As an editor, it could drive me nuts when I see so many common errors in other people’s work. Typos, misspellings and such. Yet, I make the same mistakes even though I know better. English is such a complex language, it’s almost impossible to write perfectly first time, every time, without being completely obsessive compulsive, or so focused, you can’t do anything else.
I’ve also made the point before that I am much better at editing other people’s work because it simply isn’t mine. I’m looking at it as an outsider, not too close to it. Sure, I’m much better at editing my own work than I used to be. I’m also much better at getting it right the first time it hits the “paper,” so to speak. That doesn’t mean it still isn’t full of mistakes. This essay will probably, most likely, be full of grammatical mistakes that would send an English professor into a stroke. Then again, the chances of a real English professor ever reading this blog (or a highly paid professional editor from some major publishing house) are practically nil, especially with the number of hits I get!
The point is that as bad as I am, I’ve still picked up plenty I can pass on to you, the new (or struggling) writer. I’ve learned enough chops that even though I can’t always see it in my own writing, I can sure as hell see it in someone else’s!
I bring this up because of a wonderful book I’m reading right now. He edited his own self-published memoir. Yes, he has some typos and it could use a bit of editing for structure, but there is no doubt the man has some legitimate chops and if I were editing his book, it would not be buried in red ink (except towards is British). In fact, he has so few actual grammatical errors that many of the typos are typesetting errors. There is some little stuff, but considering the conditions under which he wrote it and the effort he put into it, he did an amazing job. The little stuff I’ve found is not bad considering he never had it professionally edited.
Now jump back a lot of years to a book self-published by another guy that just wouldn’t listen. This guy read some of his stuff to another writers’ group. Throwing aside the structural problems with the story, which were monumental, this guy’s manuscript was full of typos and wrong usages of words. Little stuff. Again, towards was the British spelling of toward, for example. The American way of saying it is without the “s”, like upward instead of upwards, etc. Passive phrases, misplaced modifiers, shifting POVs, you name it. This guy wouldn’t listen. He not only wouldn’t fix the little stuff, he wouldn’t fix the big stuff. I know this because he published the book anyway almost unedited. I guess, he didn’t think we knew what we were talking about. I don’t know why he bothered coming to the meetings. Because we weren’t published writers then, we didn’t know what we were talking about. Sure, I was a lot less experienced back then, as well as the others trying to give him advice, but we still knew a few things! I can imagine the garage full of books he had.
I’ve heard people say they don’t care about the little stuff right now. They want to know about the big picture. I understand that. However, someday, they are going to have to buckle down and bother with the little stuff because if they don’t, someone is going to notice, especially if they self publish!
Don’t keep putting it off for the final edit you might not get. Don’t let the little stuff pile up on you. It could eventually bite you!