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