I’ve been in the newspaper business for right at 28 years, garnering more writing experience than all but the most grizzled reporters, having written thousands of stories over the course of my career. However, with that said, my writing still stinks.
Now, before you start burning your R.D. Sherrill books and fast turning past my byline in the newspaper, let me explain that my self-critique has to do with those little grammatical mistakes that, left unedited, can add up and make an article or novel tough to read. Frankly, until I started writing novels back in 2013 with the publication of "Red Dog Saloon," I never realized how many grammatical errors there were in the first draft of any of my writings. If truth be known, I was pretty cocky about my ability to write quickly and self-edit with just a glance. I didn’t really consider what my editors were catching after it left my desk.
So, when I began writing full-length novels (most having 75,000 words as opposed to the 300 to 500 words most newspaper stories and columns have) I went into it the same way, believing I could self-edit and catch the errors. Boy, was I wrong. Let me tell you this before I begin my confession – any writer who thinks they can find their own errors without benefit of an editor is fooling themselves and will soon see their work torn up by critics or simply go unread.
This coming Monday, I will release my sixth novel during an event at Magness Library, up on the second floor. It will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and there will be donuts and the public is urged to attend. The book, "Mad Justice," marks the longest time between the releases of R.D. Sherrill books, taking over a year since I released "Paradise Ranch." It had some folks wondering if I had run out of books, but nothing could be further from the truth. My next book, "Second Floor," is already written and the one after that is partially done. Then what’s the hold up?
Editing. It takes as long to properly edit a book as it does to write it from scratch. Is this because I’m inexperienced? Over a quarter of a century of articles says otherwise. The issue is that what begins in your head sometimes doesn’t come out exactly the same when it leaves your fingers on the keyboard.
Sure, I can read over it all I want but my brain still holds me hostage because it will cause me to fly right by those mistakes. That’s where editing and the use of beta readers is important. Beta readers are the ones who read the paperback book before it’s published but after it’s edited. In the case of "Mad Justice," beta readers found over 70 mistakes in the EDITED copy. You can never have too many eyes.
It goes to show you, even the most experienced writer is fallible. It’s a pretty humbling thing. Now, run out and get you a copy of "Mad Justice."
Standard reporter Duane Sherrill can be reached at 473-2191.