Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A Boy Scout salute derails my editing start on 'The Fracking War'

WATKINS GLEN, New York, USA - I had my printed out copy of the draft of The Fracking War sitting on my desk, ready for the red-pencil treatment just a few days ago.

The next phase in this process is for me to read it a closely as a I can, making changes, perhaps adding chapters if needed. Because it's the last time I will edit before it goes out to my beta readers, it's a little nerve-wracking. I want to be sure to iron out any inconsistencies, fix factual missteps and smooth out the roughest edges factually and stylistically.

It's been at least six weeks since I peeked at it. So in some ways, it will be brand new and I should spot things that I would normally have read right past had I done this when I first completed the draft in Sacramento.

My confidence was very high until I dove into a novel I picked up at the Watkins Glen public library, a book that seems to have  been through the traditional publishing mill: editors, fact checkers, fact checkers who check other fact checkers and the editors.

Did I mention the fact checkers?

Then I read these three sentences on page 7 of this novel:

"No long stories. Scout's honor." 
The detective lifted two fingers in a Boy Scout salute.

Santa Crappo! The author wrote that he lifted two fingers.

Boy Scout salute
My time with the scouting organization was limited. A couple of years as a Cub Scout. Maybe three as a Boy Scout.

I still say the longest summer I ever spent was a week at Camp Merz, a Boy Scout camp in Chautauqua County, New York.

But I did learn all that paramilitary protocol forwards and backwards.
Cub Scout salute

For the record, the Boy Scout salute uses three fingers. Cub Scouts use two. Believe me. I saluted my butt off. We had some retired military guys as leaders who loved the saluting.

So you might say, big deal, a minor error.

Yes, a minor error, but just the kind of minor error that should never appear in a well-edited novel. If the writer (and fact checkers and editors and the fact checkers who check the other fact checkers) can't get a detail like a salute correct, how will a reader believe the plot?

They won't. Which I why I will be reading The Fracking War even closer than I had planned.

Oh, by the way, there is some saluting in The Fracking War. But if I remember, it's mostly of the single-digit variety.