The remarkable thing about the human brain is its astounding ability to fill in the gaps. That ability to see the things that should be there and make sense out of something purely out of context.
This is a great, great thing for readers. For writers who are shopping around their manuscript to prospective agents? Not so much.
Please, for the love of God, people, learn from my mistake. Repeat after me: proof-reading is your friend.
I proof-read my manuscript. I swear I did. Several times. I even had other people do it. Several times. And still, somehow it escaped my attention (and that of others) that I apparently missed AN ENTIRE CHAPTER in my manuscript. That’s right, I totally forgot to include Chapter 20 — quite a pivotal chapter, I might add — in the final Word doc.
Can you hear me slapping my forehead now?
My first mistake was keeping each chapter in its own separate Word file. Believe me, I’ll never do that again. Not sure why I did it in the first place, but hey, no use crying over spilled milk (or squandered chances. Woe.). In any case, when it came time to start sending out the manuscript to interested agents, I assembled all 23 chapters into one file and did one (or two or three) last look-over to catch any errant typos/mistakes. I thought I caught them all. I didn’t. Otherwise, I would have noticed that a pretty crucial scene or two was missing from the final doc. Gah.
The good news is, I caught the error relatively early. I’m in the beginnings of my querying stage; the vast majority of my interactions with agents has been reaching out with my query letter. However, I did get two manuscript requests already from my early querying, and while I was able to fix the manuscript before sending it to the second agent, the faulty manuscript did make it into the first agent’s hands. I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that this admittedly boneheaded error won’t count too much against me, but in a competitive field such as publishing, I’m not holding my breath. Instead, I’m learning my lesson and using it a reminder to never, ever do this again. If I’ve proof-read something 100 times, I’ll make it 101 times the next time.
Take it from me, people. You can never look over something enough times.