Friday, 30 January 2009

First Flight... Safe Landings

This morning I finally took my first flight into hysteria. I knew it had to happen sooner or later. I've been charged with adrenalin ever since I started on this project; I was bound to overload sooner or later!

The cause of the sudden flight of fear was the fact that, last week, people finally began reading my book. Reading my words. It suddenly made it all very real and very alarming. What would they say? :-\ Well... yesterday three friends finished reading my book and came back with comments. They all said the same thing, more or less - they loved the story, in spite of the errors.


That was a shock; I thought I'd cleaned up and edited out most errors. I actually went through the book five times before sending it - twice for word changes (a name and a phrase had to be removed and changed), once with spell check, once more correcting formatting of punctuation (when I upgraded the book to a more modern Word it turned punctuation marks backwards or removed them completely) and then finally once more again, because the publishers wanted a specific format for paragraph indents etc.

So, last night I took out the document and started reading again... Within the first two chapters I found missing punctuation marks, missing words, and two sentences that seemed to have been turned inside out. 

I fled in complete panic and darkest despair. I went to bed and cried buckets, woke up this morning and cried more, then I sent an email to all the friends and relatives I knew had gone off to buy my book. I apologised deeply for the fact they were buying a book riddled with errors.

All of today email replies have been filtering back, all of them consoling and several of them from friends who have also bought and read my book and loved it, warts and all. The compliments have helped, the hugs and sympathy too, but the reply that helped bring me back down to solid ground the best was one from a friend who is also a published author himself.

He said:
Don't beat yourself up about it! I've had to issue an errata sheet for all my books. There are probably several contributory factors:

* I and almost everyone I know, finds it well-nigh impossible to copy-edit properly on a computer screen. It takes a printed copy to have a chance of finding most of the errors.

* Spell-checkers are useful but not infallible; grammar checkers can be worse than useless.
Watt wood eye dew whiff art mice pill Czech air?

* Seamless software upgrades from Microsoft are about as common as hen's teeth.

* Global formatting changes always change more than you tell them to.

And lastly:
* It is a human trait to see/read what we expect to see/read. If we have written something, we tend to see what we intended to write. It helps slightly if things are formatted differently by a typesetter, but the same trait applies to page-proofs.

To quote Alfonso the Wise (1221 - 84):
"Unto those Three Things which the Ancients held to be impossible, there should be added this Fourth: to find a Book printed without Errors."
I laughed a lot at the "Watt wood" sentence and somewhere between laughing at that and the Alfonso quote I started to regain my ability to laugh at myself - at my perfectionistic panic melt-down! Others had said similar things, but having friends say that the errors didn't matter, didn't carry as much weight as having a published author of sensible books, come in with such sane, comforting (and witty) observations.

I did something today that, like the song below, made me feel proud. I remembered how to laugh at myself. I'm sure there's a link there... between enlightenment and lightening up! ;-)

So I'm sending a big hug and thank you to all the wonderful kind friends who reached out to grab me today, when I flew off in a panic, but I owe an especially big THANK YOU to Stephen, who helped me land safely.


  1. hi,laughter is the best medicine and being able to see the humour in one self is definately a lifting experience.
    Take care



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