Me? Make Mistakes?

Katherine Longshore 3 Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I'm a perfectionist.  There, I said it.  I can't even cross something off my to-do list until it is absolutely, completely, 100% finished (like the laundry is not only washed and dried, but folded and put away in right place and the basket is back by the washing machine. Check.)

I spend hours on research for my books - reading biographies, taking notes, searching out obscure journal articles, poring through transcribed letters and papers online.  I have a reputation amongst the Muses as a copyeditor-type beta reader - questioning word choice, correcting spelling, catching continuity issues.  I admit I've got atrocious punctuation, but I've been running up that learning curve as I move through this business, trying to get it right.

So when I got my copyedits for TARNISH, I cried.

There were corrections on every page.  Boneheaded mistakes like substituting bear for bare and having a character curtsy while lying on the ground (i.e., not having her get up first).  Historical inaccuracies like my character talking about a "tuppenny whore" when they didn't have two-pence pieces in the 16th century.  And a major geographical blunder that I won't even talk about, I'm so mortified.  

And yes, lots of punctuation issues. Though I have to say, some of my punctuation problems were intentional because the character's voice includes lots of sentence fragments.  I had to reconsider every single one at the request of my copyeditor (bless her).

Why am I telling you all of this?  I guess, because we all make mistakes, no matter how hard we try not to.  Ultimately, we have to let them go.  Correct what we can, but not beat ourselves up about what we can't.  Do our best to strive for perfection, but know that ultimately, no one is perfect.

We want our characters to make mistakes.  It's not only essential to the plot, it's essential to a likable character.  Perfection is irritating.  Flaws are compelling.  Remember that the next time your Skinny berates you for saying the wrong thing or putting a red shirt in with your kids' white socks (not that I have any experience with that personally...)  But also, if you makes lots of mistakes like I do?  Make friends with a copyeditor.  You won't regret it.


Perfection is so very "Mary Sue" when it comes to reading. I often remind my little girl that it's okay to make mistakes, especially when you learn from them. That's part of being human.

Katherine- I am at YBB and disappointed to hear that you won't be able to join us; but am sorry to hear of your loss. Look forward to reading your book.

Thank you for reminding me, Angela. That's always what I tell my kids, too.

And Carol - I'm sorry I won't have the chance to see you! I know the workshop will be fabulous (Lorin always does an amazing job). And thank you so much for your kind words.

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers