Mistakes Happen – Even to Best Selling Authors
Rick Riordan has become the author that many writers aspire to be. He not only writes books, he does it for a living. Two of them have been turned into movies. And children will drag their parents into Boston on a Saturday morning and stand in line to get into a crowded church just for a chance to see him speak.
Riordan told his audience at the Boston Book Festival about how he got started as a writer, including his first rejection at age 14. His mother framed it, and it was the only thing to survive the fire that burned down his family’s home.
He talked about the drama of getting just the right cover art for a book and the joy and challenges of watching it translated into other languages.
Along the way, he also let slip two of the great secrets that every writer should know: There is no such thing as a perfect first draft and even getting a perfect final draft is a Herculean effort.
Riordan started writing as an adult while he was teaching junior high. His first foray into writing books was a mystery novel. He admitted how many times he rewrote it until it was finally accepted – fourteen.
Even now, dozens of published books later, he says he still rewrites many times to shape his words into the stories that entertain millions.
Just as significantly is what happens after he’s “done.” Every book is edited and then edited and then edited again. And even then, problems lurk in the tangles of the paragraphs. He told about a time one of his three sons wanted to read a finished manuscript before it went to print. His son asked if Riordan would pay him for any mistakes he found. By this time, Riordan said, he had read it several times, as had his editor. Full of confidence in the work, he offered $10 per error. His son earned $400.
So seek perfection, but take comfort that we all struggle to attain it.