Picking up continuity gaps in movies is great fun – life jackets disappearing and reappearing as the Titanic goes down, swords changing from hand to hand in Lord of the Rings, eyes opening and closing on dead bodies… But what about continuity gaps in novels?
I have just finished the copy edits for my next book, ‘Sex, Lies and Bonsais’ – about five days work. It is as good as I can make it. No doubt when I read it again I will see mistakes I should have fixed, but for now it is the best I can do.
Editing is a very humbling process. In the interests of full and frank disclosure, I can now reveal that, yes, I had completely forgotten that they were eating with chopsticks at the moment when the father started banging his plate with his fork. And yes, I had also forgotten that the main character had thrown her phone into a fishpond in the chapter before she miraculously pulled it out of her pocket again. In my previous book, ‘Liar Bird’ I had somehow managed to forget that Cassie had just chucked a hissy fit about having no television in the chapter before she started happily watching the news on TV.
The trouble with writing is that it doesn’t happen in real time. When it takes over a year to get from beginning to end it is very easy to forget these trivial matters of continuity. In my next book, which my agent is currently reading, I lost a dog for a good ten chapters.
Editing a book always reminds me of that cartoon of a pondering fifties style woman – ‘I can’t believe I forgot to have children.’ Easily done, I would say.
So when you read a book which hangs together, where the main character keeps the same name, she doesn’t lose her dog, she doesn’t magically change car brands and she remembers that she’s a vegetarian – you can be sure that an editor has been there before you.
Have you ever noticed any continuity gaps in novels?