I’m afraid of mistakes. Typos, factual errors, formatting issues, and the like. When asked to read from one of my books, I cringe and flip cautiously, page by page, sure that I’m going to spot something I’d like to fix/change/alter/delete. Even when bookmarks arrive fresh from the printer, I don’t want to look at them too closely for fear that I’ve misspelled something. Usually my own name.
That’s why it’s so hard to let go of our work. We can tweak and revise and polish for months, years, decades, and as long as we’re in that part of the process, our work is allowed to have mistakes. It’s not done yet, we reason with ourselves. When we’re ready to release it, it’ll be perfect.
Guess what? It won’t be perfect.
Last year at Bouchercon Long Beach, bestselling author Barry Eisler told a room filled with readers that he kept a page on his website for mistakes found in his books. And he does. Not the typo variety, either. Honest to goodness factual mistakes. (Mistakes like in SUEDE TO REST where Poly Monroe operates an electric sewing machine while the power is out at her store. Head smack!)
I admit, I’m inspired by Barry Eisler’s mistakes page, but I’m not yet brave enough to add one to my site. It takes a huge amount of courage to release a book from our computers to the world, whether we’re querying, submitting, or publishing, and being the one to point out the errors in that book is not natural.
We see the flaws, but we secretly hope that nobody else does. Right? Or can we feel more in control of the release of our work when we claim not only what people love about a story, but also what we got wrong?
Diane Vallere | @dianevallere