We all make them as we stumble through life. Sometimes we think we do more wrong than right in our pursuit of excellence. Many people, though, think that books are an exception, that they should be mistake-free.
As a reader, I have never yet read a mistake-free book. I always find misspellings, misprints, errors in grammar.
As a writer, I am no exception. The first story I sold, “Clear Shining After Rain,” was to an Australian magazine, Altair. The second story I sold and the first that was published, “War Horse,” was to a different Australian magazine. Yes, I got my traditional publishing start in the Land Down Under. “War Horse” was a late addition to the magazine and perhaps was inserted hastily; it was full of mistakes that had not appeared in the original draft. Disappointing, yes, but these things happen. I’ve read various articles about the publishing history of The Lord of the Rings, and it seems that because of its complexity, its unique vocabulary, and its invented languages, each edition was rife with mistakes that Tolkien had to continuously correct.
Big publishing houses have various types of editors that go over manuscripts and supposedly catch mistakes; this helps, I’m sure, but as I said, I’ve never read a book without obvious bloopers.
Some self-published writers hire editors, while others have first readers who go over their work and offer suggestions. I’ve never been able to afford to pay an editor, and as for first readers, I have tried to have others read my work but nothing has worked out on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have edited professionally, and so what I generally do is put a manuscript aside for awhile, go on to something else, and then come back to it with my editor’s cap on. I generally find most of what needs correcting, but I’m sure I don’t find it all.
These ruminations came about because I have been preparing a compilation of novellas for publication. The first two were published in 2012, the third last year in 2015, and the fourth I have just finished and will release just ahead of the omnibus edition of the four individual yet connected works. Besides formatting the omnibus, I decided to go back over the series and reread everything consecutively, both to catch any line-by-line mistakes and to ensure the continuity of the details of the story, which I wrote, amidst many other projects, over four years. Needless to say, I found a number of small mistakes in the first novella, which I have just finished proofing. I’m not surprised I found them; I expected to find some. I was nonetheless disappointed for the sake of the readers of the single first edition who came across the errors, and I hoped that they were not too disconcerting or caused the readers to lose the flow.
For the sake of full disclosure, I’m referring to the series I call The One Thousand, which are science fiction thrillers set in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Soon the first four novellas will be available separately and also as a combined omnibus edition both digitally and in print. As I mentioned, I am taking the time to correct as many errors I can in the omnibus edition, but apart from line editing, the content is the same.
I am tempted to castigate myself when I come across mistakes I have made in my self-published books – but then I have to remind myself that mistakes are ubiquitous in all of literature, correct them when I can, and then excuse myself for making them with the same generosity of spirit that I excuse the mistakes I find in the works of others. It is far better to publish the books and make the mistakes than not to publish them at all. So it is with many facets of life. We can’t let timidity frighten us from fulfilling our destinies. The romantic cliché states that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Recently jilted lovers might argue the point, and I don’t blame them; I’ve been there. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s better to attempt great things and fall short of greatness than never to have made the effort.
And so my books venture forth on their publishing journeys, one after another, mistakes and all. Look kindly upon a fellow traveler along the roads of this vast universe, forgive the errors you will inevitably find, and go straight for the gold of whatever insights and entertainment I am attempting to impart.