I see so many posts admonishing independent authors to make sure they get their manuscripts edited. And while, I agree that editing is very important (probably as important as the story writing itself), I take offense at the implication that it is only independent authors who are lax about this step.
I just read the first two books in a 22-book series by a well-known author who is published by a well-known house (Harper Collins), and I have encountered approximately one misspelling or misused word per every ten to twelve pages. Now, I didn’t go into these books expecting errors, nor did I start reading them with the intention of keeping track of every little mistake I came across. But, I have to admit that after the first mistake interrupted the story rhythm, it sort of primed my instincts to be wary of others. (For instance, the character was fighting the urge to vomit, which was described as “…keeping her gore from rising…” when the term is gorge.)
As I continued with the story (which is really quite excellent and I do thank my friend for recommending the series), I found myself stumbling over other such instances of misplaced, misused, or misspelled words. With every stumble, I couldn’t help but wonder what the editors at this publishing house were thinking. These errors were obvious and easy to spot, so why didn’t they? While I can’t answer the question as to why the professionals didn’t catch the errors in this particular series , I can commiserate with them.
My bread-and-butter job is as a technical writer/editor and, trust me, when deadlines loom, and you’re working 50 or 60 hours, dead tired, and going at top speed, things can get overlooked…even obvious things (like gore for gorge). Is it right? No. Is it easy to fix…sometimes. Is it inevitable? Maybe…unless you’re Super Editor: Able to scan 1000 pages a minute, edit 20,000 pages with a single blue pencil, and juggle ten manuscripts in a single night. However, since I don’t know any super heroes called Super Editor, I’m going with the assumption that most authors, writers, and editors are human beings, and human beings (unfortunately) make mistakes.
So, while I have no intention of publishing any of my books with mistakes, and I (and my editors) go over them several times for spelling, grammar, context, and content, I would still be surprised if someone reading through them didn’t find some flaw; some misspelled, misused, or just plain missing word. I’m human. My editors are human. And my readers are human (or at least most of them are).
Therefore, whether you’re an independent author or an author from a well-known publishing house, you need to understand that flaws happen. The key to getting and keeping readers despite the flaws is to ensure that 1) flaws don’t happen very often, and 2) the story is so good that your readers are willing to forgive the rare flaw.
(Coming soon: “The Globe of Souls” Book 2 of the Darkwind of Danaria series.)
There’s a certain amount of magic that goes into creating a story—whether that story remains short or turns into a full novel, the magic is still there. When you first start to write out your ideas, the story world and characters have little more substance than ghosts or shadows. The world itself is no more than a set propped up on the stage in your mind. But as you continue refining the story and reworking it, the characters become more real, and the world itself becomes something that you can actually visit. You can see the rocks, trees, and animals. They are so real that you can actually touch them, or so it seems.
In writing and developing The Starstone, I spent days on the lanai talking to people that no one else could hear, immersed in a world that no one else could see. It was surreal both for me and my spouse. There were times he would step outside to ask me something, and then struggle to figure out whether my response was to him or to something one of my characters had said. Even while walking the dog, the conversations continued. I can’t even begin to guess how many neighbors crossed the street to get away from the mad woman carrying on crazy conversations with herself, the dog, or no one. Yes, it’s magical, but it’s also intense and all-encompassing.
My life became so enmeshed with the world of Danaria that it sometimes became impossible to tell them apart. I was immersed not only in the world, but also in the lives of the characters—sometimes as an observer, and sometimes as a participant. But even as an observer, it wasn’t always safe. There were sword fights and arguments, kidnappings and escapes. The flight to Darkwind’s castle on the back of one of his wyverns left me nauseated and gasping for breath (I do have a distinct fear of heights), yet the trip was necessary if I was to write about it.
But worst of all, I think, was when the characters took umbrage at something I wanted them to do or say. They turned their backs to me and refused to respond to my queries, or else they simply walked off and disappeared from the world I had so painstakingly created. It hurt. They had become more than just characters, they were my friends. Yet, when I figured out that I was wrong, they would step back into the drama as if nothing had happened.
It was very difficult each time I had to put the story away, and it would take days, weeks, and sometimes months for the world I had created to fade away. There were times I would come around a corner of the house, and find myself not in the kitchen, but in a canyon. I would quickly look over my shoulder to see whether the ice beast was skulking behind me, before realizing that I had let the magic of the book out again. I would then bundle it back up and tuck it into a corner of my mind, until I had the time to let it out to play.
This time I not only let it out so I could play in Danaria, but I’ve let it out there so others can play, too. So, come immerse yourself in my magic land of Danaria. Feel the rush of the wind against your face as the wyvern you’re riding swoops down to within inches of the white caps, and laugh at the antics of the tree-runners as they scamper from branch to branch. It’s a wonderful world to get lost in.
Is it positive thinking, or just a foolish refusal to face reality? I wish I knew.
There’s an energy flow that is swirling around me right now that no matter how hard I try to ignore, I just can’t. It’s an odd energy (for me) to deal with. You see, I consider myself a realist, and sometimes even a bit of a pessimist. I may joke about striking it rich someday, but in my own mind I know I’ll always be a worker bee, not a lady of leisure.
Yet, whenever I turn my focus to my novel and everything I still need to do to get it ready for publishing, that glimmer of energy starts up again. I feel as if someone is whispering in my ear, giving me gentle nudges, and helping me find the right steps along my path.
Sometimes what they whisper to me is cautions and reminders (like “remember to check the subplot to ensure that it was picked up properly by all the participants”), and other times it’s reassurances such as when I start doubting myself (and I do that a lot). And I know you could say that it’s just my own inner voice talking to me, but that’s just it…it’s not. I’ve heard my inner voice, and it doesn’t sound like this. Especially, the reassuring voice that has been helping to keep me calm and on track.
When it comes to time issues, I’m very much an impatient, DO IT RIGHT NOW type of person. Yet, every time I feel that person starting to emerge, this gentle, calming voice whispers to me and my impatience seems to fall apart and dissipate…but only in relation to The Book. The voice doesn’t whisper to me when I’m sitting in traffic and ticked off about being late for my doctor’s appointment; nor is it there when I’m standing in line waiting at the grocer’s when I’d rather be outside enjoying the lovely sunshine.
It’s all about The Book lately, and I’m not sure why. But something inside of me, along side of me, watching over me, keeps telling me that this book is different. This book is important. And no matter how many times I say to myself, “…but it’s just a novel…”, that whisperer responds that it isn’t just anything, that it’s much more than I realize.
Now, don’t get me wrong…this whisperer isn’t telling me that The Book will make me rich; it’s not even saying that The Book will make me famous. However, the feeling I get is that there is something important about the story I wrote; something that needs to be told. It’s as if the story I wrote and the events occurring now in our world are somehow intertwined. Yet, the book doesn’t even take place on Earth, but [shrug]…I don’t know. I can’t really explain it, and I make my living using words to explain things so that others can understand. But this…well how do you explain something, you’re not really clear on yourself?
I guess I’ll just keep plodding along, following my path, and letting the whisperers help me along…after all, they haven’t led me astray at least so far.
So, if you see someone standing in the middle of the sidewalk, head cocked to the side as if listening to someone who isn’t there…it’s probably someone (like me) listening to his or her “guides” whisper directions and suggestions.