No matter how good we are at proofreading our mss. before sending them to editors, sooner or later we make an error that embarrasses us such that we feel we should hide under the blankets, curled in a fetal position, until the beginning of the next calendar year. I have done just that, but rather than hide away, I will share my embarrassment with y'all.
I recently had a story published in which an important character's name changes halfway through the story. I didn't notice it before I submitted the ms. and the editor didn't notice before publishing the story. I only know about it because an astute reader pointed it out.
This is a classic rookie mistake, and I haven't been a rookie since Jimmy Carter was president. Sigh.
Not long ago I developed a trick that helps me prevent making this mistake. Unfortunately, this story was written long before I discovered my trick.
Each time I name a character in a short story I'm writing, I scroll to the end of the file, type that character's name and add a brief description. Then I refer to the list each time I identify a character by name to ensure that I'm using the correct name.
Sarah Stuffinmister--love interest
Lt. Earl Warner--police officer, antagonist
Joe "Bags" Banaboo--John's sidekick
I leave the list on the ms. through the final proofread. Each time I come across a character's name during proofreading, I check my list to ensure that I have used the correct name and have spelled it correctly. If I come across a name in the ms. not on my end-of-file list, I determine why and then correct the error.
This trick might help others avoid the public embarrassment of Proofreading Failure. It's been working for me.
If only I had started doing this sooner...
(And, no, I'm not going to identify the story by name.)