I spotted the comma in one of my “extra” rounds of editing. I call them “extra editing” but I don’t really have a name for them. It’s what I do when I’ve finished all the other rounds and want to spend a few minutes re-reading and admiring what I’ve done. “Patting myself on the back” doesn’t sound as good as extra editing.
And what I definitely do not expect is to find a mistake. A glaring error. An imperfection in the form of a tiny, itsy bitsy punctuation mark…a misplaced comma.
THE misplaced comma.
I knew immediately where this comma came from. It was stuck in the middle of a sentence between the subject and verb. How on earth did I do that? In no realm of alternate punctuation would I ever think a comma belonged in that spot. But in this particular instance, it was a sentence I’d rewritten on my last pass through the document. I rewrote the sentence because it struck me on that last pass as being too long and complicated. I deleted a clause, but somehow I neglected to delete one of the commas that went with it.
But what to do about this comma? I could leave it. Everything else in my document was perfect. At least as far as I’d seen. But I knew that comma would haunt me. I couldn’t let it go.
So I opened up the document and fixed it. Then I downloaded the fixed file to Createspace and KDP.
That’s when I noticed a mysterious tab had appeared on the left side of most of my document. Where it came from I didn’t know, but it definitely threw off my page count. Which threw off my cover. The tab had to go. Unfortunately, not only was it a mysterious tab, it was also a stubborn one. No matter what I did, it remained.
And then, as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared. Taking with it all of my formatting. Line spacing, first paragraph indent and all chapter headings and scene break indicators (you know: ****).
During the course of the morning as I fixed the missing and messed up formatting, I cursed myself for ever touching that comma. Really. It was like a zit on your nose that you squeeze and make a big red mark instead. About fifty percent of my readers would never have even noticed that comma zit and forty-five percent of the others wouldn’t have cared. I can only think of a couple who’d ever have mentioned it to me.
I’m not really certain what my take away from all this was. I’m not the type to ignore little zits, even if messing with them causes bigger problems. But the end result, I hope, of striving for excellence is at least a step closer to it.
What about you? Do you let the little mistakes go or are you willing to cause bigger problems to fix them?