Monday, July 23, 2012

#@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this!

   If you have ever written for someone, from a grocery list to a schooldays' love note, to a short story or a novel, face it, you've gone through this, but as an author this little comic has a whole other significance.
   I remember toying with this idea, urged by a good friend to write what eventually became THE GAZE.  I went through the "my writing really sucks" stage for a solid month before I was able to move to the "hey, I'm not so bad after all" stage.  Some eight months later, BOOM!  I felt like I was definitely in the "wow, this writing is brilliant! I rock!" stage.  I finished it, I took my Sheri and my dad's impressions and compliments from another author, the incomparable John W. Huffman as validations and published it.  
   In my eagerness to shout it from the rooftops that I wrote a novel, all by myself, I picked a cover, had it printed and put it out there.  Of course, my family and friends, supportive souls that they are quickly asked for an autographed copy and I was more than happy to oblige.  Riding a high, loving this little glimmer of fame, I picked up my own copy and began reading my own novel...
   Oh...the horror... Officially, the "wow, my writing really sucks. sigh..." stage set in with a bloody vengeance.  
   In the relative privacy of my home office (the basement) I tamped down the urge to scream #@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this!
   Once the shock wore off, a wave of embarrassment and shame crushed over me, like a tsunami on an unsuspecting tropical paradise.  I wanted to crawl under a rock.  I wanted the ground to open up and let me jump into its depths.  I wanted to refund everyone who bought my atrocity, plus interest!
   I couldn't believe it...
   It made no sense.  I'd read the script over eleven times, easily.  I magnified each and every page (and there are a ton!) looking for errors.  
   I wrote "form" instead of "from".
   I wrote "piece" instead of "peace".
   I wrote "Toni" instead of "Tony".  The Spanish side of my brain took that one over.
   I omitted some "me"s, and let's not go to the comma usage.
   I found things like "was did..." probably because my brain was still fighting over which tense to use long after my fingers danced on the keyboard and moved on.
   I almost felt as though the clean pages were severely outnumbered by the dirty ones, making me reconsider what had made me think I could edit my own work.
   When I related these avalanche of typos to my advance readers and even my editor, they told me, to my shock, that they didn't really notice until I brought them up.
   "How can that be?" I asked biting my tongue before questioning their collective sight.  In essence, they all sort of gave me the same answer:  "I got caught up in the story..."
   Taking advantage of the forgiveness born of friendship and family ties, I immediately went back and cleaned up the body.  Once more, I improved the cover and with a little more confidence, let it fly.  I tried hard not think of it, but I kept wondering how many mistakes I missed.  I was reading other authors' work, even a couple of best sellers, and I found glaring mistakes that made me feel a little better.  It seems it happens to the best of us, unless we have teams of proofreaders combing through every page.  With a book of over 255,000 words, I could not in good conscience fatten the wallet of a professional proofreader.
   I tossed in bed every night, recalling the way Mom would tear my pages out of my notebook if she found one smudge of ink, one misspelled word... She often lectured me about the importance of presenting a clean body of work.  My conscience tortured me every night as I was writing THE NEXT CHAPTER in a much more careful way.
   Three months after releasing GAZE, I downloaded it to my Kindle and read it for fun for the first time since releasing it.  Soon I found out I had not gotten out of the last stage of our comic.  I found new mistakes.  To add to my mortification, a great friend of mine kept track of errors in an effort to help me.  Christine Fiefield Winn, whose Coffee Break Series are flawless, gave me a list of pages where errors mockingly danced before my eyes.  I might have screamed, but I don't remember exactly.
   I dissected my novel yet again, and found a minimal number this time.  By then, I had gotten a fifteenth 5 star review of GAZE on Amazon and there was no mention of the glaring typos, none!
   The compliments poured and I knew I owed the novel the best possible presentation with people seeing such potential in it.  I stopped all my projects and went page by page, cursing the proofreader ads advertised on the web.  Their calculators came up with astronomical prices, so I bit the bullet and carefully went over each line.  At the end of the revision, I decided to remake the cover and although I may have very well missed something, I can say I am very proud of the presentation of GAZE.
   I've offered many of my first readers a new copy, citing the mistake which they unbelievably missed.  I feel very fortunate that Samantha's story was found so engrossing that my glaring mistakes were forgiven, but by God, I don't want to go through that again.
   So, for those of you starting out, don't make the mistakes I made.  Accept the fact that this learning experience demands a lot of patience and attention to detail.  The time spent in polishing and cleaning your novel will go a long way in ensuring that you experience that fourth stage for an entirely and perfectly normal reason.  No determined, conscientious writer lacks a perfectionist's streak, and we all know we could've written some passage differently or we could've added another little detail to the plot.  We never stop writing, especially when we grab our book and read it again, but believe you me: typos and poor presentation will really have you screaming #@&%!!! I can't believe I missed this! leaving you bewildered as you enter the "wow, my writing really sucks.  sigh..." stage.

   Javier A. Robayo



  1. LOL! I can't relate. ;) (<--- that's a wink if you can't tell)

  2. Been there, done that. And every writer I know, whether edited by the best or not, typos exist. There are several tests that you can find online that prove that our brains fill in missed words and corrects mistakes without consciously advising us of its corrections. I don't have the website links but this test should be easy to find. There is scientific evidence re: why we miss those damn typos.

  3. Elise, no disputing it, Cassie's novels are flawless. Monica, thank you!
    Robbi, this why it's so gratifying to write these blogs about writing because someone somewhere has gone through it, and become the better for it.

  4. It's well known throughout the industry that Indie works are flawed, though the majority has gotten much better with time. There are several kinds of readers, some read for the pure joy of it, and if the story is compelling, which Gaze totally is!, the flaws don't register. No one will throw your book away over a punctuation mistake. It's the plot line that you have to be flawless with. I read a book where one character died in one chapter only to reappear unscathed three chapters later. No explanation, not part of the plot, a blatant mistake. I could not finish the story. I was too distracted trying to figure out how this person was alive again after being shot over fifty times. Other readers are much more discriminating and demand perfection, so it's good you feel so strongly about your presentation. As for myself... what mistakes?

  5. LOVE this post!! I've read quite a few of your posts, and if your books read anything like these, I can see why people would fly over the mistakes! You have a way with words!

  6. Thank you, Kaycee, as always, for the professional opinions and great comments. You're one of a kind.
    Dranea, thank you so much. It's very flattering to hear words like yours, considering I still have a lot to learn, no lie.

  7. OMG Javier! I opened my blog post this morning with:

    I am and author.

    Then went on to ask people to download my work. OH THE HORROR after 300 visits to my blog page today!!!

    Glad I'm not in this embarrassment boat by myself! :-)

  8. Oh, Kim, I know! Sometimes our fingers get ahead of our brain and our eyes are more focused on the page ahead

  9. You're such a wonderful author, that even when you illuminate your screw-ups, they're the Read of the Day!! You're so good at gleaning meaning from all the Hell the gods hurl at you! Go ahead and f***-up all you want, babycakes. It'll be grist for the mill tomorrow! And besides, it gives the lesser of us wordslingers hope when you uncover those warts. We were so sure there weren't any!! Great post, kiddo. Just like all the rest. At least you're consistent!

  10. LOL...LOL...ummm...not to be an ass, but my name is NOT Christine Fiefield must've done that on purpose to make me laugh! Mission accomplished!Love you bro! <3

    1. &@#%!!! I can't believe I did that! (wink wink) LOL