Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
Here is a typical email I receive from writers I’m considering for representation, or clients whose proposals are about to be sent to publishers:
Dear Rachelle, I’m SO sorry to bother you and I hope it’s not too late. I was looking over my manuscript and I found a typo on page 3. I left the “e” off the word “the” in the fourth line of the second paragraph. Additionally, I realized I began chapter 1 four inches down the page and I think it needs to be only three inches. May I send you an updated and revised manuscript?
Okay, I exaggerated this a tiny bit. But I have to smile every time I get one of these. Of course, making sure your manuscript is impeccable is a good thing. But you will drive yourself, your agent (and probably your spouse and kids) crazy stressing over every little typo! Editors and agents (having just a teeny bit of experience in this) are capable of evaluating a manuscript without being distracted by a few small mistakes.
You’ve spent months or years writing that baby of yours, and trying to make everything perfect, and going over it a thousand times. So it drives you crazy to find a mistake after all that. You’ve sat in workshops and read books and blogs and you’ve had that whole perfection thing hammered into your head. You’re desperate to avoid being labeled an amateur and you’re terrified somebody will look at your spacing or your margins or your misuse of the word “infer” and begin spewing epithets as they hurl your pages across the room.
But listen. First, I read on my laptop or my iPad, neither of which are getting thrown across the room anytime soon. Second, there is a time to let go of all that paranoia and relax. Once you’ve submitted your manuscript—unless you’re going to pull it back and do a total rewrite—stop wasting precious brainspace worrying about the small stuff! For now, it’s done.
If your agent is about to send your MS to publishers, it’s okay to send a quick email saying, “I found a couple of typos on pages __, we might want to fix them before submitting.” But other than that, don’t stress. Once you’ve put your manuscript into someone else’s hands, this is a great time to put it away and avoid looking at it for awhile. Going over and over it will only make you crazy. Wait for a response before you tinker… and do your tinkering based on feedback, not on your own non-objective view of your own writing.
I’ve also had situations where authors have sent me their manuscript for a final read-through prior to publisher submission, and I’m going through it and line-editing as I read. (Not all agents do this.) Imagine my frustration when, a few days later after I’ve line-edited 100 pages, the author says, “Hey, I went back through my MS and made a few more changes. Here’s the updated version.” Aarrgghh. Again, once you place it in someone else’s hands, don’t keep making changes unless that has already been discussed and agreed upon.
But don’t worry. None of this is make-it-or-break-it stuff. I won’t like you any less if any of these things happen. I won’t label you an amateur and I certainly won’t make any judgments about you or your writing. I just thought you might like to see how things look from my side of the desk.
Hand the manuscript over, and give yourself a break.
Can you relate to this perfectionism? Have you ever been driven crazy by errors you’ve found after reading through your manuscript 1000 times?
Don’t drive yourself crazy stressing over every little typo! Click to Tweet.
Once you’ve sent off a MS, put it away and avoid looking at it for awhile! Click to Tweet.
Stop wasting precious brainspace worrying about the small stuff! Click to Tweet.