A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #6: Mistakes Were Made

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Before I begin today’s blog, I’d like to announce that Michael Reaves and I have been signed to write another Star Wars novel as a fourth book in the Coruscant Nights series. The book is tentatively titled Jedi Dawn and will feature Jedi Knight Jax Pavan and the sentient droid I-5YQ. It’s scheduled for a November 2012 release.

But back to blog-land. I was asked to address what happens when a Star Wars writer says “oops.”

Yes, Dear Readers, we do occasionally err. We may say “oops” at any time during the writing process—I mean, after all, only a droid could hold in active memory all that information about weapons and Wookiees and what happened when to whom and on what planet. Human brains are better at concepts than factoids, alas. Fortunately, there is a formidable team of people dedicated to finding our mistakes … and I’m not talking about just the editorial staff, as you will see…

When Michael and I outlined Patterns of Force, the folks at Lucasfilm responded with a series of queries. Basically, these were questions about where it fit in the timeline and what could or could not happen with any major characters we might be using. For example, Darth Vader puts in an appearance in Patterns. A key question was how far we could go toward having our hero, Jax Pavan, realize that the Dark Lord was his old buddy Anakin Skywalker. Another concern was about how powerful our young Force adept, Kajin Savaros, would be. Beyond the problems a writer gets into when he or she creates a character that is too powerful, the folks at Lucasfilm wanted us to pay careful attention to how the Force is said to work and to bear in mind the relative power of both our hero, Jax, and Darth Vader.

So once all the queries about the basic plot outline were handled to the satisfaction of both Del Rey and Lucasfilm, we wrote the book. As you might have guessed, more boo-boos may happen at this level … yes, even with two authorial heads in the game.

Once the manuscript is turned in, more queries fly and a sort of virtual conversation ensues: “On page 325, in order to off a baddie, you had your ultra-mega-powerful Force adept turn space inside out. You can’t do that in this universe, y’know.”

“Uh… I did not know that. … What can I do? Can I vaporize ‘im?”

“Vaporization is good.”

“Consider him vapor.”

…or words to that effect.

Now, theoretically, while our inestimable editor at Del Rey is catching imperfections in our normally flawless prose (cough), the continuity folks at Lucasfilm catch everything Star Wars-ish—timeline errors, factual errors, conflicts with canonical fiction, TMI moments (too much information about Darth Vader, say). But, as they say, the best-laid plans of writers and editors gang aft agley (that’s Gaelic for go south) and sometimes things don’t get caught by the authorities. Sometimes they get caught by the fans.

As each new novel in the Star Wars universe is released, the fans gobble it up and start discussing it in great detail. Why did the writer have the ultra-mega-powerful Force adept vaporize the baddie? Will Jax confront Darth Vader with his suspicions about his true identity?

In the course of doing this, naturally, they find all your boo-boos.

“Hey, did you notice that thing on page 90, where Jax reflects on how much older he is than Kaj? What’s up with that? I figure he’s gotta be—what—twenty-four, twenty-five, tops? D’you think that’s a mistake?”

“Yeah, and what about this thing over here on page 187—I coulda sworn that buttress was made of durasteel, not duracrete.”

And for this invaluable, if painful service, we thank them. Sometimes we even get a chance to fix the boo-boos before the book goes to a second printing.  Then, the fan forums can actually help us track down the changes we need to make—right down to the page and paragraph number. 🙂

So, thanks to those of you who take the time to post to the fan forums. We appreciate the feedback. Oh, and that other thing you do—telling your friends about the cool new Star Wars book you’re reading. We appreciate that, too.

Read my fiction online at Book View Café—on Maya’s Bookshelf.

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A Padawan’s Journal, Entry #6: Mistakes Were Made — 3 Comments

  1. Ooops!

    Gang Aft Agley isn’t Gaelic. It’s from a Robert Burns poem “To A Mouse” with the line “the best laid plans o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” I always thought agley meant something like adrift.

    Really love the blog. I’m new to suscribing and this is one of my favourites.

    D

  2. Now see I thought it was Scots and figured it must be from the Gaelic.

    I’ll have to tell my editor 🙂

    And thanks for the nice compliment!

  3. To be specific it is lowland Scots dialect English, most likely Glaswegian (i.e. from Glasgow). Having known a few Glaswegians as friends over the years, I can tell you that it does indeed sound like Gaelic when you first hear them speaking what is allegedly English.