Lily Iona MacKenzie's Blog for Writers & Readers


What if  a writer isn’t fully committed to his/her work

I recall when I was making what I hoped would be my last proofreading of the manuscript for Curva Peligrosa. I’d lost track of how many times I’d made this journey through the novel, trying to track down any typos, spelling, or punctuation errors. And each time, I seemed to find a few, making me wonder how I missed them to begin with. My publisher’s editor also had read the text closely, plucking out any weeds she’d found. But it was almost impossible to find them all.

At times, I wondered why my publisher and I were so intent on releasing a product that was as close to error free as possible. What would it matter if a word here and there was misspelled or a punctuation mark was misplaced?

When I was teaching undergraduates and trying to instill in them a reverence for correctness in their essays, I would point out how such mistakes undermined their credibility, especially if they were glaring. A reader would be reluctant to read on if the text was riddled with such oversights. Therefore, the paper’s content has less impact if a reader is struggling to find his/her way through the forest of error-filled text. It’s also one reason why self-published authors have trouble finding readers, especially sophisticated ones that know the difference between a comma splice and a run-on sentence.

What I’ve learned from this experience is how deeply committed a writer must be to his/her text, to seeing it through all of these stages until it’s finally ready to burst forth into the world. It’s not unlike the commitment required for any satisfying relationship that can be threatened by so many factors. Illness, job loss, family problems, and more, can intervene and threaten the integrity of the connection.

That’s why paying close attention to the nuts and bolts, to whatever holds together a text or a bond between people, is necessary in order to preserve it. And that’s why a writer will not succeed as a published novelist if s/he can’t make such a commitment. It’s an essential part of the territory!


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