As a writer, you’re only as good as your editing.
Misspellings, misuse of homonyms, and horrible punctuation will ruin even the greatest stories, and yet, there are times when our brains simply can’t figure out how to fix what’s so obviously wrong.
Take me, for instance. Back in 2005, I’m about seven months pregnant in the summertime in San Antonio, Texas.
For those who’ve never had the experience of walking around in the 100+ degree heat while in your last trimester of pregnancy, consider yourselves blessed. That along with my pregnancy brain in full force, it was truly amazing I never forgot to put pants on every day.
One of the writing organizations I belonged to at the time was the Association of Health Care Journalists. Back when people posted to message boards and Yahoo loops, I posted a response to a question from a fellow member that went out to everyone in the organization.
For whatever reason, I had to use the word “subtle” in my response. I couldn’t tell you what the question was or why I needed to use that particular word, but that day, I could not spell it. And when I said I couldn’t spell it, I mean, just that.
I tried. S..u…t?
Wait. That’s not right. S…u…t..t..l..e?
Shaking my head, I took a deep breath and tried again.
I closed my eyes and attempted to let my fingers sail across the keyboard, hoping that part of my (pregnant) brain would kick in and spell the word subconsciously.
Nope. That didn’t work.
Nope, it kept correcting to settle, scuttle, or shuttle.
After spending a good ten minutes on this one word, I said screw it and sent it out into the professional writing world, knowing I’d misspelled it. My brain and body were simply too tired to care, but I knew I’d hear from someone.
And I did.
Within a few hours, I got a private message stating, “By the way, it’s subtle.”
That’s right! There’s a B in the middle of it.
I could’ve been totally annoyed, but whatever. One stinking mistake didn’t make me a failure. I emailed back, explaining I tried for ten minutes to spell the word and my pregnancy brain simply wouldn’t have it.
The response I received couldn’t have been scripted. She wrote, “Really? I’m the editor for *Fit Pregnancy Magazine. We’re doing a survey on pregnancy brain. Are you having a boy or girl?”
I wrote back, telling her we were having a girl and decided I might as well bite the bullet and pitch her a short story for their “How I told him” page.
And she bought it.
These are the kinds of real situations I make sure to include in my stories. Whether I’m writing about a family who lives in the Texas Hill Country, a woman who’s navigating her life after running out of her wedding, or a group of doctors and nurses re-inventing themselves in Montana, those real, insane, imperfect events have to be my favorites. It makes true escapism so worth it and if I may say, my wonderfully flawed characters are waiting to sweep you off to their imaginary worlds.
How’s that for some subtle self-promo?
Check out Patricia on social media and her website (that’s getting a facelift right now).