Thursday, March 24, 2011

It’s all in the Details. . . Or is it?

I’m a detail girl.  I worked as a proofreader for a while after graduating from college.  I delight in finding overlooked errors when I’m reading a book or magazine (not so much satisfaction reading take-out Chinese menus as they’re everywhere!!!) and sometimes I even go to the extent of marking it.  It’s one of my strengths: attention to detail.

Or so I thought.  And then my sister called me last weekend and showed me about ten errors in the printing of The Pulse of Hopeful Life (one of which is large but it makes me sick to think about so I won’t mention what it is as I’m hoping you didn’t notice). I couldn’t sleep for two nights. I called to try to have the text changed in the book but I’d have to pay for it.  And I don’t want to pay anymore.  My break-even point for publishing the book keeps climbing (and the profit point on amazon, where I sell most of my books, is lowest). I had read the book straight through right before I approved it, but I guess I miss things. I can’t believe it, but I did. 

A couple weeks ago, I let Bianca enter her very first composition competition (that wasn’t Reflections).  The contest had a children’s category, and Bianca worked so hard on her song.  She had it sounding great, then she had to go back through and add dynamics (crescendos, louds and softs, retakes, etc.).  She did it all, and then we printed her song out, binded it, and sent it off.  The other night, she asked me to play it with her and there was a glaring long, wrong note that she must have changed by mistake.  She started crying.  All her work ruined and for one tiny mistake!  

I’d been worrying about the little mistakes in the entry I sent off to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award contest too because the formatting got shifted for the excerpt phase and pushed words together (deleting the spaces for some unknown reason).  I went through it and tried to fix them but knew I couldn’t have gotten them all.

I’ve turned into a worrier lately, and it’s these little details that seem to bother me the most.  Does it ruin everything if there’s an error? How much is dependent on perfection?  Is the merit still there if not perfect?

Well, Bianca decided to try her luck, and she emailed the contact at the Pike’s peak Young Composer’s contest and told him her dilemma.  Yesterday, he returned her email and said three little words:  “It is fixed.” 

How simple it can be sometimes!  How much sleep we lose!  I know I should probably just pay the money to have them fix the mistakes in my book.  Then I can feel the beauty of those three words:  It is fixed.  And sleep a little better. 

As it turns out, there was a glitch in the system at the Breakthrough Novel contest, and I was not the only person suffering from that. The reviewers knew it was a glitch, thankfully, and my excerpt made the cut to the next round of the contest (down from 5000 entries to 250 now).  Thankfully, thankfully people most of the time can see past the mistakes to the real beauty.  I know the rest of my manuscript isn’t perfect (a reviewer from Publisher's Weekly will read the story in its entirety).  I’m tempted to go back and re-read it but I know it will just drive me crazy when I see a mistake or typo or repeated word.  Hopefully the reviewer will be able to see past that too.  Onto April 26 when I find out if I make the cut for the next round (down to 50 entries).  I can feel more sleepless nights in my future!


Cami said...

This post hits home. The little things we have to worry about...

I don't know if this helps, but you mentioned expectations...I am much more dismissive of small mistakes in, say, a self-published piece as opposed to one that would have had to go through rigorous editing with a major publisher. I think it's something you can let go.

I'm glad it worked out with Bianca. I love how you empower her.

rachel said...

I think we are most critical with our own work. I know I miss a lot of details, but for me the beauty is in the overall result and how it makes me feel. Your book makes me feel and the small details get swallowed up in that. I think too many small details strip with it some of the beauty of just enjoying the process. The fact is, you've just published a beautiful masterpiece. There may be some details that you know got overlooked, but you have taken a journey in which a reviewer from Publisher's Weekly will review YOUR story!! and you've made it to 250 of the best new stories out there. I'm soooooo proud of you!!
Whether or not you decide to have the publisher fix the details is up to you, but sleep well knowing you've achieved something here that very few people ever will.

And way to go Bianca. She's got moxy and she will go far.

Christie Gardiner said...

Focus on what you do RIGHT! No one is perfect. NO ONE!

Joe and Marci said...

Jeana, I just read your book yesterday. I picked it up and couldn't put it down. It was so riveting and heart-wrenching and well-written. Thank you for sharing your book with the world, thank you, thank you!