Every writer has their favourite tip. Mine has always been:
“When you have perfected your article/manuscript, put it away for at least a few weeks, better still several months while you write something else. Then read it again and see if you still think it’s perfect. The chances are that you’ll notice places where your writing can be improved.”
It’s something I’ve always done, and yet ………
When I read any of my own books, invariably there are parts where I think “Damn, that’s clumsy/long-winded/clichéd,” or squirm at a gauche double-entendre.
But this is the first time I’ve been really shocked by my own writing.
I was rather complacent with A Perfect Circle. I had a contract in the bag, an enormous amount of material, and all the time in the world. There was no sense of urgency. Until suddenly the delivery deadline came knocking on the door and I wasn’t ready. So it was written hastily, and not put away for long enough.
The content is good and the book sold well in paperback and hardback large print. But I remember reading through it once it had been published and feeling that I could have done a much better job. Too late – it was already out there on the shelves.
The rights have now reverted from Transworld, and Blackbird Digital Books will re-publish it this year as a digital book and paperback. The original digital file was no longer available, which meant producing a new one. I did so by scanning the paperback and using optical character recognition software to produce a text file.
FreeOCR is free, easy to use, and very good – I’d say about 95% accurate – and saved me weeks of typing. But it still left the task of correcting the 5% of errors.
As I began reading through the manuscript I found crates of very, piles of rather, heaps of slightly, mounds of abouts, bucketfuls of superfluous adverbs and adjectives, conjunctions in their thousands and a sprinkling of cliches. All of which I would have noticed and removed if I had put it away for long enough and re-read later.
Happily the book has another chance, and this time it will make an even better read. And I’ve learned my own lesson. 🙂