Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reader emails, catches error in Off The Grid

I received this email from an Off The Grid reader this weekend:

Hi Dan,
Just wanted to say your book was a very good read. Glad that I purchased it. Thank you for all the effort of writing it. Have any readers that are "Harley" fans mentioned that they have 4 cycle engines not 2 cycle?

This is the type of electric motorcycle I
wrote about in Off The Grid.
In going back and looking at the one Harley-Davidson mention in Off The Grid, I realized that he was right. H-D did make some 2-stroke engines several decades ago, but I didn’t make the two-cycle engine reference because I had some special insight. It was sloppy research on my part.

There is just one section pretty early in the book when Luke rides an electric motorcycle when he is in Mill Creek (this is a bit in the future mind you.) Here’s what I wrote: “The motorcycle was remarkably quiet, except for the government-mandated whirring noise it made under 10 miles an hour. The era of thunderous Harley-Davidson’s with two-cycle gas engines, rattling the windows of nearby houses was long gone. The economical, lightweight machines were a favorite among commuters in big cities. With a range of more than 400 miles, the bikes could be used for days without the need for a charge.

The trouble is that Harley makes four-cycle engines, except for some limited instances. My intention was to contrast the quiet electric bike to a combustion engine with a noisy tailpipe, but didn’t get the research right. It one of the things that independent writers have to deal with - independent research. I could have taken the time during the writing process to study-up, and who knows? Maybe I would have caught my mistake. Unlikely though. I’d already moved on and had 94,000 more words to write.

It’s always a question of researching everything you write (and slowing down the creative process) or blowing through it and hoping for the best. I did a bit of both in Off The Grid. In the grand scheme of things, this error was not a showstopper, but I’d rather have avoided it.

I’m thankful for the reader note, but more thankful for the reader who said he enjoyed the book and glad my goofy error didn’t turn him off.