Writer, Trust Thyself
Here’s the other thing about doing this copy-edit:
I have to trust I got things right.
Where by “things,” I mean the historical details. At the time I wrote these scenes, I had my research fresh in my mind, with notes and books open on the desk in front of me. That? Was last year. Do I still remember everything? No. And it’s worse with this book than it was with Midnight Never Come, because in this one, the plot engages much more directly with historical events — giving me oodles of chances to screw up. I could try to look it up again, double-check everything, but the library books have been returned and that would make the copy-edit take two months anyway. I have to trust that I got the details right in the drafting and revision stages.
Having said that . . . I’ve caught a few errors. But only because something stood out: a lack of a preposition in a historical quote, which made me check to see if that was a transcription error on my part, or the actual phrasing of the original. (Answer? Both: I have two books that give the line, and they don’t match up. I chose the clearer of the two.) Or me calling a character “Lady Elizabeth,” and then wondering if that’s the proper address for someone of her rank, which made me double-check whether I was right about her not being a countess yet. (Answer? She was a countess, and I had the address wrong. Also, I erroneously referenced her father, who was dead by then. Apparently I was asleep at the research wheel when I wrote that scene.)
I can’t check everything, though. I’ll have errors that crept in during revision, during drafting, during research when I failed to look something up in the first place. And some reader, somewhere, will spot them.
But you know, I’m okay with that. (Mostly.) Because the only way to avoid it is to have my characters float through a non-specific world, where events don’t have dates and buildings don’t have floor plans and the only people with names are the ones important to the plot. But that isn’t how real people live: the world you inhabit is concrete, specific, full of detail. You know the names of the people you work with, and sometimes they have walk-on parts in the story of your life.
What will be interesting to see is what this does to my secondary-world novels, next time I try to write one. Historical fiction has forced me to pay attention to the specificity of real life; can I maintain that specificity when I’m making it all up? I hope so.
At least nobody will be able to tell me I’ve gotten it wrong. 🙂