The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Friday, July 26, 2013

Writing Without a Net: Surviving the Dread Mistake: Sloggin' Thru Blogging

Blogging is a peculiar business made even more so by my self-imposed thirty minute deadline.

Sure, you line up your facts ahead of time, reference whatever source(s) seem right for the topic at hand, but in the end you sprint along to beat the clock and get out your point in what you hope will be an engaging manner.

In doing so, some little "fact" or other is bound to be wrong from time to time. Your hope is that you catch it before you hit publish ... or so soon after that very few readers ever see it. For instance, in my happiness post, I at first stated that the pursuit of happiness is written into the Constitution. Within an hour I realized (I have a degree in history for heaven's sake) it was the Declaration of Independence and winced when I saw a few readers had already seen the post. My mistake was exposed to a few (a very kindly few who pretended not to notice ... for which I thank them profusely). I'd fallen off the factual high wire under which there was no net (blogging going straight from screen to public with no editor other than one own poor self) ... well, except for the quick edit and "nothing to see here, move along" feeling you have when you do so. Nice thing about writing without a net is that you don't physically die when you fall off that high wire ... only your ego does ... a little.

Which brings me to a second and last point. For all the new writers out there, especially new book authors, take heed. The format doesn't matter, the deadline doesn't matter, you can have a lifetime to write and in the end you are still going to make mistakes. Books are long, complex, and full of details, each and every one of which is another possibility for a mistake or three. And sure enough, somebody is going to call you on some mistake or other ... and it might be a critic writing for some paper or magazine.

Know this, the first time it happens it is going to crush you emotionally. It may make you feel physically ill. You swear you are never going to write again and put yourself through this level of emotional abuse. But you will. Writing is what you do. And next time, it'll be a little easier. Your skin will thicken. You'll learn some helpful response and move on. You may also discover through that critic a blind spot in your research and/or writing process which you can then correct and be a better writer for it.

If I may plead with you, new writer, I would humbly ask you to avoid one powerful temptation: don't edit out of your fear of being wrong. I've seen too many authors take potentially wonderful material and edit the very life out of those manuscripts in an attempt to be absolutely right in every detail. Believe it or not, your manuscript is a kind of living thing. Edit it too much and you can suck the life right out of it and leave yourself with a factually accurate document that nobody will ever want to read. In your panicky desire for accuracy, you will have destroyed the personality and removed the humor. Instead, if you're publishing professionally, do your best, edit your manuscript carefully once you have finished writing (and only then, allow the artist to work first all the way through), bring it up to whatever standards of formatting your publisher requires, and then trust the professional editor to look for errors and to correct those mistakes you've left behind because you're human without killing the manuscript itself. Even then, sometime, someday, some error is going to get through because writing remains a human enterprise. May it always remain so!

When dealing with serious critics, you can tell them that "No book is more that the distillation of the author's knowledge on the subject at the moment in which the author stopped writing."

For the annoying, petty critic who is just trying to make himself or herself feel better about some personal deficiency, and intends to cause you pain (you KNOW who you are) you can say what nineteenth century artists used to say, "Oh good, you've found my one mistake. I always include one because, as we all know, only God can be perfect."

Good luck!

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