Perfectionism versus Practicality

Like most writers, I’m a voracious reader. I’ve also edited a dozen or so anthologies by other authors. Hence I’m pretty sensitive to problems in other people’s prose: grammar errors, misspellings, typos, missing or inappropriate words, and so on. Even when I’m deeply engrossed in some fabulous story, I can’t completely ignore this kind of issue. It’s frustrating to encounter these slips. I’ll admit that they affect my evaluation of the writer. Indeed, more than once I’ve given up on books because of their persistent errors.

It’s a lot easier to see nits in someone else’s story, though. We tend to be a bit blind to typos and such in our own work, partly because we’re not just reading the text. We know what we intended to say, and all too often that’s what we see on the page.

Back before self-publishing, our publishers supplied dedicated editors to help us find and fix this sort of issue. That was part of deal – the publishing company supplied editing, a professionally designed cover, maybe even some marketing, in return for a significant chunk of the profits. Of course, these editors varied in their level of skill – I remember arguing with one woman who insisted that passive voice was ungrammatical – but it was still extremely helpful to have another set of eyes scrutinizing your prose. (On the other hand, now that I am reclaiming the rights to many of my traditionally published tales, I’m noticing nits that the editors missed.)

When you move to publishing your work directly, though, you’re on your own. Obviously you can pay for a professional editor, but given that I am unwilling to go into the red with my writing business, that’s not something I can afford. So I read, and re-read, edit and re-edit. When I can, I run my works in progress through the Storytime critique group, where we have a number of very sharp-eyed members. I think my books are fairly clean. (In terms of errors, not the sexual content!)

But I can’t claim they’re perfect.

Ignorance is bliss. As long as I don’t know about the errors, I can pretend they don’t exist. The other day, though, as I was preparing an excerpt for a blog post, I noticed two ugly typos in the same paragraph. I fixed the problems in the post, of course. Now I’m wondering what I should do about the book itself.

Since the title is self-published and only available as an ebook, it’s not a huge amount of work to upload new manuscripts to Smashwords and Amazon. There will of course be a lag before the new version is available. And anyone who bought the book before the correction may notice the error. Still, I tell myself that this is what I should do, that I owe it to my readers.

Suppose, though, that after I do this, I happen across another nit. Should I upload yet another version? When do I stop? Is it feasible for me to aspire to a perfect manuscript (from an editing perspective)?

Do other readers notice these bugs?

I’m in a quandary here, balanced between perfectionism and practicality. I have more than sixty self-published titles currently available. I also have a very demanding day job. I can’t spend hours every day editing and uploading.

But I hate the idea that readers are reacting the way I do when I hit errors – shaking their heads and thinking that I really don’t care.

Keeping my eye on the ball

There is no way around it, I suck at finishing stories. Over the last several months, I’ve written over one-hundred thousand words yet haven’t published a darn thing. There should have been two or three smut stories that I could have pulled off my computer, but nada.

By the same token, I’ve had to tape additional paper on the bottom of my sales chart to hold the line that is pointing towards the floor, when it should be pointing to the ceiling. With SmashWords, my sales are relatively stable, but Amazon is another story.

Amazon’s 30-day cliff means that a month after releasing a story, the door to the basement opens and your rating gets kicked down the stairs. So in a perfect world, I’d be publishing at least every month to maintain my author’s rank, but no, I can’t seem to accomplish that no matter how hard I try.

I’m so easily distracted by shiny objects even when I know that I should keep my eye on the ball and finish what’s in front of me. Unlike most other writers, I’ve had little training on how to write beyond a Technical Report Writing course I took in college.

My story ideas come to me out of the blue, often when I see something that sparks a train of thought to begin in my mind. Too often, what I find is that these flashes of inspiration will come as I’m typing madly away on some story.

My latest saga started when I finished House Party, where Foxy ran off with a movie producer to Los Angeles. This story is the first one where Foxy and Larry had a less than optimal outcome to a story. Assuming you’ve never read one of my stories from the Foxy and Larry series, they are a fictional version of ourselves. I started writing porn to give me the opportunity to talk about some of our adventures in swinging.

What I discovered is that I really enjoyed writing smut stories but quickly realized that I should have picked different names for my two main characters, but that’s water over the bridge. Not being a trained writer, the last almost seven years have been on the job training, so hopefully, I’ve grown.

For us being in the Lifestyle has always been fun and never something we fought about. This has always been reflected in my stories, yet I know that stories should have conflict, which I tried to inject in House Party with Foxy running off with another man. The bitch!

As I write House Party 2, I’m attempting to rectify the heroine running off and bring her back home. As I approached 50,000 words, I got the bright idea of what could happen if two sexually unsatisfied co-workers decided to solve their problems by swinging, while their hubbies watched Monday Night Football.

Now, this new story is approaching 45,000 words and is actually more complete than my first story, House Party 2. At this point, I have two stories that are each about 90% finished when wouldn’t you know I watched a German Goo Girls (GGG) movie on my computer. If you’re not familiar with Goo Girl movies, they are an offshoot of Japanese Bukkake, which are girls getting their faces covered with jizz and often don’t have sex, depending on your definition of what sex is?

In Goo Girls, they have sex then get their faces painted, so it’s the best of both worlds! That got me thinking about the ending of Crashing the Swinger’s Pajama Party, where Foxy sells a neighbor’s wife to a Goo Girls movie producer for ten thousand dollars, and she’s required to star in his shows for six months.

After releasing that story, I’ve had several fans write to ask when I’m going to cover Samantha’s adventures in the German Goo Girl movie business. Now I’m trying to flesh out my thoughts on the story before forgetting my train of thought.

Now I have three stories under active status, yet nothing is going out the door. Hopefully, I can focus long enough to finish something without another thought hitting me. The way my typical storyboarding process works is that I’ll get an idea, then let the characters start working the scenes in my mind.

My initial thought is to write down enough about a potential story that I can pick up the story at a later date and finish it. What often happens to me is that as I write up my notes on the new story, I become more interested in it and shift my attention to the new story.

That wouldn’t be too bad except that my imagination doesn’t stop working, and I’m continually coming up with story ideas, which just repeats the problem. It would be sweet if I could focus on one story and finish it before starting a new story.

My draft folder is full of stories that are half to three-quarters finished as I keep getting off track. Maybe one day, but what the hell!

For more from the irrelevant mind of Larry Archer, check out my blog at Until this time next month, I’m off like a prom dress.

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