Saturday, 13 November 2010


The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.---Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Remember in school when you suffered through a test, fought with everything in your brain, and still couldn’t come up with some of the answers?

And then the bell rang. Time was up. You cringed.

You cursed yourself because THEN—once the bell rang—the answers came to you. You wanted to beg the teacher to let you take the test again, you knew you could get the answers correct this time. But it was too late. Your chances for a score of 100 vanished with the bell, gone down the tubes.

Recently I experienced that same feeling after I clicked ‘send’ and shot my WIP off into cyberspace and into the email box of a publisher. I submitted my story. My first submission ever.

At first, the moment my ‘masterpiece’ rocketed from my computer to the publisher’s computer, I felt pure, adrenaline-driven exhilaration. I’ll never again experience such a rush. And I’ll certainly never forget it. It was my lunch hour. A supportive co-worker stood over my shoulder, chanting, Hit send, hit send, hit send. And, when I DID hit send, we cheered.

Later, I opened my manuscript and looked over it. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t suddenly see the work through an editor’s eyes, sans my rose-colored glasses. Now it didn’t seem so perfect. Doubts flooded my mind—should the character have done that? Should I have explained this more? Will the reader know what I meant by this? Was that duplicate word in there before? His name is spelled wrong! The damn name is spelled wrong! But this document was perfect when I subbed it!

I cringed.

All of the sudden I saw holes, huge gaping holes in the story. Oh, no. This character’s feelings are not validated! I should have expanded more on this line or that line. Why didn’t I explain certain things better? Why? Why? Why not? All those things I should have changed, would have changed if…well, you know. The old shoulda-woulda-coulda.

More cringing.

Could I unsub? Could I take the manuscript back and re-do it? Add a thing or two here, a tidbit there? No. Too late.
After a spell of heartsick doubt, the next—and quite unexpected—wave of emotion swept over me.

Elation. Yes, elation.

Why? Because I SAW the flaws. I saw them and I DID cringe.

The fact that I spotted these gaps on my own was proof that somehow, someway, those lovely seeds had sprouted in my mind and I’d begun to understand some of the dynamics of writing.

Don’t you see the beauty in that? Think about it. That ability to see my work through another’s eyes was another beautiful step in learning. A revelation, a new grain of knowledge that could be used in my next work, and my next, and my next. I'd love to have had this 'through-the-editor-looking-glass' vision sooner, before I submitted. But I didn't. Maybe for beginning writers, that's just meant to be. Part of the growing process.

Wonderful fellow writers have generously helped me with so many issues in my work and have provided priceless knowledge in my writing journey; and I’ve absorbed every morsel that came my way, corrected many mistakes with their guidance. Repeated mistakes, yes. And, when these are pointed out to me, I cringe—over and over, seeming to make the same errors regularly. But when a writer actually SEES their own mistakes and they finally begin to ‘get’ it—sure, sometimes AFTER the work has been submitted—it’s a glorious thing.

We all make mistakes in our writing. And don't think I don't know that we're ALWAYS going to make them. But when WE can see the mistakes, when we can learn from them, then maybe we can then manage to do most of our cringing BEFORE we hit ‘send.’


Susilien said...

I may not have read anything published as a book from you, yet, but I truly look forward to that day Carol. Your blog has given me a wonderful insight into the writer you are becoming.

C. Zampa said...

Thank you, Susillien! That is a wonderful compliment.
I hope, when that time comes, you won't be disappointed!

Thanks SO much for visiting!

Tess MacKall said... changed the way you can comment here, so now I CAN...Yayyyyy...

Now, Carol. All authors know that no matter how many times you look at a manuscript, no matter how many people look at it for you, an error or a new way of thinking on it is going to surface.

That's the way it is. And yep, you have cringe moments. But after a while? Those moments won't be so bad and you'll take a slightly different attitude. You'll shrug it off and let the chips fall where they may.

You're a damn fine writer. No worries. You're getting there.

Sarah Ballance said...

As always, you speak the mighty truth! I'm finding this to be the case as I work through edits. Some of what I thought to be fab a few weeks ago is suddenly riddled with glaring "Did I write that?"s. I LOVE knowing I've grown so much in such a short period of time. (And on that note, I refuse to look at a submission once I've sent it off. It's a lot easier for me to cope with my own learning curve after the contract is signed, LOL!)

C. Zampa said...

Hello, Tess! So good to see you!

Oh, I hope you're right, that it doesn't seem so bad after a while.
I'm counting on that!

And I do think you're right that I'm getting there. It's about time, eh? LOL. Slowy but surely.

Thanks for stopping by!

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Sarah!
Well,now maybe I should not look over the manuscripts after they're sent, either! LOL.

But, this first time, I wouldn't trade for the world. To SEE my errors was a wake-up call, but a valuable tool for the next many things I'll know to watch out for in the future.

Thanks for visiting, lady!

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

CZ, all of us, no matter how perfect, make mistakes and find flaws in our work, and usually after the fact. lol. We're just to close to it, have looked at if for far too long.

But if we're learning, that's part of the battle. And you are a wonderful writer!! It'll all be good. Just wait and see. :) Congrats on your first sub!

Natalie Dae said...

At times, when I get edits back, and see a change because I didn't see something before, it glares back at me as though to say: "Hmph, you didn't NOTICE me before! Well, she did, and here I am, so FIX ME!"

I sit and think: I'm sure that wasn't there before.

So I check the original document, and sure enough, the offence is sitting there laughing at me. We've read it so many times we read what we know should be there, not what is.

It's great that you're spotting things like this, Carol. Growing in the craft...that's the one the best feelings, I think.


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

You think you make mistakes now, what about way back then before computers when you had to struggle with manual or electric typewriters? What a doozie those days were, every mss. came back with ERROR ERROR ERROR. It's a wonder I persisted to these days of computers with all signs and flashing wrong words but you know what? In my blindness or stupidity I still make dumb assholes mistakes...and I always will. Don't feel bad, join the club ;)

C. Zampa said...

Hello, Nat!
That is exactly how it feels! Like the errors are laughing at you when you go back and see them. They were there all the time, every time you looked!

Thanks for stopping by!

C. Zampa said...

Hi, Lisa!
I know, I know, you're right.
Most writers, no matter how seasoned,say the same. That's a little consolation.

If we can learn from them, then there's some good in all of it.

Nice to see you!

C. Zampa said...

Hello there, Mick!
You know, that's something I never even thought of---PRE-computers. Oh, my. That probably really did make it hard to catch mistakes. No 'word find' or anything to help.

Well, there's another thing to be grateful for. Computers.

Thanks, my friend, for visiting.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

After all these years that very thing still happens to me. It's amazing. And delightful. But also depressing because there's something about clicking SEND before I really am able to look at my work as if I were the editor. Why can't it happen BEFORE???

GREAT post, Carol. As usual.

C. Zampa said...

Yes, WHY always AFTER hitting SEND?
But,hey, it makes me feel better that it's not just me, and that even seasoned writers still suffer from this.

Thanks, Joylene, for visiting!