The Enemy

Yesterday I echoed the following on my facebook page.

Of course, long time readers of my blog are giggling and going “How Sarah” though I assure you I don’t make these mistakes on purpose.  I make them through a combination of two things: incipient dyslexia and the fact that these posts are normally made either late night or early morning.

Needless to say no more had this comic gone up than someone chimed in with that hoary old chestnut of “Anything worth doing is worth doing well” and someone else came in to defend her vigorously on the grounds that “not proofreading or spell checking your blog shows a lack of respect for yourself and your readers, and whether its paid or not, I should be offered the best the blogger can produce.”

Um…  ’Mkay.  So, let’s examine the economics of my life, particularly now that indie publishing has come into “how I make my money” even if, so far, in a very minor fashion.  And that Indie publishing takes time.  And then we’ll explore that lovely Puritan aphorism about what is worth doing.

To begin with – and by way of confession – I haven’t done any indie publishing in a couple of months.  The conjunction of my trying to finish overdue books with the end of year stuff that affects even parents of young men (as in, graduation ceremonies, award ceremonies, making sure they have their stuff for finals, making sure they don’t forget their own heads while very busy with other stuff) has joined with a spate of breaking stuff in the house, and odd health stuff to rob me of the five hours or so a week that I need for my labor of putting up my short story (and novella) back list.

I’ve also been, I’m sure you noticed, more laid back with the blog, having got more guests in and such to fill in my inability to blog every day.

This is just as an illustration of how close to the bone my time management is.  Throw in a wobble in one area and other things have to give.  They have to, because I still need to eat, go to the bathroom and — occasionally — sleep.

However, most of the year – when not in crunch time – I do blog every day.  I blog for three reasons.

First because I suspect a lot of you would never have heard of me except through this blog.  In that sense this blog is like an extended meet-the-author chat session which will, hopefully, lead to better sales for my paid work.  Eventually.

Second I blog because I’m a kinetic thinker.  I know that sounds weird, but I’m the sort of person who can’t figure out how to assemble a piece furniture, except by doing it.  I learned my letters through copying them, memorized stuff by copying it, and think best by typing.  Sometimes the sort of moral/philosophical stuff I blog about here is me trying to unknot a dilemma in my current book.

Third, I blog as a sort of free-writing exercise.  Lots of disciplines advise this as a cure against the block.  Five pages in the morning, or whatever.  This blog serves that principle for me.

Having found over my years of keeping a blog at livejournal and writing in it only when the spirit moved me that the only way to develop a following is to make it into an habit for the reader – and for that it needs to be daily – I strive to post something every day.  Having given up on the idea of just echoing things, because what I have to offer is more analytic than breezy, I tend to make rather long posts.

So, every morning I roll out of bed and write 2 to 3k words at a sitting.  (Unless I have time to do them on Sunday afternoon, and then I burn the entire afternoon writing five posts.)

I try to make sure of several things as I’m posting them: that they’re interesting or quirky – which is judged by whether they interest ME – that they make internal sense, that I check any obvious references (though sometimes one escapes me mostly through my knowing something that just ain’t so), and that my spelling and grammar are understandable.

This last involves my running a spell checker, then reading over twice – once before and once after it’s posted.  (Don’t ask me why, but some mistakes only become glaring when it’s posted.)

Contrast this with the process I go through before I send a short story to an editor (let alone publish it.)  There I not only do the spell checker, but I print it out, go over it carefully not just for typos but for flow of language, then enter the changes, then print it out and do it again, then have a friend or ten read over it and see if he/she/they can catch any other typos or places where my logic went awry.  Even for a very short short, this will take something like three hours not counting friend/s time (which I pay back by doing same service for them.)

Now imagine me doing this, every morning, with my posts.  They take about an hour to write, even short ones, and maybe half an hour to check.  This means I’m working on them 10 hours a week.  Add in even just two prints/checks and the friend pay-back time per blog, and I’d be working 30 hours a week.  For free.

For free, you say?  But I thought you did it for publicity.  And besides there’s that button up there for donations.  Uh.  yeah.  The button nets maybe $25 a month, on a good month, most of it, incidentally, for the fiction.  As for the publicity, I THINK it’s working, (if I ever think it’s not, the blogging stops, of course) but it’s an indirect and slow process.   What do I mean by that?  Well, most people – understandably.  Would I be complaining? – will first buy my books used, to try out.  On those I get nothing.  Then, because I still don’t have any indie novels, they will buy the traditionally published ones.  Again, not complaining.  But I get at most a few cents per book.

My goal is to grow the audience so that eventually when I bring novels out indie, the money comes to me and is significant.  It’s worth a gamble.  BUT right now (two kids in/entering college, four cats, and in a precarious job market for both writers and mathematicians – I’m not seeing a huge influx of pocket money from this endeavor.  As is it is costing me money because when I’m blogging everyday I’m not writing my non-fiction articles, which do  pay (even if not crazy amounts.)

Ten hours unpaid a week and a small financial loss is doable, given what else it serves.  I consider it a loss leader.  Thirty hours means my output of the stuff I DO get paid for is cut in half, or I give up sleeping – I’m sorry to disappoint perfectionists, but I don’t feel a need to kill myself to please them.

So what about “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”? – note the well, not PERFECTLY.  A friend of mine who is a professional editor, and one of the best editors I know (I hire him when I can afford to.  It isn’t often) once told me that even if you have a team of copyeditors working for you (which he did at one point, since he worked in scholastic publications where the scientific writing had to be checked and rechecked a number of times) and have each copyeditor initial each line, to ensure they didn’t just glaze for half a page, a careful reader will still find typos.

Having had over twenty novels published, which go through WEEKS of my checking them, then paying someone to check them, then sending them to my (sometimes excellent) editors/publishers, who then pay someone to copyedit and have someone else in the office check the copyeditor’s work, AND finding any number of typos in the printed book, I’m here to tell you it’s true.

If you definition of “doing well” is “Perfect” you’re going to do one of two things.  I’ve seen both among writers, and they’re both deadly. One is to forever rewrite the same novel (or, heaven help us, the same short story) over and over and over again for years.  The other is to do nothing because you can’t “do it well.”

Either of these in fact are illustrations of “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Does this mean I don’t have respect for my work or my readers?  Oh, please.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t even spell check what I put up.  (Okay, sometimes I typo the titles because I type those directly into the browser.  I usually catch it, though.)  I certainly wouldn’t try to make sure it makes internal sense.  And my readers would be my four cats and maybe my husband when he has time.

Look, it takes a certain amount of work to get something 90% done.  And then another equal amount of work to get it the other 5% to 95% of perfection.  (You’re never going to get to 100%.  It’s part of the human condition.  Deal.)  For the books I do the other 50% of the work.  (It takes me as long to check/edit/polish as to write a book.  And I’m a relatively clean first drafter as my first readers can attest.  But the final pass is detail work and FUSSY.  I’m willing to do it for books – and stories – because those are hopefully going to be around a long time.  Blogs?  It’s a daily page, and even though the old ones are there, they’re pretty much only read when someone hits it through a word search.  They’re also usually read by people in the same spirit newspapers or opinion columns were read.  90% is usually enough.

I’m not saying this as an excuse for sloppy writing.  Of course I do my best in whatever time I have to devote to the endeavor.  And so should you.

I’m saying it to remind everyone that the “perfect” is the enemy of the good – it is the ENEMY of HUMAN, period – and unattainable anyway.  If you feel disrespected because there’s a word missing from one of my blog posts (or three words missing.  Or two typos) you probably have other issues.  It is the equivalent of going off into a froth because your mom made you an omelet for breakfast and didn’t plate it perfectly, with a little bit of orange and a sprig of mint, just like your favorite chef at your favorite brunch place does…  Instead of being happy your mom rolled out of bed and made you an omelet at all, before she had coffee.

Most of the people who devote themselves to obsessive typo hunting in other people’s blogs are people who feel inadequate – perhaps because they don’t think they can blog, since they can’t be perfect – and the typo-hunt is a way of attempting to bring others down and elevate themselves.  “Well, I might not blog, but if I did, I’d catch that typo.”  To them I say, “Give it a try.  Find out how hard it is.  Get your self-esteem by doing it, not by pointing out flaws in the product.  Mote, meet Speck.”

Then there are the ones who simply feel entitled.  Nothing but the best will do for them, and how dare you put an inferior concoction in front of my exalted self? It reminds me of the Far Side Cartoon where the dog has mowed the yard all in a scramble of lines and the owner is saying “bad dog” instead of being amazed and grateful the dog mows at all.  To those people I say – like people with a fine palate who must eat only at the best restaurants, you sir or madam are too refined to read mere unpaid blogs.  You should confine yourself to writing that’s not published till after it’s checked by layers of proofreaders and fact checkers.  (SNORT.)

If we get to the point you think a lot of my posts are well nigh incomprehensible or typo riddled to the point of inanity, then I will have fallen below my definition of doing it well and find it not worth doing.

On the other hand, until/unless such a time arrives, or until/unless I decide that my compensation is simply not enough for the labor involved, I’ll go on doing it “as well as I can in the time I have.”  Hopefully that is enough for most of you.

104 responses to “The Enemy

  1. ppaulshoward

    But writers have to be Perfect!!! [Evil Grin]

  2. Martin L. Shoemaker

    I might have written a much shorter “Screw ‘em!” But that’s just me.

    On the other hand, there are two kinds of nitpickers: those who want to attack, and those who want to help. I honestly think the first kind aren’t nitpicking, they’re just too intellectually deficient or lazy to come up with a real argument, so they just fixate upon imperfections. They’re the ones who want to tear you down for being a traitor to your race/sex/class. If they weren’t nitpicking typos, they would just be distorting your arguments or slandering your character.

    But the second kind should be tolerated with good humor. They mean well; and I’m trying to learn to accept well-meaning people and just overlook their annoying habits. And sometimes they really do help.

    • Oh, yes. I was trying to integrate a line along the thought of “if you tell me “you misspelled “DHU”” I will go in and fix it when I have time, and I don’t resent that. I do resent being told “It has to be PERFECT.”

    • The problem with people who “mean well” is that their ilk have paved the entryway to Hell. Still, getting annoyed with them does more harm to you than to them, so laughter is the best medicine. I mean, heck, they are the ones paying to read your writing. (And it doesn’t matter if the writing at issue has been put up in a no-fee market: they paid however many minutes their reading required.)

    • Of course if they annoy you to much you can always just ‘Buckley’ them;)

  3. This one was funny – My last novel, I had two beta readers who found errors, and I went through it two times separate from changing the errors. My reviewer still complained about grammar and spelling errors. lol



    • Martin L. Shoemaker

      When I made my first sale to Digital Science Fiction, I received my contract. It was my first sale, so I read it over very carefully. That contract (which was VERY author-friendly, by the way, so I hope they reopen for submissions soon!) was drafted by the publisher, a lawyer. It was revised in response to feedback by two of their first authors, Ken Schneyer and Ken Liu, both lawyers.

      When I read over it, I found a mistake: “The Author represents and warrants that the Author is the sole author of the Work, that the Work is has not been previously published in any form, that the Work is original, and that no one has reserved the rights granted in this agreement.” Notice the superfluous “is” in the second clause. I was pretty smug about that: three lawyers (plus Ed Greenwood!) had gone over this contract with a fine-toothed comb. A total of 10 authors had signed it for the first volume. And yet I had caught a mistake they all missed.

      When I made my second sale to Digital months later, I received my new contract. It was virtually the same contract (with a correction for the mistake I had found); but this time I noticed that the numbered paragraphs went from 8 to 10 with no 9. I went back and confirmed that was in the old one as well, and I had missed it then. That took some of the smugness out of me.

      Perfection is a laudable goal, but an unobtainable standard.

      • Martin,
        So true –
        My mother is a perfectionist. It made for an amazingly unhappy childhood. I decided when I left home that I would do my best, but not worry about perfection.


    • Some reviewers are also going from an internal grammar book they don’t share with anyone. Screw ‘em

  4. Gayle Neudorff

    I do read your blog…and yes, I giggled some, and I do the very same thing…wonder if anyone is reading while they sit in a seat in my class.

  5. I agree with Martin. Scroom! Apply here the lesson from that bidness we call show — never apologize to the audience.


  6. Sarah, you are a dear ( I hope that does not offend you), and you are right on point, as usual. All of my novels are indie, and none of them have had the great good fortune to have been gone through by a professional editor. I don’t make that kind of money; I wish I did, though, which is why I keep writing. I’ve done just about everything else I ever wanted to do with my life, so now I write. Mostly because i am no longer capable of building furniture, writing code, working n gold or silver, or restoring antiques (never mind picking cotton – I did that for a few very desperate days and will never, ever do it again).

    Let ‘em criticize, Sarah. Folks who want to criticize are for the most part doing it to make themselves feel good at the expense of another. I welcome constructive criticism from readers, of course, and a few have provided with itemized/line numbered errors in my work, and I make the changes, republish (for the Kindle, of course) and thank them profusely for their help.

    Because that is what they intended. They put out the effort to help, not to criticize.

    But most critics will never, every have the intestinal fortitude to write a novel, or even a short story or a hundred and work their little butts off to sell them. Screw ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

  7. While I try not to get too awful on my own blog/comments, there are times when a sentence just comes out weird (or with way too many parentheticals) and instead of fixing it, I just mention that it should be taken out and shot.

    Conversational writing vs. informal writing/fiction writing vs. formal writing. All nuances!

    And now back to Blood Furnace with my spouse and kid, now that she’s out of the Little Frost Mage’s Room.

  8. I like your little boo boos sometimes, makes me feel less imperfect :D . I also see some errors that I find perfectly charming. I have a guest staying with me this week, who is also a Dinerzen. My guest noted that I jad misspelled like as loike, My guest found it charming that I had written a bit of dialect into my comment. Perfection si not only the enemy of good enough, it is also the enemy of serendipity!

    • And after checking this before posting I noticed several typos after posting :D

      • for some reason you acquired a Scottish Accent :-P

      • Martin L. Shoemaker

        Isn’t that some Internet law, almost as inevitable as Godwin’s Law? Something like “When you criticize another person’s grammar or typos online, the probability that you will make an error in the process approaches 1.”

        • Which suggests an appropriate response to such critics:

          Dear Reader,
          Thank-you for your heart felt suggestion. In reading it I could not help but notice that you had the following spelling and grammatical errors …

  9. You hinted at the asymptotic nature of typos. They can be approached, but only go to zero at infinity. I’ve found that the place where typos are most easily corrected just happens to be where we see the majority of them. When words are chiseled into stone: few typos. When typeset and printed onto paper: a few more typos. Ebooks: yoiks!

    Ebooks are so bad because the workflow divides the prose into two paths: one toward print where the galleys are checked and rechecked, the other toward ebooks where the word processor files are taken up stream of the print typo-finding. I have a Proposal For Improving Ebooks that consists of crowd-sourcing the proofing process.

    Having recently taken my anthology “Finding Time” through a beta-reading process, I see there’s a great need for automated support of finding/destroying typos.

    You’re right about some typo-complainers are motivated by the wrong things, but there complains can be used to improve the product. (And yes, I intentionally misspelled their to snag your attention.) Get the markups in a way that’s easy for the author to judge and fix. Whatever. Subsequent editions will be improved and posterity gets a cleaner text to work with.

    • But did you intentionally typo ‘complains’ for ‘complaints’? (She typed, using UK-style quotation mark conventions.) ;)

      • My issue with these is that I learned US AND UK conventions. I drive my editors to distraction by going now one way, now another. Then there’s grey and gray. Oh, the humanity! :-P
        And who knows? Steve might have done that on purpose too…

        • Martin L. Shoemaker

          Heh. And speaking of J.R.R.T…. Because of him, I cannot make myself type “gray” without forcing myself. In my mind I KNOW it’s “grey”.

          He also afflicted me with what I call semi-colonitis; but I’m trying to cut back on that. That’s hard for a programmer (especially a C# programmer — sorry for the geek joke), because I think his habit of long clauses joined by semi-colons forms a sort of logical, intra-sentence structure that ties ideas closer together than individual sentences do. It really makes a lot of sense to me. But I find most readers aren’t comfortable with my degree of semi-colon usage.

          • LOL. They have a ten-step program for that. First you have to acknowledge the existence of a grammatical authority greater than your own. :-P (runs.)

            • As author of a work there can be no greater grammatical authority for what is intended in that work.

            • Martin L. Shoemaker

              Hi. I’m Martin, and I’m a semi-coloholic.

              • You know… there’s probably a Federal grant to combat the heart break of Semi-colonholism. If it consoles you, I used to have it too. Just because Portuguese uses an awful lot of them.

                • Martin L. Shoemaker

                  It doesn’t bother me TOO much. Now that I’m aware of it, I give in to it less. And in small amounts, I think it’s just my style. As a programmer, I’m trained to think in decomposition, breaking an idea down into smaller and smaller pieces, and I think that affects my sentence structure.

                  But early reviewers of my work commented on it a lot; and when I went back and reread Lord of the Rings, I suddenly recognized an influence there. (Gee, you think a series I’ve read 17 times — 12 times before graduating high school — might have some influence on me?)

          • Faulkner must give them the willies.

          • Being fluently bilingual in both British and Americish I find it nearly impossible to remember such spellings as theatre or theater (although I notice the spell-check endemic to this site preferes the latter. go figure.) I also find I much prefer certain Britishisms, e.g., colour, humour, honour, as more aesthetically appealing.

            OTOH, I have found that my fingers seem to prefer other spellings with peculiar affinities for which I have learnt to look, such as inserting an extra “i’ whenever I type -tioin. As my fingers have not (quite) yet gotten so insistent about this sort of editing my thoughts as to lead me to disown them I can only sadly view their willfulness as I do that of cats and children, something something something of a clever metaphor I’m too lazy to concoct.

            • Try being fluent in Australian and American – about 80% of Australian colloquial dialect isn’t translatable (mostly because by the time you explain the involuted in-jokes that every Aussie knows, you’ve already lost your Americans).

            • My fingers are monarchists. They consistently type kind as king. :/

            • Not quite the same thing, but when I reread anything I write, I will see that very single time I should have typed saw my fingers instead typed seen. Probably because my spoken language was heavily influenced by the people I grew up around; rednecks many from West Virginia or tarheels from North Carolina. While when typing I automatically translate much of my spoken language; like the safternoon into this afternoon, certain parts of it just sound so natural in my head that I don’t realize they’re incorrect until I reread it later.

            • Thank you! I am not alone… for the last 40 years, my fingers have insisted on frequently typing “aiton” instead of “ation” for words ending in those letters. I can fuss, discipline, wail, grind my teeth and growl, to no avail. ::sigh:: Of course, my favorite typos are the Freudian typos. Start looking. You’ll start to see them and some of them will have you on the floor laughing!

          • “Semi-colonitis”. That’s great. And it’s definitely something that can cause problems for a programmer when you’re trying to overcome it.

        • In my Line Editor stint, one of my best authors is in the UK. (Seriously. She’s awesome.) The publishing company, however, is in the US, and had a styleguide that required, well, US stuff. I became reasonably good at recognizing the differences and altering UK English to US English! …I hear that in Canada, their grammar is frequently an unholy mash-up of the two, but I forget who told me that. >_>

          Meanwhile, my ability to spell many words has been much improved by spell-checkers and the little red line that appears these days. Used to be, my spelling was decidedly… Elizabethan. Of the style that had Shakespeare signing his name with numerous different spellings.

      • Martin L. Shoemaker

        Unless your initials are “J.R.R.T.”, using the UK style is going to drive me nuts.

        If your initials ARE “J.R.R.T.”, I’ll probably forgive you just about anything (though there are long stretches of The Silmarilion where I still haven’t decided).

    • Martin L. Shoemaker

      Of course, in an integer process, things can’t be truly asymptotic. Eventually the choice is either one or zero, with no epsilon in between. But asymptotic is certainly a useful metaphor for describing it.

      I also think you have a good point about the permanence of the medium (and the difficulty of editing) affecting the attention to detail. It’s common in writing or the arts for people to emphasize revising-as-creating (unless you’re a Heinlein’s Rules writer); but that gives me even more respect for sculptors who carve stone. They can do limited revisions; but past a certain point, they can’t undo their past decisions, not without starting over with a new block of stone. So they take a very different approach from other artists. They still “rough in” and then work on the details; but they have to plan a lot more carefully before they start roughing in.

      • Ah, sculpting. I once heard it said: first you have to see what the chunk of rock or wood contains – then remove anything that is not that.

        This was more instruction that I got from my art instructor my senior year, who simply provided me with a section of a white oak, chisels, mallet and whet stone. I will not say that I achieved anything worthwhile, but it did serve as an outlet for a great deal of angst and anger. Particularly regarding the said art teacher. ;-)

        • actually, I write a novel the same way. I see what the novel is, then I write that, and withhold everything that doesn’t fit in. I guess it doesn’t make much sense, but it IS the way I see it.

  10. Yes, Sarah, I found your books through this blog, thanks to a friend who sent me a link to one of your posts. Since my favorite blogger sometimes goes a month without posting (he has a life that sometimes gets in the way of blogging), I take anything as a gift.

    I have trouble finding typos unless they are 1) terribly blatant and I do mean terribly or 2) on hard copy. I truly do not see a lot of my problems on the screen, but they leap out from a printed page. And as a phonetic speller, you have my sympathies. I do fine in German, Spanish, and Latin, but English . . . woe unto me and my unsuspecting alpha readers.

    Perfect vs. good – in the history field, a lot of people hold up Fredrick Jackson Turner as the ultimate example. He published one groubd-breaking essay, and one book, despite the thousands of hours and yards of research that he did. Why? Too much perfection and an inability to decide what was important and what was “intersting but not germane.”

    • YES on Turner. And I have to print to edit. Otherwise I just go “oh, it’s fine.”

      • I find that if I read it out loud I catch a lot more, but the process is tedious, particularly if I have written at any length. Even then I still will have typos.

        There must be a gremlin…

  11. As a dyslexic myself I cannot complain about typos. I have noticed, with some curiosity, that in recent years they have become more and more noticeable (to me) in traditionally published books.

    I quite enjoy this blog — in all it’s varied forms — samples, commentary, observation, demi-rants and all. As to typos? Pfui!

    • Martin L. Shoemaker

      Yes. They undercut their own argument that they are “quality gatekeepers” when they do major cost cutting by cutting back on proofreaders and editors.

    • That’s because there are more and more of them in recent years, in traditionally published books.

  12. As a general rule about typos and spelling errors, to be mentioned they must meet one of the following conditions:
    1) be such as to impair understanding of the author’s meaning
    2) be such as to permit humourous good-natured japery (e.g., a certain Barfly who habitually mis-typed the title of John Ringo’s debut novel: A Hymen Before Battle.)
    3) be made in the body of a post or comment critical of another for similar error.

    There may be additional conditions but none come to mind readily. In blog comments and posts a certain informality ought be tolerated to encourage participation. If you understood the author’s intent and are not in expectation that the piece will later be submitted for publication, well, then, STFU.

    • RES, item #2 in that list needs a spray warning. Mind you, when I’m at the day job (I test software for an income), the number of times I have to fix what I typed for “tests” – for whatever the reason I keep trying to type “testes”.

    • I now BADLY want to write A Hymen Before Battle. This probably means I already got a spot reserved in the hot place.

      • May I preorder it now?

        • uh. You do know I wrote — and got paid for though it never got published — an erotica short story. 7 k words, they paid me $2000. I was so sorry when that magazine went under. Though not surprised. The specifications were that the story HAD to take place between a married couple. (Sigh.) I wrote a story CACS which was SET in ancient China. Sigh… So, yeah, I could write A Hymen before Battle. I think I would make it a battle between the Centaurs and the Amazons… yeah. That’s the ticket.

          • Oh… with a title like that, I would have thought it would be about a culture where a man had to deflower a virgin before being considered a warrior. Or something like that.

            But what do I know?

            • I was thinking Theseus parlays with Hypolitha but maybe I haven’t drunk enough?

              • I dunno – as a check on memory (having not read the Greek myths in a hand’s worth of decades) I Wikkied Hymen and reading of his role in ancient Greece could not but imagine 15-yr old boys of all ages and sexes spurting beverages through their noses. I truly believe that bit of tissue is the biggest middle finger towards staunch evolutionists possible. Of course, I am old enough to remember motels having a paper strip wrapped about the toilet seat advising “sanitized for you protection” so perhaps … cough.

                Imagine the Polis’ King having to marry and engender a proper heir before he can go off to defend against the Persian invaders, but nobody can locate the deity in question and thus the marriage cannot be accomplished.

                Oh heck, give it to Piers Anthony for his interminable Xanth series …

      • Checked my book
        In deep fat friers I look
        No place for you
        In Feng Du

        • LOL.
          Thank you. The editor to that book accused me — I swear I’m not making this up — of having got my info from a computer game. I had to send her my sources. (head>desk.)

          • The Daughter read Journey to the West. I read her a bit of your book, regarding the Monkey King’s excursion/disruption, and she laughed and commented, ‘Yes!’

          • On further consideration: is it not possible that computer games are based on Chinese mythology. Can you imagine a Three Worlds of Dante program?

            • yes. And I’m sure there is some, but she thought that I’d made up the myth or based it on a computer game, and wanted me to excise the whole thing. On that — though — when my husband edited better off undead, he read my short story A Grain Of Salt, written the day I finished H&S and set in Chinese Hell. He read it over dinner, put it down, looked at me and said “Are you sure you’re not on drugs? Where did THIS come from?” :-P

              • Hardy LOL.

                Yeah, well, spend enough time in certain lines of Anime and it all seems quite logical…

      • Second on the pre-order. :-)

  13. I find that I seldom comment on anyone’s spelling or grammar online, partially because I don’t want to pile on. The comic at the top is so true it boggles the mind.

    Regarding reviewers, though, I think the level of competence has gone down in the past 30-40 years. Look at the number of Ads in various media which have gross misspellings. I would be embarrassed to produce some of the things I see which undoubtedly cost their companies significant amounts of money. Perhaps it is because of the increase in volume of text being produced, but I’m not sure I believe that.

  14. 1. I don’t expect somebody blogging to do more than run spellcheck and possibly reread parts of their post to make sure it makes sense. Blogs are basically a long distance discussion. (Ok some peoples are a one way discussion because nobody comments but that’s not applicable here)
    2. I really don’t even expect that in the comments section
    3. I may be reading over a lot of them, but I see less typos in your blog than I do in many published books.

    So as other’s have said, Screw’em!

    My mind is one of those that picks up odd irrelevant pieces of not only information but conversation and stores it while convienently losing important pieces. I remember reading a review (very favorable one if I recall) of one of John Ringo’s books where the reviewer stated that the story was good and flowed well, but as people (assuming they meant themselves) had come to expect from his books there were many more typos and errors than in other authors such as David Weber’s books. I must have read that at least five years ago, and cannot recall having seen a typo or error in one of David Weber’s books, and very few in John Ringo’s but for some reason that comment stuck in my mind; and without conciously looking for them I see typo’s and errors in both of their books every time I read one, to this day. Unless they are blatant, or confusing enough my mind doesn’t unconciously gloss over them by context I tend not to notice a fair amount of typos (unless of course it is something written by either Ringo or Weber). Possibly because I learned to speed read in 7th grade, and while I don’t do it while reading for pleasure, some of the habits probably stick and I see what should be there instead of what is there.

    • In a way I’m glad I fell in my bathroom and got concussion 7 years ago. It doesn’t seem to have long-term affected my brain (short term I had some issues) but it affected my vision. The right side — where I hit — my peripheral vision was gone for a LONG time and my prescription went up one diopter. For whatever reason, this “broke” my speed reading. I’d got to the point I couldn’t NOT do it. So when I took a weekend off to read for pleasure, I’d go through ten to twelve books a day. Which is NOT ultimately as much fun as savoring them. (Also, it’s very expensive.)

      • I was already a rapid reader when I took a speed reading course in High School. Worst demmed mistake of my Life, it were. Devouring books like they was popcorn??? Regurgitating undigested ideas all about? Terrible, just terrible. And then there was the time I actually ran out of things to read … nightmarish. I’ve never recovered, still suffer a pathological fear of running out of reading matter with the consequence that, even in a large house, I’m running out of room.

        Surely there MUST be a word for that type of phobia? What would be the (classical) Greek for “running out of stuff to read”-phobia?

        • I have the same issue — and I don’t know the classical Greek but does anyone here? — which is why I love the Kindle. Wherever I find myself, I have books to read. And if not, I can buy them right there, online. Marvelous.

          • Yeah, I have a floor to ceiling bookcase the length of a 24 foot long wall upstairs, and currently have one 4 foot long shelf free. And I have a normal sized bookcase downstairs for nonfiction that is completely full. This while I only keep books that I feel are worth rereading (although I sometimes keep books that I won’t probably ever reread but are by authors that I like and will reread most of their works) While speedreading is great for dull stuff, I loved it with all the absolutely awful books assigned reading in school, it sucks for pleasure reading. The only time I intentionally use it any more is when scanning researching for some particular item or fact.

        • *Whew* I was beginning to think I was the only person with that phobia. I don’t care what you call it… I have literally found myself reading books about sports figures of 40 years ago rather than have nothing to read at all.

          • When we moved to town — one year old son, whose birth without insurance (well, on COBRA) cost us over 20k and coming off a six month unemployment period when we paid our visa with our amex — the bookstores within walking distance of our apartment had bookcases where people could set out the books they’d brought to trade, which had been turned down. Not only did I read an awful lot of BAD 80s Gothic Romance, BUT I also read a complete set of biology study-books from the late nineteenth century… and sometimes stranger things.

            • Martin L. Shoemaker

              Cereal boxes. When I was a kid, if I forgot to bring a book to breakfast, I read the cereal boxes. Every last word. I was probably the only 7 year old in town who could tell you about niacin and riboflavin.

              • Only because I didn’t live in your town. Heh.

                But I never brought a book to the table. My parents wouldn’t let me, dammit.

                • Martin L. Shoemaker

                  I came by my addiction honestly: I inherited it. Every person in the house was a reading addict. So mom and dad occasionally tried to enforce a “no reading at the table” rule, but they were often the first to break it. And breakfast was even more casual, so they never tried to enforce it there.

                  • At one time my mother read science fiction. I was basically introduced to SF by reading her couple of Lensman books. After that, SF/F was just about the only thing I ever read except for school assignments. After I got old enough to start noticing what she was reading, though, the only thing I remember seeing her read was Romances. I suspect that she would have read Supernatural Romance (or whatever it’s called), had she known about it, though.

                    My father, on the other hand, read the newspaper, and occasionally some things like the Foxfire books, but mostly he didn’t.

          • We caught The Daughter reading the back of a Woolite bottle one night. She had gotten up to use the loo and as she had nothing else to read…

        • Surely there MUST be a word for that type of phobia? What would be the (classical) Greek for “running out of stuff to read”-phobia?

          O yeah, he tells me, you’ll have an hour to catch up on the posts. That’s plenty of time… grumble, mumble, grumble. Koine, not classical, but it should do:

          Hustereo — Lacking, verb. To be behind, in want.
          Anaginosko — Read, compound noun. Ana indicating again and ginosko meaning to know.

          Make of it what you will.

  15. …then reading over twice – once before and once after it’s posted. (Don’t ask me why, but some mistakes only become glaring when it’s posted.)

    Glad I’m not the only one. >_>; I find the same holds true for artwork. I only notice mistakes after I’ve posted them publicly. (Though just seeing it scanned in on a screen will catch some of them.)

    It never bothers me that I see typos in your blog posts. The more casual a setting, the more leeway I give. I might smile or tease a little if the typo gave way to some really funny imagery, but it doesn’t annoy me the way the same typo would in something I purchased.

    Fan of Stephen Fry, perhaps? This video is certainly appropriate.

    (For what it’s worth – I’m American, but I’ve adopted several British spellings. Grey, for example. Worse, though, is my using both versions of a word… I use theatre for stage and theater for movies. Sabre for the real world weapon and saber only if it’s proceeded by ‘light’. Centre for a place name and center for a location in the middle.)

    • Centre for a place name and center for a location in the middle.

      For some time Philadelphians had the quaint habit of using the British spelling to indicate their downtown — the old original city area as proposed by William Penn. (The development of which was actually not completed until the late 19th century.) Now, I believe they have reverted to the American spelling: Calling it Center City….

  16. As I am forever reminding folk on the Keller: “Perfection is the enemy of Good Enough — but so is Inadequate”. One or two typos is one thing; if I have to spend inordinate time trying to figure out what the person was trying to write, well, I can only assume (there’s that word again…) that this person is not only incapable of writing coherently, but of *thinking* coherently, and therefore “what he says is unimportant, and we do not hear his words”. >:)

    My personal favorite: The person who takes one’s correct spelling and/or grammar, and changes it to a more-common but incorrect form. — was reminded of this.

    • Chris,
      About five years ago I entered a romance contest. Partly to get a friend to have “enough entries.” The judge sent back my entry with “the idea is too big for this person’s culture/vocabulary.” Why? Well… she’d gone through and carefully changed my words to words SHE KNEW. Even when they didn’t make any sense in the context. Then she assumed I was stupid. The one that sticks in mind was changing “stolid” into “solid.”

    • That’s called an onosecond.


  17. Oh, Amen. I proofread, copy-edit, and format anthologies and novels written by others, as well as writing my own stories. My picture is next the dictionary definition of A/R. I have been a professional typesetter and legal secretary/word processor and I can attest to the fact that no matter what you do or how hard you try, there will always be at least one typo/missing word/incorrect homophone in EVERY story, book, document, manuscript, etc. I am compulsive enough that it took years for me to learn that doing the very best I could was the best I could do – perfection IS NOT POSSIBLE. Thankfully, I did learn that my very best is good enough. I have learned tricks to help me find every typo or mistake possible, and employ them assiduously… with the certain knowledge that I will never put out a PERFECT piece of written work (mine or others).
    Personally, I am simply amazed you can write a blog for every day considering the rest of your obligations. All I can say is “Brava!”

  18. As a typesetter, I learned that the very worst person you can hire to proofread your work is yourself. There have been many reasons posited for this phenomenon but it doesn’t really matter. It does happen to be true. Even though old-style typesetting and proofreading went hand in hand, and we each learned to be fanatic typo-trackers, I still know better than to assume that proofreading my own work will result in an error-free piece. Maybe someone should study this for a couple of decades and determine why our brains are short-circuited in this way. Someone else with A/R issues :D

    • Oh, that’s easy. When you read your own work, if you haven’t put it aside for long enough to partially forget it, you tend to read what you wanted to write, rather than what is actually on the page. Sometimes, of course, the error will shine through, but usually it’s only when it’s glaring enough to jolt you out of the memory of what you meant to write.

      At least that’s how it works for me.

  19. Of course it must be recalled that you have a source of typos, grammar errors, &ct., that most of us don’t have: knowing several languages. In the scenario you describe — doing a few thousand words immediately after getting up, in something of a hurry — wobbling among the possibilities of English, Portuguese, Spanish, German, and French is pretty well inevitable. Me, I just sigh and wish my mind was that flexible.

    As for typo hunting, the system that works best for me is format changes. Every time I print something out, open it in a different program, or even change fonts, more typos pop out. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do enough of that. Printouts, especially, are time wasters.

  20. making sure they don’t forget their own heads

    Maybe you should let them forget their heads a few times. They’ll quickly learn not to. Or maybe not. They are under thirty :)

    Just curious – did you update to the latest version of WordPress? The signin function has changed.


  21. Dorothy Grant

    On the topic of growing your audience – the plural of anecdote isn’t data, but I can give you a data point of one. Most advertising theory works on the premise that it’s rarely a single ad that influences the buyer, but repetition that makes a product/service stick in their mind and be recalled / the first thing reached for when the customer decides they want it.

    I first saw your name on the Baen Free Library, and though I didn’t download your short story collection, I did remember your name. (I like about half of Baen’s stuff, so when I reach for unknown authors to try something new, they get priority.)
    So when I saw your name linked off Passive Voice, I thought “Oh, a Baen author! I should check this out.” Once I clicked over to your blog and started reading posts, I found I liked the flavor of your thoughts and the voice you bring to the world. Your references to Darkship Thieves made me curious, so I bought it. I liked it, so I’ll be budgeting time to work through more of your books.

    (I even went and am trying to read Dumas, as you reference him in glowing terms. Not the best book for an exhausted mind, those musketeers who use swords instead of muskets. My dear husband has been amazingly tolerant of the “You speak French. What’s this untranslated phrase mean?”. One I plow through that translation, I’ll start on Sword & Blood, which from the sample, look like a far easier and more fun read for me.)

    • Oh, Dumas is AMAZINGLY badly translated. SERIOUSLY. I prefer it in French, as rusty as my French is. So did my kids, who are no French scholars. Most of the English translations seem to be done by people making it intentionally difficult. Actually, try Death of A Musketeer if you read mysteries. :) I think you’ll like it. (Yes, that’s me too.) Um… I’ll post a snip in a moment. Also, if you download from Baen you might like Draw One In The Dark. Aka “the book where Sarah figured out plotting.” I’m still very proud of it. :)

  22. Thank you for writing this. I’m the world’s worst typist and I appreciate it when readers catch my mistakes, but the whole point of blogging is to be free, to talk openly. Perfection is for publication. You are right.