Friday, September 10, 2010


Figured I'd go ahead and blog this morning before I get too tired and the kids get up and I remember I need to wash the dishes. I had some ideas yesterday that I wanted to blog about but didn't get around to it, and then I thought about these ideas throughout the night at work. But for some reason, as I'm sitting down to write this post, I'm having a difficult time expressing my thoughts in words. Who knows, maybe I've been working third shift for too long and it's catching up to me. Please bear with me as I try to hash it all out.

I've had a desire to write a book since I was in college. That was about 14 years ago. Now this desire didn't come from some grand epiphany I had. Rather, it grew over the years to a point that last year I started writing short stories. I tried to establish a routine for my writing, but alas, I came up with a million different excuses as to why I couldn't write for that day. I'm tired. The kids kept me busy. I've got too much to do around the house. This movie looks really good. And on and on my excuses went. If any of you need an excuse, let me know and I'll let you have one of mine.

Needless to say, I began to get very frustrated and reached the point that I just stopped writing. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just happened. After a while, I figured I just didn't have the fire inside me to follow through with it. My frustration level grew.

At the time I started writing, my reading increased. After all, I'd read advice from numerous authors saying a good writer reads a lot. In the past, I maybe read five to ten books a year. Last year I read 46 books. This year I've read 58 books, so far. Reading became my passion (or obsession, if you ask my wife). I now almost always have a book within arm's reach of me. And the thing is, I'm a fairly slow reader. Sure, I've improved some over the last couple of years, but it still takes me a while to get through a book. So that number of books I've read indicates a significant amount of time invested on my part. It seems that I'd found my passion, my fire inside. Right?

Well, not exactly. I still had some discontent inside me, a feeling of being unfulfilled somehow. I wanted to do more than just read a book. I wanted to be a part of creating one. The creation of something is important to me. It gives me that warm fuzzy feeling all over. But with my passion for consuming books and my lack of drive for writing them, it didn't seem creating would be in my future. So I resigned myself to being a consumer.

Then one day I came across a blog post by one* of my favorite authors. He was looking for some pre-readers to give some of his books a whirl before he releases them, to help get the bugs out. I jumped on this opportunity because, come on, I would get to read books by a great author before others do. What was not to like? So I sent him an email and he promptly sent me a book he was going to release shortly. He ended his email response by saying, "Be tough."

Be tough? Really? Did he really know what he was telling me? He probably should've talked to my wife before he typed that command to me. See, I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I'm my own worst critic. I could probably be described as anal at times. Did he really want me to be tough? Did I have it in me to point out errors in this author's work? After all, he is one of my favorites and I didn't want him hating me. Seemed I had a dilemma.

I didn't know know exactly how I would handle this dilemma, so I did what I do best. I read. As I read, I found a typo here; a misspelling there; a minor inconsistency over yonder. My dilemma became a little tougher. But after a little thinking, I decided to shoot the author an email with the things I found. Besides, he asked for it. After clicking the send button, I anxiously awaited his response. Figured it'd be something along the lines of "Get a life, dude."

But he didn't say that. Instead, he thanked me and said he'd take a look at the suggestions I'd sent him. That wasn't so bad. So as I continued reading, I sent him any other suggestions I had. I guessed that he would tire quickly of me. But one of his emails said something along the lines of "Hey, you're pretty good at this." Hmm. I know he meant it as one, but I didn't know if that was a compliment or not. The ability to find flaws in something is not normally an endearing quality. Most folks can't stand people like that. Heck, I can't stand people like that.

However, the little hamster in my head jumped on its wheel and started running. I'm pretty good at this. I'm helping a person I esteem to make his creation better. Hey, wait a minute. Creation. Create. Hmm.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm creating anything for this author. But I am helping him with his creation, to make it better. I liked that and it gave me a sense of fulfillment. The author mentioned copyediting and told me that with a little practice I might be able to do something with it. Hmm.

Well, I've taken his advice and I am getting some practice. I've proofed three books so far and am working on my fourth. And the crazy thing is, I'm enjoying the heck out of this. Don't know what that says about me, that I enjoy finding flaws. But I don't see it that way; I see it as helping someone make their creation better.

I still would like to try my hand at writing a book one day. One day, just not today. And I don't know how things will work out with copyediting. Who knows, I may tire of being nit-picky after the fifth book I proof. But I don't think so. It seems I'm onto something here. It definitely has kindled something inside me. Time shall tell.

If you've made it this far, I thank you for putting up with my rambling, incoherent thoughts. I know I probably wouldn't have made it this far. I would have probably thought, what is wrong with this guy? He needs to get a life! But this post has been quite helpful to me, so that makes it worthwhile in my mind. And that's all that counts. Right?

*I didn't name the author because I haven't asked his permission to talk about our correspondence.


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Hey, this is a great post. Do you have any idea how important a good editor is for an author, particularly for a newbie but also for an experienced writer? As authors we are too close to the story and the text to be really objective and to catch all those blunders. When I got ready to publish my debut novel, I was deeply grateful to my editor who prevented me from making a fool of myself. A good working relationship between author and editor can make the difference between a book being a success or a flop. Definitely worthwhile! And besides, we all NEED READERS. What would writers be without readers?
Happy reading and editing!

Skip Novak said...

Great BLOG D.I. Keep up the great work and keep writing!

author Scott Nicholson said...

Yeah, I bet he would be proud that you are helping him! It really is a specific skill and even good "readers' and many writers can't track details over many pages, or character names, or stuff that fresh eyes can see. I had great copyediting from Kensington Books--it was the one thing that I can say truly improved the book.

And I also think this skill will be an emerging need in the indie era, and a cottage industry for skilled people who develop a reputation. So finishing proofing all my books before you get too busy!


Neal Hock said...

Thanks to all of you for your kind words!

Christa and Scott, it is amazing how a fresh pair of eyes can help a person. I know that I have a very difficult time spotting typos and errors in things I write, but I can spot them in other folks' writing. They used to make fun of me at my previous job because I had to proof performance reviews before they were administered, and I was very tough on them. My supervisors didn't like handing them in to me. :P

And Scott, don't worry. I'll always have (or make) time to proof your work!


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Oh, and by the way, the editor I mentioned above is Scott Nicholson, yes, The Scott Nicholson!

Neal Hock said...

Hey Christa, that Scott guy is pretty talented, isn't he?


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

Hi Neal, I am in the process of translating my novel Love of a Stonemason into German. While translating, you automatically pay very close attention to the text. Believe it or not, after all the editing passes this book went through, I am still discovering small errors, two so far, nothing major, but still. Arrgg. I just uploaded new versions to Smashwords and Amazon. A book is never completely done!

Neal Hock said...

It is pretty amazing how those minor bugs work their way into the text and hold on for dear life! I've found minor errors in a couple of manuscripts I've proofed after I had already turned them into the authors. It drives me nuts when I find stuff like that. The perfectionist side of me starts going bonkers, but the rational side of me has to remind myself that to err is human, and it's likely I won't root out everything in a manuscript.

Listen to me, I think I've read too much of Scott's work. The "perfectionist" side, the "rational" side. I sound like Richard Coldiron!


author Christa Polkinhorn said...

That's fine, just try to stay away from Little Hittler and be careful with Loverboy. Those guys really get you into trouble. LOL.

Neal Hock said...

LOL! You are so right, Christa. Have to be careful with those guys. :P