Writer’s diary: stardate: 06.12.2013
Last week I got a bit sticky over completing a decent draft of the fourth Romney and Marsh File. I got it printed off at a ‘friend’s’ and now have it in hard-copy form awaiting all that lovely highlighting of stage 2. But I need a week or two away from it. Bring a refreshed perspective to the reading of it. Bad Sons is with Martin. I could crack on with another book but I’ve got something else to do. It’s something that’s been hanging over me for months. Literally. A year, actually. Literally. I have got to produce new editions of the three Romney and Marsh Files that are already out there. Literally.
I self-published the three R&M Files last December and January. I invited readers who felt so inclined to point out mistakes regarding spelling, punctuation and grammar and (heaven forbid) plot. I invited that on Amazon and on my blog and at the back of each ebook. Many readers took the time and trouble to get in touch and let me know about errors they had found in the books. (That sounds worse than the reality). I am eternally grateful to each and every one who did that. It’s been a great help. Honestly. And now, with the first year’s anniversary of my self-publication of Rope Enough looming on the horizon, I feel it is a good time to do something about it all. I imagine that all the mistakes have now been pointed out to me (I haven’t received any new suggestions for some time) and I’m sort of between books. Also, because I have the fourth R&M coming along nicely, I’m determined to have the first three updated with corrections before I self-publish this one.
I started this task last weekend. I wasn’t looking forward to it. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been putting it off. I knew it would depress me. I knew I’d writhe and cringe and lament all the copies that are out there with silly mistakes in and what readers would think of my ‘professionalism’ for them. I remember that when I waved bye, bye to them I was confident there weren’t any errors. I’d read each title at least ten times.
One of the starkest lessons I’ve learned with self-publishing is that you cannot do your own proof-reading. You just can’t. After a while you stop seeing things. You read what you want to read not what’s there. Give me an English test and I’m confident I’d get most if not all of these mistakes right. I think I’d have got them right last year. I know them but I just didn’t see them because I developed a form of text blindness.
Another lesson learned is that I should have noted each and every correction and suggestion as they came into me, but I didn’t. Consequently, I had to spend most of my weekend writing time going through my email inboxes and blog pages seeking out all the changes I need to make. It wasn’t actually as painful as I expected it to be. I got my lists out of it and with the spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors I was able to quickly make the necessary alterations in all three books. I find it hard to communicate exactly how wonderful it was to correct the grammatical error of ‘would of’ and ‘he’d of’ which are among the most oft remarked upon.
So that was the easy part. Now I’m reading through them again and seeing if a year away has done anything to give me a new perspective on my writing style. I’m only part way through Rope Enough but I’m seeing things I missed all the times I read it before. I’m also changing a few sentences around that don’t read as well as I now think they might. I’m not going to drastically rewrite any of the books or do a hatchet job on any of them. That would be silly because generally readers who have expressed an opinion for the books have liked them as they are. And these books are part of my publishing history, something of my journey that I don’t want to disturb too much – think sympathetic renovation work of a listed building. They represent the ‘green’ me, the ‘naive’ me and I find a certain appeal in them as they are. Is that weird? If I hadn’t published them already, I’m sure I really would go to town on them. But I have. With the books largely unmolested, readers are also able to get a sense of progress (hopefully) in my writing style and expression. They have a sort of rough diamond unpolished charm. Or am I just being stupidly sentimental? Another good thing about self-publishing – ultimately all that is my decision. And the fact that I can do all this so easily is another bonus of self-publishing and its dynamics that I appreciate.