Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dear Author: Mistakes Are Okay

By Jean Kavich Bloom

Occasionally novelists whose work I'm editing seem to feel they should be apologetic when I catch a mistake they missed: a time line a bit off, a character name switch, the fact that it is snowing in August. Okay, that last one has never happened, but sometimes characters don’t seem to own coats in January in the Midwest, and that’s the exact same thing, isn’t it?

This makes me feel a little bit as though they think the editing waters could be shark-infested, and I could be one of the poised-to-strike sharks when I see a little blood, even though I am pretty sure I have never been shark-like at all.

But you know what? I get it. I don’t like to make mistakes, and I especially hate for anybody to see them, lest I be judged. Maybe it's also the perfectionist firstborn thing. I doubt all novelists are firstborns, but they are writers who want to get it right.

So I’m composing a little letter to all the novelists who have ever cringed because their editors foundor might finderrors.

Dear Author,

Here are five reasons you should not feel bad when your editors catch mistakes: 

1. You make errorseven with all your self-editingbecause you are human. If you weren’t, you would be no fun to work with. Nope, no fun at all. We rather like the "treasure" hunt, even though only we would think of mistakes as some sort of the-glass-is-not-yet-full positive.

2. Mistakes don’t water down your story and message for editors. Those precious diamonds, even if they are still a little rough, shine through.

3. Every time you rewrite, every time you make a change, an error can be introduced and missed. But so what? You work hard to improve your story for the sake of your readers’ experience. That’s a good and admirable thing. You don’t just phone it in with a first draft.

4. Mistakes found in editing are no indicator of future sales. Really, they’re not. Really.

5. The best editors can make mistakes, too, even while working to spot and help fix yours. (See point 1 about humanness, and do not make me tell you about my own errors.)

There. If you have ever been afraid to be edited—or you dread it every time—now you know. The editing waters are safe. No sharks allowed.

Come on in!

After twenty-four years with publishing house Zondervan in Grand Rapids, Michigan, most recently as an executive managing editor, Jean Bloom returned to Central Indiana to be near family and take her freelance editorial business full-time (Bloom in Words Editorial Services). Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she often posts articles about the writing life. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

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1 comment:

  1. Having others catch our gaffes can feel embarrassing. But it's oh so better to have the editors catch them before publication than for readers to spot them after publication!