Eons ago, I received a comment from another blogger. It felt a bit like first contact from outer-space (and incidentally it was the last). The gentleman concerned was commenting in response to my post that I was engaged in the final, final proof-read of my book. He described proof-reading as a humbling experience. Astonished and excited to receive a comment I then commented on his comment. My comment (that’s a lot of comments) was rather flippant and, as is my bad-habit, I tried to be funny. I said that proof-reading the book was more embarrassing than humbling. The implication being that I had found a number of school-boy errors. If memory serves, I think that I even spelt embarrassing three different ways just to make my point and demonstrate how funny I am. How that has come back to haunt me. Talk about self-fulfilling prophesy. Talk about foot in mouth. Talk about dumbass.

My last blog post detailed contact made by me with an artist who is going to design some e-book covers for me.  Among other things (like money) he asked me for a sample of each of the three books that I was commissioning covers for. I duly sent them off. I did add the note that the latter two samples were still in the stages of editing and proof-reading (I was trying to cover myself for typos and the like that he would see) but that the first was ‘Kindle-ready’. I believed it was.

I had read the book in both computerised form and hard-copy. The book had gone through several drafts and edits. I had proof-read it at least five times (yes really. I would look at it again and see something that I wanted to change; an errant speech-mark, or lack of; two speakers in the same paragraph (HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN?). In the end I had to leave it or it would have consumed me. One has to say enough is enough at some point, doesn’t one? I should add here that I live in a place where I do not have the luxury of being able to call on (plague/annoy) other native English speakers to read my books for me to help me out with things that I just can no longer see because I’ve become blind to the text.

I’m so familiar with this book I could probably recite it off-by-heart. And therein lies my problem regarding proof-reading. I can’t concentrate. I can’t focus on the writing like I should and I must. I was so sure that it was ‘perfect’ and typo free that I had formatted it for Kindle and sent it off so that it could be dinged back to me and I could read it on my Kindle to check how the layout had survived the changes before pressing the publish button.

Now, picture me in bed. Sorry, let’s try that again. I’ve learned another lesson for future self-publishing: when proof-reading the book use as many formats as you can because each one can give you a different and valuable perspective not to mention the novelty value that just might see you more engaged in your task.

I didn’t see my humiliating error on the numerous read-throughs of the computerised version; I didn’t see it on the three hard-copy drafts that I printed out and went through with a fine red pen and I obviously didn’t twig when I first penned the sentence. I only saw it when I was lying in bed with my Kindle, propped up on several pillows, shawl draped around my shoulders, hot-chocolate cooling down on the bedside cabinet and looking forward to the novelty of reading my ‘finished’ book on the device (even if it was just the result of me emailing it to myself).

Enter the first chapter of the ‘Kindle-ready’ edition of the book that I sent to the cover artist. In fact make that the first effing page (talk about first impressions – excuse me while I hang my head in shame for a moment).

Can the horror and the disgrace be imagined? Can the hot flush of embarrassment that I experienced when I got to the bottom of page one and read the following be felt?

Marsh came to meet him as he stepped out of the vehicle. ‘Evening, sir.’

‘Sergeant.’ Detective Inspector Romney busied himself with his overcoat, trying to hide his disappointment. ‘Where’s Sergeant Wilkie?’ As a casual enquiry it failed.

Marsh’s features hardened a little at the implication. ‘As of this evening, sir, Sergeant Wilkie’s on maternity leave. His wife had the baby an hour ago. Also he’s a man.’

Do I have to explain it?

It took all of a nano second for my thinking and imagination to explore the probable scenario that played out in the home of the cover-designer. It probably involved lots of laughter and the summoning of friends, family and neighbours to ‘come and read this hahahah…

I turned off the Kindle, then the bedside lamp. The hot-chocolate was left untouched. In the darkness I huddled myself down under the duvet and assumed the foetal position. I think that I might have wept before finally succumbing to sleep.

At the weekend I’m going to find some peace and quiet, some space and time.  I’m going to get myself comfortable with another hard-copy of the book, power up the Kindle again, take a deep breath. Then I’m going to read the Kindle version and annotate the hard-copy and then I’ll have to correct the computerised version and send it to myself again.

As Jesus probably said at least once, when is enough enough? So another lesson learned to pass on to myself. Thanks me. I’m welcome.

Coming soon. I’m going to enter a competition……

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