The Penitent Writer

Writer’s blog: Stardate: 10.05.2013


If one is serious about being taken seriously as a serious writer, one must be seriously meticulous about one’s work – even more so as a self-publisher because a) one is starting at the back of the grid and b) when one is finally ready to press upload, presumably satisfied with the quality of what one has produced, there are no further regulators, filters or quality-control systems to correct any errors.

When my finger hovers over the Amazon submit-your-manuscript button, I feel a little like I would imagine the guy with his finger on the red button that will start the end of the world must feel – wondering if I’m about to make a big mistake; perhaps I should just check the situation one more time before launching a nuclear strike, or in this case my book on humanity. Actually, maybe I should experience a greater sense of anxiety – when I press upload my book can reach every continent on Earth. My reach is greater than the bloke in the bunker. I can only hope that my writing is not as damaging.

Despite rigorous proof-readings, scrupulous read-throughs, ruthless edits and regular prayer, however, mistakes are inevitably going to occur – be doing impressions of sore-thumbs, risking ruining the flow of the writing, exposing one for the amateur that one is and turning people off. It’s like getting all your new clobber on to go to the party and walking to the bus-stop thinking that everyone’s looking at you because you are obviously so cool when really they’re staring and sniggering at the big red 50% discount price tag that you left on that shirt you bought in the sale and it’s flapping in the breeze of your swagger behind you. Fail.

As a self-publisher, attention to detail is imperative. One very kind reviewer did mention in her comment that she hoped that I will be picked up by an editor soon. At the time it was my hope that the lady in question had made a simple slip and had meant agent/publisher. Now, I have to wonder if she meant what she wrote.

I’ve had enough feedback of my three books to understand that I have made mistakes. The misuse of homophones has begun to deprive me of sleep (style/stile, draw/drawer, banded/bandied, peace/piece; role-call, roll-call are examples that revolve and flash around behind my eye-lids in the darkness. Several readers have pointed out my mistaken use of ‘should of’, ‘would of’ and ‘could of’ instead of ‘should have’, ‘would have’, and ‘could have’. Bad mistakes from someone whose dad was Head of English. Father must be kicking up a veritable dust-cloud in that box on my mum’s mantel-piece every time that particular one is mentioned. I made two attempts at French in three books and got one wrong. Cretin. (And I even looked it up on the internet to be sure because I wasn’t. I spelt the French swear-word correctly, naturally, and then cocked up déjà-vous – a school-boy error.

But I have made one mistake in Making a Killing that two reviewers have kindly brought to my attention. And it is unforgivable. It is to do with measures to be taken to counter a diabetic-hypo. I wrote that the character in question should have taken insulin to bring them out of it when in fact that would not have helped at all – what the man in question needed was a quick and concentrated sugar intake. I didn’t check this. And I didn’t check this because I ‘knew’ that I didn’t have to. I ‘knew’ that I didn’t have to check because my dad lived with type-one-diabetes most of his life, so, naturally, I ‘knew’ all about it. Check. Check. Check. And to think that I toyed with the idea of having something terrifically important hang on the character’s diabetic turn. It makes me go cold. Lesson learned. When DI Romney contracts a nasty STD in the next Romney and Marsh File I will not rely on my memory for his treatment; I will head straight to the font of a knowledge and that most invaluable of writers’ resources – Wikipedia. They never get anything wrong.

Apart from the unforgivable medical error, I’m not going to be too hard on myself for the above. There’s no point and things can be corrected in new editions – which, incidentally, I will have to submit as a matter of urgency because one reader complained to Amazon that ‘Rope Enough’ has no table of contents – none of the books does – and Amazon sent me an email. Crap. I’ll have to make time for that now in case Amazon remove all my books for it.

Still, I suppose that over approximately 250,000 words I’ve not done too badly. And while I haven’t actually hurt anyone – except myself – I do think that some form of atonement is in order – crime and punishment (No, I’m not going to read it. My errors are not that bad.) So, for today and the weekend, I have rooted out my last birthday present from my current-future-ex-wife (that’s a picture of it at the top) and I am going to wear it as a penance. Just my luck that a warm-front is moving in from the south – that’s not another reference to my spouse by the way. (Warm! Ha!)

10 thoughts on “The Penitent Writer

  1. One nice thing about self-publishing is that we can submit new files, more or less at will. I am currently on my third version of the e-book and my fourth version of the POD–none of the edits were major ones, I redid the covers slightly, added page numbers to the POD, things like that.

    Making an e-book table of contents was probably the toughest single formatting job I did, mostly because I was trying to follow instructions written for MSWord when my file was in Open Office. But it is important. (And I know how to do it for Open Office, now.)

    • Hi Misha
      Thanks for the comment. I have formatted and inserted a table of contents into the next book that I’m going to self-publish. When it was done, I felt a tremendous sense of achievement and very clever. It might be the part of the book of which I am most proud.

  2. Well Oliver imagine my surprise when downloading books to my kindle. I read it in two days, really enjoyed it and left the science planning ’til Monday. Will buy the next two for holiday reading in a couple of weeks. Hope you’re keeping well. Ann 🙂

  3. Ah, the insulin thing. Loved the book, adored the bit with the dog and the cream carpet – read bits out loud to my hubby to great effect – and read the insulin bit. I’m a diabetic, type 1, yes you would be, he says. The insulin thing is not obvious to non fans but grrrr to those of us who are. Dead on regarding the hypos though, all the symptoms of being drunk with none of the benefits, arse 🙂
    Looking forward to reading book 3…

    • Lovely comment, Kathleen. Thanks for it and your understanding over my idiocy re diabetes.
      My wife likes me to read the books out to her. She says it helps her to sleep. It certainly does. She doesn’t usually last more than a couple of sentences.
      I hope that Joint Enterprise works for you too.
      Best wishes.

  4. Hi, Oliver. Came to read your books via “freebie” on Amazon. Was attracted to the book as I grew up in Hythe, although I now live in Bolton. Have since purchased the other two books and have just started reading the third!. I really enjoy your writing and love the characters of Romney and Marsh. I hope there will be more…..Kind regards, Deb Parker

    • Hi Deborah
      Thanks for getting in touch and for your lovely comments about the books. I’m always really pleased to learn that there is someone out there other than me who likes them.
      I know Hythe well. I worked there for several years as a young man (Crundall Payne and Jewsons ring any bells for you?) And of course Hythe has a good number of hostelries. I wonder when the last time was that you went back. Every other shop is a charity shop now. I love visiting when I go ‘home’.
      I hope that there will be more Romney and Marsh books too. Thanks for saying so.
      All the best

      • Hi, Oliver,
        It was lovely to get a reply from you. I go back every year, now taking the grandchildren to get a taste of the laid back life. I agree, Hythe is now a shadow of it’s former self. My family have been in Hythe for well over a century. My grandfather was in the Blues and Royals, stationed at the then active Small Arms School. He managed to get my gran pregnant so had to marry her and stay!! Both my grandfather and my own father were Specials in the Kent constabulary, grandad reaching the heady heights of Inspector. I think the most dangerous thing he ever did was chase someone nicking lead off the old brewery roof! How times have changed!! You still can’t beat a walk along the seafront in October, rollers crashing into the sea wall being buffetted by the wind though……!
        Have a great day, Debs

      • Hello again,
        Replies are my pleasure.
        What a fascinating family history and connection with the area you have.
        Hythe was certainly a much more important and bustling place a century or so ago.
        I’m was born and bred on Romney Marsh (no sheep jokes, please). I call Dymchurch home. For my money, the beach there takes some beating whatever the weather. Or it does if you can ignore the monstrosity that passes for the refurbished sea-wall.
        All the best

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