The Little Things Matter Most

Christmas 2014 052

There are so many stages to writing and publishing a book, it’s enough to boggle the mind. Not only do you have to write the thing in the first place, but there is the book’s description, and the cover, and editing, and rewriting, and sending it out to beta readers, and editing again, and tweaking the cover, and formatting, and giving it one last edit, and formatting, and marketing, and… and…

Wait. I think I missed something.

Proofreading.

It’s one of the last steps that needs to be done. Once the story is completely finished, once the characters are all doing the things they’re supposed to do in the manner they’re supposed to do them, there is one final pass that must be made to catch all of those little items. The dotted “i”s. The crossed “t”s. The “teh”s that should have been “the”s.

When you’re in the thick of writing, cackling madly as you pull the strings that give your creation life… LIFE!… you don’t always notice the tiny mistakes. The sentence missing an “a.” That time you wrote a word twice. That scene where you deleted a line, wrote in something else, but left something of that first line behind. And sometimes, even editors will not catch it. So you need to give your story that final “proofing” to make sure that every little mark is exactly where it should be.

I’ve read books that contained small errors. Hardbacks and paperbacks put out by big publishing houses that had a small typo here or a missing word there. Little things. But often only one or two mistakes in an entire 400-page tome. Nothing to pull me out of the story and force me to read the line again.

But I’ve read other books that held more than one or two tiny blotches over the course of their several-hundred-page lifespan. Books that had mistakes on nearly every other page. At first, I try to be forgiving. Oh, it’s just one mistake. That’s fine. Formatting can make things wonky, or perhaps that was the ONE MISTAKE that slipped through everyone’s edits. And then, when they continue, I become irritated. At what, I’m not exactly certain. The author? The editor? Myself for being too picky? The reviewers for not pointing out the multiple mistakes in their comments?

Probably a bit of all of that, if I’m going to be honest. But to continue on with the truth-telling, a book that contains dozens (or more) of errors is a book by an author whose work I will not be picking up again. It is a book I will not recommend to other people. It is a book that, if I review it, will lose points because of those mistakes.

Yes, you could argue that as long as the writing behind those errors is strong, those little things don’t matter. But they do. It’s like going to a restaurant, ordering a steak and potatoes for dinner, and being told not to complain if the potatoes were lousy since the steak was so awesome. No, it doesn’t work like that. It shouldn’t work like that.

When I buy a book, whether it’s traditionally published, indie published, or self published, I want it to be the best thing the author and their team (no matter how big or small a team it may be) are able to give me. I’m not demanding perfection. There is no such thing. But I hope that the author will respect me—their reader, their customer, their potential fan—enough to present their greatest effort. And I also hope they will respect themselves enough to want to produce only the finest work of which they’re capable, that anything less, anything riddled with mistakes that could have been fixed, would be a bruise on their pride.

As an author, I want my finished product to be as finished as possible. Just when I think my manuscript is complete, it gets one more read-through. It doesn’t matter how much time I put into building my world or striving for great dialogue if my work is rendered mediocre by a hundred typos.

So please—PLEASE—as both an avid reader and an author, polish that manuscript. Because it may bring a writer a swift flash of success to produce stories as quickly as possible to gain fans and earn money. But if you want to be respected, if you want to endure, then quadruple-check your spelling and mind your p’s and q’s. In an era when texting and disregard for grammar seems to be shaping the English language into something that more closely resembles Newspeak, the next generation of readers will surely thank you for your trouble.

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