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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Publishing Perfection – can it be done?

1. the state or quality of being or becoming perfect.
2. the highest degree of proficiency, skill, or excellence, as in some art.
3. a perfect embodiment or example of something.

I am the first to admit that I’m a bit of a perfectionist—a place for everything, and everything in its place—although, with two young children, achieving this is somewhat of a dream. But, the state of my house is an entirely different matter.

Over the past couple of years I’ve learnt a lot about the English language, the publishing industry, and writing in general, but I’ve also learnt a lot about myself. Most of my life I’ve been quite an impatient person, when I want to do something, I want to do it now! Well, when you set out to write a story, now is never feasible. You need time to think things over and let ideas develop so the story can grow. You can’t expect to sit down and write a novel in an afternoon.

You also can’t expect a first draft to be perfect. That’s what re-writing, revising and editing is for—to make it perfect.

But what is perfect in the eyes of the publishing industry?

There are many books I have read by well known authors that have mistakes in them—missing words or words spelt incorrectly, and sometimes poor grammar. To an extent this does not really bother me, because if it did I would have gone crazy a long time ago. (Then there’s British English verses American English, but I’ll dedicate an entire blog post to that later.) We all like to think that there’s something we’re good at. Something we can make ‘perfect’. But human error is our own worst enemy. I know from my experience with writing Fall For Me that no matter how many times you look at your own writing, you will inevitably find another mistake. I’ve had so many, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I wrote that,” moments that I have to laugh to stop the insanity creeping in. The whole experience has definitely taught me to go a little easier on myself.

Anyway, my point is (and I do have one) that no matter how good your writing is, or how many people you have reading and editing your manuscript, human error still plays a part, and we have to live with the fact that there might be mistakes in our work. Hopefully, they are not huge and glaringly obvious.

For me, publishing perfection is this: a fantastic story that pulls you in and keeps you turning the page; a story where you become the characters and live in an alternate universe for the duration of the book, and maybe beyond; that feeling of loss when you’ve finished the last page and didn’t want it to end; not being able to wait to tell my best friend about this great book I’ve just read.

In my opinion, if you can achieve this, you can achieve publishing perfection. In the end, the minor mistakes don’t matter. If you can stir emotion within your reader, keep them interested until the last page, and make them think about your book long after they’ve finished it, then you’ve done your job right.

Many people don’t realise how much effort goes into getting a novel published so your story can be read. I have the utmost respect for self published authors that have gone before me, because I know how much time, sweat, blood and tears goes into the process. We don’t have a huge team to do the editing for us. We are our own editors, and our own worst critics.


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