Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Perfect" is not a word I use very often

And with good reason.  Almost nothing is "perfect" anyway -- except some verb tenses.

That doesn't mean perfection isn't an acceptable goal.  The closer we approach it, the better we are at whatever it is we're doing.  Believing we've reached it, however, too often signifies we've lost sight of reality.  This is especially true of writing.

The other day, a reader pointed out to me that there were still some small errors in the Kindle version of Firefly.  As I explained to her, I knew about them but had left them because of my on-going battle with Amazon over the Kindle for PC application software.  These errors only appear on certain Kindle device displays, not on all.  And since the author has no way to know if a "fix" to an error will end up making it actually worse on other devices. . . . well, you see the dilemma.

At the time  Firefly was published on Amazon, the KDP preview only allowed the publisher (that's me) to preview how the document would appear on the basic Kindle device.  Amazon has now enhanced the KDP process so that the publisher has a variety of preview options and can now see how the document will look on the Kindle, Kindle Fire, iPhone, and others.  This is certainly an improvement.  So I was able to take the comments from this reader and check out what the errors looked like on the various platforms, something I had not been able to do before.

This allowed me to confirm that the formatting errors do appear on all the other devices -- but not, ironically, on the Kindle for PC!  So I've decided to proofread the text as it is previewed for the Kindle Fire and locate the errors.

Unfortunately, I found something else.  And this is why I cringe at the word perfect when applied to anyone's writing.

It's not a typo or a formatting glitch, nor is it a problem created by the conversion of the original 1987 Symphony documents into Word Perfect 4.0 for DOS and then through a succession of Word Perfect for Windows versions and finally into MS Word for the uploading to Kindle.  Yeah, there were a bunch of those, and they were a nightmare, and they provided the foundation for those lingering bugs in the Kindle version.  Nope, it's not anything like that.

It's a continuity error that's been in the book since that 1987 Symphony version.  I never caught it, and neither did my (cough, cough) editor at Pageant Books.  All the times I've read Firefly since, and especially all the times I've gone through it in preparing it for digital publication, I never caught this particular little mistake.

But there it is, so minor and insignificant that in all these years, all these readings, no one has mentioned it.  Does it affect the story?  No, not at all.  It can be corrected by deleting, or revising, a single sentence.  In fact, replacing one verb with another will do the trick, and that's probably what I'll do since I have to upload a revised version of the text anyway to fix the formatting errors.

The point is, even someone as nitpicky and perfectionist as I can make mistakes.  And having made them, I can miss them in proofreading and revising and editing and everything else.  Is it embarrassing?  Sure!  And do you think I'm going to tell anyone what it was?  Hell, no!  Neither am I going to make a big deal about the fact that the (cough, cough) editor missed it, too.

These things happen.  No one's perfect. 

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.  And it certainly doesn't mean we should excuse, dismiss, or -- goddess forbid -- defend our mistakes.  Admit it, fix it, and move on.

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