Tag Archive | perfection

You Found an Error in your Manuscript… and it’s been LIVE for a Year…

I’m going to tell you a little story. Last Friday I had a mini-meltdown. No, seriously. There was ranting and raving. I think I may have thrown something… there were even a few tears. I questioned why I even bother trying to write and publish and the sheer impossibility of ever being able to put something out that’s error-free.

You see, when you’re indie-published, you have this overwhelming need to make sure everything you do is “perfect.” We don’t have the resources of a huge publishing house, their personnel list of umpteen copy editors, proofers, etc… we must do everything ourselves, we must hire our own editors and proofers, then work with beta readers, then possibly even beg and plead with friends, to help proof our books. I sometimes feel like it’s all just too overwhelming, to be honest.

So, back to the meltdown… It all started with me trying to figure out what makes people want to buy my novels. I’m on a lot of social media outlets and trying different things on different sites. I tackled instagram this month and started a hashtag contest for readers to upload my novel THE HUNT FOR XANADU with the hashtag #xanaduquest, and they will be entered to win one of five signed hard covers of the next novel in the series, THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB. It’s been going well so far and I made a “Fan Shout-Out” page on my website at http://www.elysesalpeter.com if you’d like to check it out.

So, on Friday, I copy/pasted the first two paragraphs of Chapter One of THE HUNT FOR XANADU, loaded it to Paint, adjusted it and put it on instagram. I was thinking it would be a cool way to entice people to read the first part of the novel and maybe interest them enough to want to read more. Here’s what I posted:

xanaduinstagram

I then promoted it on twitter, google+ and then to my author groups on FB. Well, lo and behold “eagle-eye” editing/proofer friend, Bob Nailor, side emailed me and told me laughingly that I had a few edit problems with this paragraph. I went “stone cold.” Edit problems? How can there possibly be any edit problems? I’ve had this book out for over a year and it’s been scanned through meticulously. He HAD TO BE WRONG.

But he wasn’t. Can you see the errors above? I couldn’t. It actually took me THREE reads to find what Bob was talking about – and he even told me what they were. Apparently there should be a comma after the word “drugged” but more importantly, there should be the word “be” after “reckoning it would” – which I obviously missed. Not to mention I see a spacing issue, too, between “an impressive.” But you know what kills me? What made me have my mini-meltdown? I published this book December of 2013. I had an editor, a proofer and six people sifted through it before it went live. I read it myself easily fifteen times. I had six updates I put on both Kindle and Createspace because people kept finding errors. But no one found this… until Friday. No one found this error IN THE FIRST CHAPTER, until Friday. The mini-meltdown happened for about twenty-five minutes where I decided I was going to quit writing, that I was an utter hack and maybe the books hadn’t gotten traction because they are “riddled” with mistakes.

And then my writing friends talked me down. My book isn’t RIDDLED with mistakes. It’s missing a “be” and it’s one of those words the mind actually adds as you’re reading the copy. Most people probably never even noticed. (well, unless you’re Bob Nailor). I’ve calmed down, fixed the document and re-uploaded the fixed document to both kindle and createspace – I’ll have to figure out how to fix the copy on ibooks.

What I learned? You can’t be perfect. I can’t tell you how many errors I find in mainstream published books coming out of big publishing houses, but yet as Indie Authors, we feel this need for perfection and I wonder if I simply have to stop expecting myself to be perfect, because I obviously am not. I may be putting too much stress on myself. Mistakes happen, and we are all human. The good news is since I am indie-published, I have the control to be able to fix these errors when I find them. If I had a mainstream published book, it would not be as easy. In less than 25 minutes I re-uploaded the novel without these mistakes and I moved on with my life… (of course, I try not to cringe, knowing how many people purchased my novel with this mistake, and the hard copies sitting in my closet that I use for book signings have this mistake, but what’s done is done)

FYI – Do you need another pair of eyeballs to proof your work? Maybe give Bob a call – he’s also a proof-reader, author and editor by trade, and obviously a good one. You can reach him here and he’s very reasonable: http://www.bobnailor.com/index_b.php?type=b

And, if you’d like a copy of the novel WITHOUT THESE ERRORS, (sigh), feel free to get it here: http://amzn.to/1JXHtul and hey, come join the contest – I’m giving away five signed hard copies of THE QUEST OF THE EMPTY TOMB. It’s at the formatter right now. Launch date: 2/28. I’m trying not to obsess what mistakes I possibly missed in THAT. Sigh…

Stop Making Your Characters So Perfect – no one is that nice…

perfectI have a problem with character development at times. I think up a story, have this idea for my main protagonist and I run with it. In the first draft of my novels, these people are simply “perfect.” They are beautiful and kind. They don’t curse, drink or steal. They’re amazing athletes and intellectually brilliant. They can sing, dance and play musical instruments. And not just one of the abilities above, but ALL OF THEM. It’s as if I’m trying to make a superhero version of “me” that is just so perfect all I want to do is live in their amazing little world for the entirety of the story.

But, that’s not real life. Twenty-two year olds don’t say “gosh, darn and shucks.” People have problems and they’re vulnerable. There are things they can’t do. No one is as flawless as I make my characters in the first draft of any of my novels.

And that’s where my editor, Denise Vitola, came in again on my most recent work. My beautiful and faultless female protagonist is human and there’s no way in this first draft she coming off as believable. Denise said, “You know, she could have problems in her relationships with her friends and her brother, you know.” I was like, “Why? Why can’t they all just get along?” She said, “Because that’s not real life. You don’t have to make your characters so perfect.”

Her final thought on this conversation stuck with me greatly. “Lyse, we don’t have to like your main character, but we DO have to empathize with them.” I can’t stop thinking about that comment and it’s now shaping my perception of every character I’ve ever written.

The word, “empathize.” What a great word. I need to add empathy and depth to my characters. I need to give them real life problems. I have to make my readers care about them. My main protagonist now fights with her brother like cats and dogs, she is emotional, she misses her target when she shoots someone. She has piercings, wears too much make-up and is a bit of a tease. In the first draft she was so pristine she could have floated. She’s finally “real.”

So, beware of making your characters too perfect. If they’re human, and this isn’t a sci-fi book about aliens, we must remember to keep them humanly real so they are believable for our readers.

Time to go give my character a few tattoos. :)

For anyone interested, my editor Denise is doing a special until Labor Day. Normally she charges $4 a page, but she’s only charging $2 a page, double-spaced, for your manuscript. Here’s her website: http://www.thomas-talks-to-me.com/editing/index.html