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!)