This week we’re blessed to have a guest post by hilarious Southern author Rhett Devane, whose new novel, The Suicide Supper Club, has just hit the shelves to great reviews! Thanks, Rhett!
I have learned many lessons from my characters and my writing. Each book brings a basketful of thumps on the head. Suicide Supper Club provided enough for two authors.
Like my fellow writers, I understand one fundamental truth: words and characters are unruly. I start each novel or short story with a spark of inspiration, perhaps a rough plot outline. I settle down with the laptop, expecting to corral a raging herd of ideas, scenes, and dialog into 90,000 brilliant, perfect words.
Then the muses seize the reins and shove aside my feeble attempts at control. Should I try to hem them in, force them in directions they don’t prefer, they will shut down my literary flow like Beethoven blared at a redneck round-up.
During final editing and revisions, I have meager input. My latest Southern fiction novel, Suicide Supper Club, gifted more than a handful of the muses’ “teachable moments.”
Weeks before the book went to print, I zeroed in on the final, marketable product. A line editor, three beta-readers, and my critique group members helped to flush out the typos. For sure, the spelling and grammar computer-creatures miss a lot. If it’s truly a word, it is okey dokey with them. Hey, I meant to write shut and not slut—it’s only one small letter’s difference. Why quibble?
Yet no matter how many times I cull a manuscript, typos lurk. I know it. I hate it.
Final proof. I checked back one last time to make sure all of my changes stuck. I always suspect the corrections switch to their former state of imperfection the moment I close the file, a condition I label writer-noia.
Then, on page 99, that word pops out at me. It has snugged itself next to a correction. All of the trained eyes have missed it. Even the word itself is eerie: a slang term meaning “let it go!”
At first, I groused about having to redo the file. I couldn’t leave an obvious error in place. Or could I?
I decided, YES!
The lesson: if I could not let it pass, I had missed the point. Missed life lessons have a way of repeating themselves until the thick human ego catches the subtle drift.
To note, I corrected the Error on 99 in the Kindle version. Had to. I’m too much a stickler. But I did leave it glaring for the world in the print—to me, more permanent—edition.
At the same time—why let things ever be simple?—I was plowing through a difficult life transition. Things beyond my control had shifted my settled world. I struggled to find solid footing. Like the characters in Suicide Supper Club, I forgot I had options.
The Error on 99 appeared at the right moment, the right time. It even fit into the underlying theme of Suicide Supper Club.
Not everything can be controlled. Most things can’t. And left to their own, situations will work out exactly as they should. If I can get out of my own way.
That lesson, I understood. Thanks to the Error on 99.
News Flash: Further update on my love affair with the Error on 99
I loved the lesson from the Error on 99 so much, I made it a marketing catchphrase. Designed a T-shirt to wear at the book launch (no kidding). Talked on a public radio show interview about the Error on 99. It took on bloated proportions. I envisioned keychains, bumper stickers, perhaps another book. The logo I designed featured Error on 99 in bold letters, surrounded with a beacon-red heart. When I embrace a mistake, I hug it until it pops.
The next week, I turned to page 99 and read the entire section where the Error on 99 lived. Guess what? I had misread the sentence the first time. The perceived error really wasn’t one after all. Had I stepped in, taken control, and changed it, the book would’ve gone to print (and to the infamous Library of Congress) with a true error on 99.
The Kindle version—where my OCD-self switched the word—I easily corrected and reloaded. Even that wouldn’t have been necessary had I let it go.
Want to know the word? Suspense is killing you.
The word is slide.