If you have ever written anything from a Post-it Note to a full-length book, you know all composition is fraught with the possibility of error.
We all chuckle when we see a text message or social media post with a typo in it. Such quick communication is prone to error and the mistakes often garner more attention than the original message ever would.
When writing something of greater length and importance, giving it more than a cursory glance is critical. When I wrote Chasing Deception, for example, I went through several rounds of editing for content and grammar. Since it is a self-published work, changes were being made even on the day of submission, making the work that much more prone to mistakes worming themselves on to the pages.
Two months after original publication, I realized I should take advantage of the self-publishing format and correct any typos I could find. Knowing the best way to catch errors is to read your work out loud, my wife and I spent a 3-day weekend taking turns reading through the entire 81,000-word manuscript. I discovered two very important things in this process: 1) about 97% of the book was just fine, 2) but the last 3% requiring improvement was not insignificant. We made changes here and there and brought the work as close to 100% as we could.
Throughout this process, I learned three valuable lessons. First, I am so thankful to my friends and family who purchased a book with errors but have been gracious enough to still say nice things about what I did with the story and characters. I tell them it is like having one of those stamps with the upside-down biplane on it and the errors improve its value. They’re even nice enough to laugh at that one.
Second, I have been reminded of the wellspring of wisdom residing within my lovely wife, who constantly seeks to reign in my enthusiasm with a full measure of patience. She firmly believes if you can find the time to make something good, you should take just a little more time to make it better. She embodies the Lexus slogan of having a “Relentless Pursuit of Excellence”.
Finally, I think I am becoming more sympathetic when I see typos on billboard, fliers or signs as I drive around streets and freeways of Southern California. While I still notice the errors, I might be a little less likely now to comment about them. Something about throwing stones while living in a glass house comes to mind.
And, of course, the next time I am ready to submit a final draft to an agent or publisher, I think I’ll start warming up my reading voice.
For Christmas, my wife bought me the DVDs for the one-season cult classic “The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.” Now the show itself, a parody of classic westerns, offers a mostly harmless way of filling a free hour or two on a weekend afternoon, there are larger themes just below its campy surface.
Throughout the story, which takes place at the end of the 19th century, the protagonist is eager to find out about “The Coming Thing”. This drive taps into the collective sense of anticipation that engages the populace every decade, century or millennium. We all peer into the future with a mixture of emotions and for many, these are feelings of anticipation and hope.
For myself, my eyes have been opened to a book-writing career that has just begun. Having sold my first 100 copies, my free time is filled with building my platform and expanding the markets for my work.
This lesson transfers well beyond the world of writing. We all have a “Coming Thing” in our lives. Whether we are deciding to get a new job, return to school, start a new relationship or travel to an exciting or exotic land, our lives are filled with opportunities for change.
Too often we shrink away from these opportunities in fear and trepidation. We loathe change because it means adding some chaos and unpredictability into our well-ordered lives. Even if things are going rather poorly, at least we know what to expect from the future.
I say we should seize the spirit of the new year and embrace the idea of change and discovery. I have learned that even when I take a wrong turn on the way to my destination, at least the scenery usually is interesting. Perhaps it’s time to enjoy a bit of the scenery life has to offer.
So, what’s “The Coming Thing” in your life and what are you willing to do to make it a reality?
Every year at this time our nation is gripped by a drive to improve itself. We habitually set lofty goals for ourselves without the requisite determination or fortitude for success.
And, while it would be easy throw proverbial stones at others, I am well aware of the crystal castle I call home. I frequently have made goals more ambitious than the inherent inertia that dominates both my life and Newton’s First Law of Thermodynamics.
This year, in addition to my typical plans for a healthier diet and exercise outside of walking from the couch to the fridge for a snack, I want to be a better-read person. It is so easy to pick up a paperback or download a novel to my Kindle. I have discovered over the years that it is less natural to find myself in the pages of a nonfiction text that provides a contemporary retelling some historical figure or event.
To be fair, I have my favorite historians, like H.W. Brands or David McCullough, and I read a great deal of news and analytical pieces for my night job as a government teacher. This year, however, I have decided incorporate more nonfiction into my “fun” reading time.
Right now, I am in the middle of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy. Not only is Dietrich Bonhoeffer a fascinating character study in the idea of speaking truth to power, but the way Eric Metaxas combines narration and letters from Bonhoeffer makes it feel like I am having a real conversation with one of the few 20th century pastors willing to stand up to the evils of Nazism. I have been reminded that good story does not necessarily need to come in the guise of the latest thriller from my favorite author.
So, if you’re an avid reader like I am, maybe it’s time to weave into your Goodreads list a biography about someone who fascinates you or a story about an intriguing event in history.
As I have come to learn, a good conversation with history is well worth the time.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.