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Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Writing OR Who Knows What Fat Woman Will Say or Not Say?

 Every once in a while I get a letter from a reader who says something like, "I liked your book...but..."  The but is usually in reference to something I did wrong.  I do make mistakes.  Of course I make mistakes.  Every writer makes mistakes.  It doesn't matter how many people go over the manuscript because the mistakes will still be there.  A recent typo from Deadsville: The man came out wearing a flowered shit.  We all know that most people don't wear flowered shits.  I hope that most people don't wear flowered shits.  I've never personally seen a flowered shit.  It's possible I will never personally see a flowered shit.  In any case, it was supposed to be flowered shirt.  I actually caught this one when I did my first run through.  I even posted it to Facebook because if I can't tease myself, who can I tease?  So I thought I fixed it.  Then I gave the manuscript to my first editor, who also caught it because it hadn't been fixed.  Somehow I neglected to fix it.  I gave it to my other editor, who missed it, because she's human, too.  Then my husband and all of my beta readers missed it.  (Or I missed that my beta readers caught it and then I didn't fix it...again.)  Then I missed it again on my final read through.  So it came out in the ebook and someone commented on Facebook how hysterical it was that I had left it in.  (I could pretend at this point in time that I did it on purpose, but I didn't.)  So it's fixed in the paperback copy but I haven't gotten to revise the electronic copy yet, so it remains there, a testament to flowered shits everywhere.
Okay then, my mistake.  My bad.  However a letter from someone said, "I liked Deadsville but it had all these misspelled words and words used incorrectly."  It was the "all these" part that got me.  I want to know where I went wrong.  Give me an example.  I can see some homonyms possibly happening.  It's possible I used a word incorrectly.  (I'm sure there's a few in there.)  But why would someone write to an author, say that, and then flounce away without giving a few examples?
I read quite a bit myself.  I do catch typos in books, but it doesn't really bother me.  Poor formatting irritates me more.  Occasionally plot details annoy me.  I remember reading about a character who had acquired a Cobra.  (A real Shelby Cobra, not a replica, or the Cobras from the 2000s.)  Then the character threw something into the backseat and I went, "Oh no they dint."  But did I rip out a nasty email to the author and chastise her authoric impropriety?  No, I did not.  It was an honest mistake and not worth emailing the author at all.  (Besides which someone probably already beat me to it.)  Every once in a while I hear someone lambasting The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (You can see why they cut the name down for Hollywood).  In the original novel Crusoe strips down (some argument about how much he stripped) swims out to the wreck of the ship he came on, and then fills his pockets with biscuits.  (Nekkid and without pockets being the problem here.)  But no one is complaining that this error on the part of the author makes Robinson Crusoe less of a classic.  (And I'm not comparing myself to Daniel Dafoe in any way.)  My point is merely that authors make mistakes.
In any case, when I do get a letter from a reader, complaining about mistakes, and they name the mistakes, I usually politely thank them, note the errors in my big list, and make sure I know to correct that in the next revision.  I may not be able to correct each one right away because it takes a little bit of time to come back to the revisions.  I'm just about wrapped up with all of my backlog.  I have three more books to do.  Dial M for Mascara, Missile Rats, and The Life and Death of Bayou Billy.  These are my worst selling books, so I've taken my time on getting back to them.  I usually offend people when they read Bubba and then they buy one of these and expect Bubba, so I warned people in the description of Bayou Billy, but for some reason, people aren't reading the whole description.
This is truly ironic because I think Bayou Billy's plot is the best one I've ever come up with.  However, in the end of the first chapter is where I usually lose most of my readers.  If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about.

I don't mind people telling me they didn't like something I wrote.  Thank God we have the right to do that, but it's the mixing up of grammar and objectivity that bothers me.  English is hard enough as it is without throwing in the susceptibility of people to believe that if they think it is so, then it must be correct, and worse, it must be the only one that is correct.  This is what is called subjectivity.  When an editor tells me, for example, that I cannot use italics for when my characters are thinking, I'm inclined to ask, "Why not?"
And now I'm denigrating into the realm of Let's-Break-Rules-Shall-We?

I recently got a letter from Mark Coker, who is the CEO of Smashwords, about an event that was ongoing, and I wrote back to thank him for his efforts on behalf of indie writers.  If it were up to mainstream publishers, none of the indies would have a voice, much less one that people want to argue with.

Okay then, I now shall dismount from my high horse and go back to writing Bubba and the Ten Little Loonies, for I have rules to break and grammar to fracture into teensy weensy wittle pieces.


Andsetinn said...

I caught few spelling errors in Deadsville but not the one about the flowered shit, I remember one about the violet crimes unit. It surprised me because usually your books don't have noticeable spelling errors. No matter about the spelling, it is one of your better books (and a refreshing change from Bubba ;)).

Carwoo said...

Appreciate that. I don't know where I went wrong there. I think I'm getting a little burned out on writing, however.

Anonymous said...

I remember when I was young and bought a Billy Joel album. One of the songs was a ballad about Billy the Kid with his "six gun at his side." But in another stanza Billy Joel must have had beer on his mind, because the stanza was changed to "six pack at his side." haha.. an accident? Or maybe it was intentional on Billy Joel's side. Regardless, I sure enjoyed it!