Our words can come back to embarrass us.
We don’t realise it at the time but there will come a time when we’ll critically reassess what we’ve written. We all do it. Even Pulitzer Prize winners do it.
This is because passion can cloud judgement. We can become so submerged in writing, creating and producing a book that mistakes happen. We might reveal too little or include too much. There will be over-descriptive sentences that seemed so pertinent at the time but now come across as pretentious and irrelevant to the wellbeing of the book.
The reader doesn’t miss a trick. You could embed secret code in your book and a sharp-eyed someone would find it. Even sub-editors who work their magic and polish content can miss the chance to restructure a sentence that is falling apart or reword an awkward phrase.
Look at “The Girl On The Train” by Paula Hawkins. Resounding page-turning success but some people were left baffled by some writing glitches such as “logging on to the internet.” People don’t “log on” in 2013. Jog on, maybe, so the saying goes.
Stuff gets missed. Words fall apart. Editing doesn’t catch everything. Our first 10 pages could be stronger. It doesn’t mean we should shrug off our weakness but we don’t need to be defined by them either
We can read those embarrassing words and learn from them. We can become a better writer as a result.
Look no further than “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. It was her first-ever book. Pulitzer Prize winner Morrison looked back at her debut 20-something years after its 1970 release and commented: “It required a sophistication unavailable to me.”
In Morrison’s mind the book required more from her but would it have been such a success had she written it with more sophisitcation? Perhaps its rawness and innocence was the essence of its success.
Once we’ve published a book, the trick is to close the pages and move on. We learn from our mistakes and continue to make each sentence better than the last one. We have no regrets.