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?
Some events in your life are watershed moments and this, for me, is one of them. Today I became a published author!
After 15 years of earnest faith slipping into ragged disbelief turning back into faith again (the latter primarily because of the unflagging support of family and friends), I can say with a strong, proud voice that I have done something I have dreamed of for years.
The feeling of euphoria coursing through my veins seems to have negated the few hours of sleep I logged last night waiting for this moment. It is a birthday present coming two days late and a Christmas gift arriving 25 days early.
When all the technical aspects were said and done, in the spirit of Walt Whitman, I did “sound my barbaric yawp”. To be fair, since it was 7 a.m., the yawp was somewhat restrained so as not to wake the neighborhood.
The best part of this moment is that it is perfect. I am not concerned about royalties, critical reviews or typos. I am not hungry, tired or stressed. All that will come in due time, but not yet.
In my mind at this moment I am enjoying a beautiful sunset at the beach with a gentle breeze tempering the warmth of the day but not yet bringing forth the chill of evening.
Worry not, as I’ll get back to promotional postcards, book signings and other marketing devices soon enough.
Right now, I’m just enjoying the view.
With Thanksgiving just a few days away, I’m like everyone else who is concerned about who’s bringing what to dinner and what time we need to arrive.
I suppose it is a national pastime to obsess over the minutiae of these celebrations. If an item is forgotten or was not in stock, we devote a seemingly inordinate amount of time lamenting over its absence and strategizing how we can resolve the dilemma.
Don’t get me wrong. I love all the treats that grace our holiday table. If there were no fried onions for the green bean casserole, you’d better believe I would hop into the car and hunt for the elusive item.
Considering how little some people have, all of this frantic scrambling seems a bit excessive to say the least. As a teacher, from time to time a student will tell me about the difficulties his or her family is having with paying the bills or putting food on the table. We help where we can, but we know there is much more need out there we may never discover. Bearing this in mind, it is imperative to remember how fortunate so many of us are.
The big project on my plate this next week is publishing a book. Yet for all the energy I have poured into this effort, at this point I simply am pursuing a dream and not relying on the success of this venture to be the determining factor in whether or not we eat this week. I may be doing every thing I can to turn a profit, but I will not suffer catastrophic financial disaster if my dreams do not come to fruition. My ego would be bruised and our household budget would be tighter to be sure, but those damages could be repaired in time.
So, as we enter the season of turkey and trimmings, may we realize how blessed we are and take a moment to give thanks for what we have. Possessing such perspective may be the best gift of all.
As a child, I fell in love with the places books could take you if you were only willing to dedicate a little imagination to making the journey. Being so passionate about reading, I soon was bitten by the writing bug. My first efforts, not surprisingly, were childish as I copied what I had seen and read rather than created original work of my own. And, while my ability to write journalistic stories grew in high school, college and beyond, my short stories remained slight twists on my own life or ideas from others.
In the summer of 1998, I began to work on what would become my first novel. What I thought was a pretty good product was, in reality, a very rough draft that needed much more work. Foolishly discarding wise counsel, I rushed my story to agents and publishers expecting a book contract in short order.
Instead of instant success, rejections quickly filled an ever-expanding file folder. All aspiring writers have visions of royalties and recognition coming at the end of a long road of struggle. People whose oft-declined manuscript goes on to eventually become a best-selling novel inspire us all to keep writing, submit to agents, grieve over the rejections and submit again.
Many drafts later, I had reached the dreaded milestone of receiving more rejections than there are states in America. That’s when I decided to take a new path, one that would lead me out of this literary wilderness. While tempted to simply give up, I realized I had come too far to abandon the dream that has grasped my soul so many years ago. I tell my students every day not to give up on their dreams, so how could I throw away on my own and not be seen as a hypocrite in their eyes?
A few still may frown at those who take the self-publishing route, but sometimes you just need to move forward in faith and boldness and see what happens. President Teddy Roosevelt famously tipped his hat to the man waging battle in the arena willing to fight with all of his might and “if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Win or lose, I am happy to finally be stepping into the arena.
I've been writing stories and taking photos since I was old enough to hold a pencil and stand behind a tripod.