I pre-order books more often than I should. Which means I find myself in possession of many first editions of newly published manuscripts.
In every single one, I look for the mistake.
Because one always makes its way through the review process. And I embark on a mission to find it.
Usually it’s a simple, easy-to-miss typographical error. The same word repeated twice when it should only be there once. A missing punctuation mark (often an absent opening or closing quotation mark). A misspelling very commonly overlooked during a quick edit.
Do you know how many different pairs of eyes review a book before it is published and distributed out into the world?
And for the most part — at least in my experience — at least one small error always makes it into the final product.
I do not know why this intrigues me so much.
I don’t point the errors out to anyone (especially not the author directly — don’t do that; it’s not their fault). I just notice. And in some weird way, it brings me comfort.
Some people might view these errors as unprofessional or distracting. It’s a real book from a real publishing company — shouldn’t it be perfect?
There is no such thing.
Published imperfections remind me that nothing that is out there in the world is perfect. It’s not just you that makes and misses your own errors. It’s everyone else that’s responsible for catching mistakes. Everyone misses something.
I know what it’s like to worry about imperfections in your own writing. I spend far too much of my time trying to prevent and correct them.
We don’t have to worry about these things so much. Especially when all we are trying to do in the present moment is finish writing a first draft.
First drafts should be littered with errors, inconsistencies, and the like. That’s a sign you tied yourself down and finished something without wasting too much time editing every single sentence you write. (Maybe that’s the way you do it — fine; it’s just not very efficient.)
Part of me wishes these errors never got fixed. I don’t know why. But second and third reprints, most of the time, fix these little things. There is no record of the error other than in its earliest editions, if you are fortunate enough to have access to one.
There’s just such a high standard to live up to. And for many, it’s distracting and discouraging. They see a perfect book and can’t comprehend why they haven’t produced one themselves yet.
This is such a small thing, such a random angle to address such an unimportant topic.
But never forget that all you have to do is write a book.
It doesn’t have to be perfect. Not anywhere close to it.
Just write something. Get it done.
Then you can fix (almost) everything.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.