I think every writer faces the occasional OOPS moment. In the ideal situation, the mistake is found and corrected before the book is sent off to print, but that’s not always possible. Once the book hits the store shelf, it’s usually a reader who finds the error and lets the writer, or maybe the whole world, know all about it.
I’ve found that most of my oops moments happen when I change my mind about some minor character detail after I’ve already completed the first draft. I then have to go back and correct all references, and that’s where things can get dicey. In Going Organic Can Kill You, my characters originally used flip phones. After my husband went to the store to get himself a new cell phone and discovered that flip phones aren’t nearly as prevalent as years past, I decided to change the sister’s phone in the book to an iPhone. She’s a hip girl. She buys the latest gadgets. That should have been an easy change, but apparently I left more than one reference in the book where Ashlee “flips her phone shut.” Oops. I completely missed that, even though I did a final read-through before the book went to print. So far, only one reader has commented on the error, but I have to wonder how many others noticed.
For my latest book, I’m already worried about another last minute update. After I finished the manuscript and my agent reviewed it, I decided that a couple of my characters were too similar, so I changed one from a female to a male. I searched for every occurrence of the old name and changed all the shes to hes and hers to his, thinking I’d caught them all. Then I read the entire manuscript again and was horrified to find at least half a dozen references to the wrong gender. On the plus side, my editor and the copy editor will both be reading the manuscript soon, plus I’ll get another chance myself, but I still worry that we’ll all overlook an incorrect reference. I can already
picture a day in the future when a reader casually asks, “Say now, when did Marvin get that sex-change operation?”
Hopefully, readers understand that we’re all human and mistakes are a part of life. And if they don’t understand, well, there’s not a lot I can do about that, except say, “Oops, sorry about that.”