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The Enemy Within

My son informed me recently in solemn tones that he had some bad news for me. Steeling myself for the worst, I waited. The news as it turned out was indeed rather distressing.  He’d found a typo in my second novel.

Given the times I’ve read the manuscript, not to mention the proofreaders and editors who’ve also been over it painstakingly, I find it hard to believe that yet another error has been discovered. Yes, I know that it’s a common enough phenomenon, and one that writers have to accept, but that doesn’t make it any easier. Especially when you’ve worked so hard to prevent such a thing from happening.

Readers, it would seem, tend to fall into two categories – those who are willing to tolerate the odd mistake, and those who find them reprehensible. The poor writer, however meticulous he has been during the writing, must accept full responsibility for the finished product and take the flak accordingly.

Michelangelo once said, ‘Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle,’ or words to that effect. The odd typo may not be enough to spoil a masterpiece, but it will alert the reader to the author’s negligence, even if temporarily. Persistent re-offending is sure to turn the reader off altogether.

One of the benefits of Kindle is the ease with which we can change these infidelities. Within minutes, the corrected version is uploaded and available online. Errors in print, however, stay on the record like convictions in a criminal court and can taint your reputation for a long time after. Yes, there will be new editions, with the mistakes carefully edited out, but somehow that’s little consolation. You – the writer, know the offending version is still out there, slandering your reputation and bringing your literary genius into disrepute. This in itself is enough to dampen the thrill of publication.

I once confused shih tzu with shiatzu and was immediately informed by a concerned reader, perhaps the first time in literature that a toy dog has been linked with a form of Japanese massage! If any readers have a copy with this faux pas included, I would be happy to take it off their hands for an undisclosed sum…

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