Having written a book of a very different nature to the previous volumes in the Sorrow Song trilogy I decided to re-read both The War Wolf and For Rapture of Ravens so as to immerse myself back into the world of 1066 once again. I know, some might wonder why this is necessary when I wrote both books anyway, I mean, wouldn’t you expect the author to know their books inside out?
My answer is both yes and no, and that is not a cop out.
Let me explain, I have a very active imagination, even when I am writing one story I seem to be thinking about another as well. I do not find this difficult or confusing, I seem to be able to compartmentalize separate stories in my mind without any cross-migration or contamination of ideas. I also type copious notes, maintain a style-sheet, and have back-stories and such on the main characters, which are things most other writers use as well. Nevertheless, I like going back into the previous book and reminding myself of what I have written so that I understand more clearly where I want to go next.
One thing that I have noticed, however, is an uncomfortable number of typographical errors in my manuscript! I find this deeply disappointing.
The way I work is to create a rough first draft of the story, which is often unstructured and flows straight from my imagination. While doing this I create the style-sheet, a tool to ensure that I names for characters and places, especially if a little more prosaic than modern English, remain consistent. I do not worry too much about the actual spelling and grammar in the first draft, well at least I tell myself that, preferring speed of committing words to paper over accuracy of syntax and such. Actually I still find myself going back and correcting obvious errors! Once this is finished, although that is a term being used very loosely here because I never really finish a first draft, I just get to a point where I feel that the ‘book’ has been created and I know where I am going with it, I start on the back stories for the major characters, doing research, build the plot, plan character development, etc., all the kinds of things that you would expect in a finished article. As part of this process I also do the editing.
I am, like many another, an independent author, which basically means that I do not have a contract with a publisher or agent, I do not write full-time (as much as I would want to), and I do not have copious resources to spend on hiring editors and proof-readers. Publishers provide these services to their authors, I have to either find willing amateurs or do it myself, especially as I have not yet produced a best seller. Normally I do a bit of both.
The fact that I still come across typographical errors in published manuscripts obviously means that this system is not perfect, but then why should it be? I am a one man show, essentially and, as Bilbo Baggins once said, “I am beginning to feel a little thin”; I am that bit of butter scraped over too much bread. Okay, let’s put the violin away now! I would love to hire the services of a professional editor and/or proof-reader but it is not possible at the moment so I am going to have to develop a system of checking my manuscripts for errors in a slow-time approach. Fortunately I have some ideas to play with.
I am currently writing ‘The Blade’s Fell Blow’, the final installment of the Sorrow Song Trilogy, it is currently in first draft format. It occurred to me that when this book is finished I could actually create a one volume version of the trilogy and offer it alongside the individual books. As well as having merit on its own this would also motivate me to read through all the manuscripts again and put right as many errors as I can find, which hopefully will be all of them.
This idea appeals to me greatly because I really do hate seeing those typo’s in my work. In retrospect I think the real cause is not a lack of care or attention on my part as a writer, well not wholly anyway, it is a lack of time. I am a married family man with a full time job and too many other interests in life; time is without doubt my most precious commodity and I, like so many other people, just do not seem to have enough of it. I write because it is something that I love to do, not because I like to put myself under ridiculous amounts of pressure, but I have to squeeze the writing into a day that is generally too short for everything that I want to do. As I love writing I also want to get it right, to do my best, to produce something that evokes a positive response from readers and not something that falls short because I failed to spot a typographical error.