A HERO'S SPARK: the final book in the Wicked Women series!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

How important is perfection?

Hello my friends!

I haven't been blogging much of late in part because it's the holiday season here in the US, but also I'm frantically working with my formatter at 52 Novels to get Fresh Ice out and into your hands before Christmas. 

Editing is never, ever easy.  American grammar rules seem to have changed when I blinked, and what editors do and do not accept also changes.

But wait, says I, aren't I self publishing my books?

Yes, says I, but that doesn't mean I get to slack on the editing.

One of the knocks against self publishing has always been that the end product is just not as polished as one put out by a "real" publisher.  I once had a writing teacher who told me, "If you're going to submit a story to a magazine, or anywhere, the manuscript must be perfect.  We have the technology, so editors expect it." 

My critique partners and I break our backs trying to get that perfect clean copy out and into your hands.  And then we turn around and we're reading a book, put out by a "real" publisher, and it's loaded with misspells, grammatical errors, and POV errors.  It's frustrating.

In my own experience, my first book, Dream in Color, was put out by a "real" publisher.  I went through the editing process with an editor.  We went through each page slowly, carefully, painfully, to get a perfectly clean copy.

My second book, Lies in Chance, I self published.  Again, my team; critique partners, beta reader, my mom, all read through and did our very best to make sure everything was clean and perfect.

Then we released the two books to the wide world of readers.  I haven't exactly hit the New York Times best seller list, but I have had people come up to me, people I don't know and am not related to, and they tell me they love my books.  Hearing these comments, I was feeling pretty darn good about my editing skills.

And then, a co-worker read my books. Now, granted, she's not what you'd call a reader.  She told me the only books she had in her home were my two books and the Bible.  And she's a bit...odd.  (want to know how odd?  Check out my other blog by clicking on this.)  Anyway, she read my two books, informed me that she now knew exactly everything about me to my very soul, and that she'd found ten mistakes in the two books.

Ten mistakes, total, in two full length novels.  "I was embarrassed for you," she told me.

I was embarrassed, too. Not actually because of the mistakes, but because that's what she focused on.  This is a woman who, believe me, is really missing out on life because of where she places her focus.  It's that whole, "Can't see the forest for the trees" mentality.  But her comment did get me to wondering about the quality of my work.

I thought back on all the books I've read, books done by "real" publishers, books by self published authors, and I realized that while I may have caught a mistake or two here or there, I rarely noted it.  I look, when I read, for the over all story.  I'm not going to throw a Phillipa Gregory book down in frustration because I found a misspelled word.  I'm not going to give up reading John  Grisham's books just because he had a POV issue in one sentence in one novel.

But it does bring up a valid point:  In this new age of new authors flooding the market with self published work, how important is perfect editing?  I've read some self published books that are atrocious when it comes to editing.  It's distracting.  But what's permissible?  We all want perfection, but we'll never achieve it.  After the work I've done on two books, and now my third, I realize that perfection, even in this digital age, is simply not attainable.  Spell check is not perfect.  Line edits are not perfect.  And the minute you format a document for e-publishing, weird things happen to your manuscript.

How many mistakes are permissible, and when do we stop reading a book because of grammar errors?  I'm not talking about the big ones, like getting "there," "they're," and "their," wrong.  I'm talking about using a comma instead of a period, or backwards quotation marks, (which happen all on their own, believe me) or a word missing a letter.  How many are okay?  How much is too much?  And how can anyone be certain they have a perfect, clean copy? 

"It's an imperfect world.  Screws fall out all the time."  That's a quote from "The Breakfast Club," and it rings true now.  Do we throw out a good story because there's a misspelled word?

So I have, in my two novels, ten mistakes of some sort.  What gives me a sense of relief is that one was edited by a professional editor and one was done by my team, and the mistakes in the books are equal. 

Maybe I could make it a challenge...find the mistakes in each book, get my third book for free?

It's a thought rolling through my brain as I finish my final edit on my new book.

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