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V is for very sloppy…skipping V

December 9, 2012

I skipped V. I also skipped another letter. Literacy–I should try it.

So this is a post about making mistakes. There are two types of people–those who make mistakes and Jesus. Guess which one you are.

We’ve touched on mistakes in this context a fair amount of times. When you write a first draft, mistakes are part of the process. You should never, ever strive for a perfect first draft. I’m only saying it’s impossible to write a perfect first draft because no one’s ever done it before. No less an expert than Ernest Hemingway compared a first draft to excrement.

Then there’s the mistakes in research. They can shoot your credibility forever if your mistake insults someone. If you screw up one of the basic facts about their job, they’re going to be annoyed. But if you write for any amount of time, you’re going to annoy someone in that manner.

Then there are other mistakes. I’ve written things–some of them on this very blog–that I would now view as wrong. Personal growth and shifts in perspective do that to you. Perhaps RJ Ellory made a mistake, depending on how you define mistake. Perhaps over time, his perspective will change. Perhaps some of the things you write show biases you have now that will make you cringe later.

Human perfection is only attainable for exceedingly brief periods of time.

The business of writing is built on relationships. Why bother going to conventions to pitch agents, when you can do it as well without the face-to-face? Why bother having e-mail newsletters to your readers? Why bother with book signings?

Mistakes can hurt relationships, including those with business partners like agents and publishers and with readers. A couple years ago, Douglas Preston, in reacting a backlash about e-book prices, said, “The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing.” Preston may not think his statement is a mistake, but it cost him with a slew of one-star reviews from disgruntled readers.

Essentially, if you’re writing and you have opinions, you’ll eventually stumble into something that doesn’t go the way you want. And you will bruise relationships. And you might actually be wrong about whatever it is that causes angst.

In those cases, the best thing to do, because you aren’t Jesus, is to come clean, then turn the page.

So if your name is Victor, Vernon, Veronica, Violet, Val, or Vladimir, I apologize for skipping your letter.

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