Hello everyone and thank you for joining me on my monthly ‘writerly’ type blog post. This month, I am reflecting on self-editing, this is not a blow-by-blow guide, I just wanted to share my thoughts.
Me, as a reader is the same person as me the writer, I don’t have different hats or faces. Maybe I should though… I read voraciously, and have entered the self-publishing party – I would say the majority of what I read is independently published. When I first started looking into publishing back in 2016 I did a fair amount of research. I read a book where the word ‘fifty’ had been written as ‘fivety’ (I’ve change this a bit so to not identify anyone) and spotted various other mistakes, none of these put me off the book I was reading. Actually some of the authors I started reading in 2016 are now very successful. Even in traditionally published books, I quite enjoy spotting a mistake. Did this set a standard though? I shouldn’t judge my writing by my own reading. Most readers don’t like to see mistakes (and rightly so).
When I wrote my first self-published book, Piccalilly, I initially put it out there ‘just to see what it was like’ I was testing the waters. Don’t get me wrong, I put great care into this story, especially as it was loosely based on my mum’s side of the family. I foolishly relied on the spell checker on the self publishing platform, after all, I was just testing the waters… but before I had the chance to make myself a celebratory cup of tea… a two star review popped up on Goodreads. Oh I know that on Goodreads this means something like ‘It was OK’ and yes, authors are putting themselves out there but this was my first ever review, although it wasn’t even a review it was a rating. No words to give me a clue as to why my first ever book had failed so miserably. At the time I had decided that my way of working would be to read the book on my Kindle in order to spot the mistakes. I don’t do that now. I finished my celebratory cup of tea, dusted myself down and re-read my own book. I found a few mistakes (and I mean a few) which I amended. I’m not changing the story though. Piccalilly was given a ‘Y’ at the end, because this was my nana Lilian’s nick-name and a new cover. It’s had seven five star reviews now phew!
I do it to much (sic). Identifying common mistakes is something that I should take my own advice about. I blame my fast fingers on the typewriter – oh I was a whizz in Mrs Hickson’s typewriting lessons. That was in the late 1980s though, things have changed with me. It’s my own stupid fault for pretending I don’t have MS… prone to the odd finger slip, too many times!
When I wrote ‘1962’ I enlisted the help of my dad. The book had been influenced by his love of cycling, plus he was alive in the year 1962 I was not. Yes, his knowledge of cycling in the 1960s was priceless. Dad is a person who likes to be told, not shown when reading a book, that is the opposite of how it should be. Months of me acting as the rebellious daughter showing rather than telling and Dad changing his mind about what happened in the 60s , I finally had finished the book (and that’s only half the story about things that got in the way with that one!) I’m not saying never work with a family member, but Dad has now told me that he never ever wants anything to do with my writing ever again! (He has read the three books I’ve published since 1962, however, phew!)
I’m in ever such a rush to write all the books I want to write. I need to slow down though. During the past few months, I have noticed that I have become increasingly scatter-brained. This has only resulted in silly mistakes. I have an irrational fear (hopefully) that I am starting with the cognitive decline associated with MS. I worry that I will wake up tomorrow in the worst cloud of brain fog and never recover. I can’t even read on temporary days like this. Spreading myself too thinly though is not the correct way of managing this problem.
It’s all good fun – until you trust one of those popular grammar software things. In my second book in series of the Curmudgeon Avenue series ‘The Harold and Edith Adventures’ I had wanted to say that my character Edith was up and down with her moods. One minute she was happy, the next her husband Harold entered the room and she was miserable… Anyway, I wanted to use the word ‘lability’ (constant changing of mood) and here was my mistake, this word was taken from the discourse community of psychiatric nursing; my former occupation. Spell checker or Grammarly or something changed this to ‘labiality’ (lips), and I believed it… It wasn’t until, six months later that a superstar reviewer noticed this, and sent me an email (A blog worth looking at here Against the Flow Press.) I was so pleased, she could have just left it and not bothered to tell me – I’ll be eternally grateful for her time. It was a hilarious blooper though. I’m still laughing about it now that Edith’s labia were available on Amazon for at least six months!
There is hope. The more you write, the better things get, and the more work you put in getting yourself ‘out there’ in the big wide world of books, the more people you’ll cyber-meet and they will be willing to help you. That said, you have to do things your own way, me for example, I can’t justify spending £1000 on an editor. Don’t take my advice, that’s my advice!
A final word on mussels. Mr Henthorn will do anything for me. He has, however been avoiding the idea of proof reading my books for me. That’s OK with me. The other day, he had promised to make me a delicious and romantic seafood linguine for our evening meal. I messaged him during the day to ask if we needed anything taking out of the freezer? Here is the single word reply I received:
‘Muscles’ xxx (!)
Join me same time next month for another ‘writerly’ rambling. Happy self-editing everyone! Samantha xx