Typo-Pixies, which

we all fight each day, something has to be done to stamp out the effects of these literature-terrorists. As is often the case, the advice is simple and obvious. Write carefully; read and re-read diligently; and never overlook a single worm.

Ashley Lister
May/June 2012

“The Write Stuff” © 2012 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

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