I cannot stress this to myself enough: don’t stress too much about errors.
As an independent writer, it is a daunting task to get a work edited. Either it takes time (a whole lot of precious time), patience (it takes patience and time), and/or lot’s of money (to do it, to do it, to do it, to do it riiiight!) in order to properly edit a book.
I don’t have any of the three.
However, even if all three align all at the same time there is absolutely no guarantee that a story will be error free in any sense of the word. There are just too many variables. And the more complicated the story (like my sci-fi saga Gravity) the more opportunity there is for something to be wrong.
Think of it in numbers. At a 0.1% failure rate, a 50,000 word book would have 50 errors in an error to word ratio. This calculation is strictly a wrong word, misspelling, etc basically stating that there can be 50 words in error and the book will only have a 0.1% failure rate. That sounds fantastic. But those errors can stick out like sore thumbs.
We as writers expect ZERO. And we believe that our readers expect the same.
It is a tall order. Most first drafts are riddled with errors. Everything from misspellings to wrong comma uses are there. That isn’t even counting continuity and character development. I’ve made the mistake of noting a character’s eye color and then forgetting that I did only later to choose a different color… and never correcting the mistake. I caught that particular one in my very-long-and-drawn-out-yet-extremely-flawed editing session, but more like that can go to print.
Unless the reader is a grammar stickler, most errors actually will go unnoticed to the average reader. Put a comma in the wrong place and Marysue from Wichita, Kansas probably won’t bat an eye. A grammar-nazi might want you (the writer) hung from the rafters for such an oversight.
Even a few “major publishing house” novels I have recently read had errors that made me do a few double-takes. But what was most important in this lesson to myself is that although I spotted the errors, they didn’t suck me out of the story or make me just say “to hell with this book.” I still enjoyed the stories.
And I certainly do not write for the grammar aficionados anyway. I write for myself and those who would be touched in some positive way by my stories. Besides, even Grammar Girl has mentioned on multiple occasions that often the “hard-and-fast” rules aren’t really “hard-and-fast” depending on which grammar nut you talk to. That means that grammar is often as subjective as the enjoyment of the book itself.
But I digress.
As a writer I have copious amounts of anxiety about my stories. No matter how good I might feel that they might be, I just know there are too many errors to let go into the world. (Even if I can’t find them). It is the plight of the perfectionist: we stymie our forward progression because we get so damn caught up in our need for perfection that we actually trip ourselves up and ruin progress.
I tell myself this all of the time: it isn’t about perfection; it is about the movement towards perfection.
None of the 5 pieces of work that I have out now (click up to “books” up in the menu to see them, or over to the left… yeah, you see them now… buy them… buy ALL of them) will be quite as good as books I write 10 years from now. In fact I will likely cringe when I look back at them later. All I can ask is that they be as good as I can make them now knowing what I do now.
But that doesn’t stop me from holding up 3 stories that are almost ready to go so that I can keep on tearing them apart.
My recently published book “The Good Teacher” is a loud example of a book that I spent too long trying to perfect. Only recently did I give it one more quick read and then closed my eyes to push it out the door hoping it would fly. (It has yet to fly, but that has more to do with my being unknown to this point. I cannot get the feedback to challenge otherwise.)
To this point though, no matter how much editing one can apply to a book, there are only a few items that really matter:
- Your readers enjoy the story
- You enjoy the story
- What can you do better next time, or what can you learn for next time.
Reading is about the experience, so beyond those three things I don’t think anything else matters.