Articles tagged "proofreading"

Proofreading: What Makes a Great Reader?

Taking an idea and turning it into a written work is no easy task. The process is long, arduous, and riddled with interconnected steps. It can be easy to overlook proofreading. You’ve written a book after all! The excitement to get it into print and out there for the world to see is tremendous.

But don’t put the cart before the chicken!

Or something like that. Anyway, don’t get ahead of yourself.

Its vital that you get some eyes on your work before you publish. Proofreaders serve a variety of critical purposes:

  1. Spelling and gramatical errors
    This one might seem obvious, but you shouldn’t let anything go without notice. Get as many trusted readers as you can to give feedback regarding spelling, grammar, word choice, and syntax.
  2. Plot, pacing, and organizational feedback
    A topic or story you’re passionate about might hold your interest indefinitely, but if the pace is crawling, the plot languishing, or the content organized in a counter-intuitive way, readers are not encouraged to stick with the book.
  3. Overall opinions about the work
    Presumably, you had a goal in mind when you started the book. An endpoint for your characters. A piece of information you want to convey to readers. A bit of historical data you want to commit to writing. Whatever the content’s purpose, you need a holistic opinion about how what you’ve created works as a book.

With the above roles in mind, you’ll want to seek out individuals you can trust to give honest opinions. I cannot stress enough how important diversity is here. As an example, my ideal proofreading group would include:

  • 2 or 3 people familiar with you and your writing
  • 2 or 3 people unfamiliar with your writing (friend of a friend, member of a local writing group, etc.)
  • Someone with a strong editorial and/or publishing background (this might require paying someone)

Local writing groups are a great place to start. You’ll find like minded writers, and in most cases eager proofreaders. Family and friends work too, though there is a good chance they’ll be more supportive and less critical than you need. But you should absolutely get the opinions of BOTH. You need a variety of voices, with all the associated motivations, to truly get the most from your book.

There’s a few specific attributes to look for in your proofreader:

  1. Patience
    Reading a rough draft, no matter how well written, is a lot of work. Your proofreader needs to have the patience to stick with your work from start to finish, without wavering or losing interest.
  2. Avid reader
    It is not necessary, but is quite beneficial, if your proofreader is familiar with the type of writing your are doing. If you’ve written a fictional tale, you might not want to engage someone who primarily reads non-fiction to proofread.
  3. Thorough
    Alongside patience, your ideal proofreader will be thorough and detail oriented. Someone who always seeings a thing through to the end, and puts in the same effort from start to finish. Proofreading a book is no easy task, and your proofreader is going to be a critical player in helping you  create a book readers will want to pick up.

Proofreaders are crucial to perfecting your manuscript prior to publishing. Don’t overlook the value of unbiased observes.

 

Finessing Your Manuscript: Common Mistakes to Avoid

Writing CatWriting is hard work. Never mind worrying about the correct use of commas, avoiding sentence fragments, or maintaining the correct tense. As a self-publishing author, what once was the sole concern of proofreaders and editors, now falls on you. Self-publishers must wear all the hats. They no longer just write the book, indie-authors are also proofing it, editing it, formatting it, and finalizing it for production.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s crucial.

A book with grammatical and structural errors looks unprofessional and can turn away readers. In a world with so many books only a click away, we cannot rely solely on the strength of the story to propel a book into the reader’s hands. If the book’s description is the first, and most important, element to pulling a reader in, then the second element is the quality and presentation of the writing.

Before a reader will give your characters and plot twists a chance, they will scrutinize your use of the language, your clever commas, agile adjectives, and absurd alliterations (see what I did there?). If you want a reader to fall in love with your masterpiece, your control of the language must be impeccable.

When you proofread your work, keep these common mistakes in mind and look for ways to fix them:

  • Passive Sentences “He ran wildly down the alley, because behind him there were monsters” is a passive sentence. Rather than highlight what is happening, and giving the action immediacy, the action has already happened. Consider something like this: “Monsters chased him down the alley”. The same affect is achieved, but without the passivity. The action is directly linked and the sentence flows easily.
  • Word Use There are a number of words in English that sound the same, but have very different meaning. It can be easy to make these mistakes while writing, but prior to publishing, it’s important to identify and correct these words. Some problematic ones include:
    • “affect” vs. “effect”
    • “who” vs. “whom”
    • “they’re” vs. “there” vs. “their”
  • Agreements Tenses must stay consistent (“She laughs until she cried” won’t cut it), and the same goes for pronouns. It is important to be aware of the tense you were working in, and keep it consistent (did you catch that?). Align subject-verb and pronoun-ascendant correctly, so everything agrees (“Each of the players loved their new gear” might look acceptable, but that pronoun needs to agree!)
  • Commas, Run-Ons, and Fragments All of these elements refer to the structural design of the sentence. Using commas in the right place, avoiding run-ons (with those wisely placed commas!), and crafting complete sentences all enhance the reader’s experience. A well placed fragment, especially in dialog, isn’t going to hurt. Just be sparse with your creative license.
  • Show, don’t tell This might seem too obvious to mention, but it’s worth reiterating. Writing isn’t about telling a reader how something happened, it’s about putting them in the moment and letting them experience it with you. Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.” It cannot be stated any better than this.

Today more so than ever before, writers have to be more than just story tellers. They must be self promoters, self editors, the harshest critic, and their own strongest advocate. It’s no easy task to stand out amid all the other writers with stories to tell, but the surest way to make your work shine, is to polish it to perfection.

 

Is it time to destroy your little darlings?

Photo by vogmae on Flickr

Your book is your baby. We get it. That’s why we know how hard it is to objectively edit your work. But just because it’s a hard step in the process, doesn’t mean you can ignore it. It’s important to find a way to remove yourself enough from your work in order to get a clear, outsider’s view.

In that spirit, here are some tips for editing your novel:

1) Walk away. Not forever, but it’s incredibly important to read your novel with some fresh eyes. Even a week away will allow you some critical distance that you can use to help edit and see your whole structure better.

2) Destroy your little darlings. We all love the cute little sentences we’ve written, that flowery prose that convinces us we’re just the most talented writers we know. Guess what? This is hard to admit, but those pretty little darlings of yours are probably not so great. Beautiful moments in literature often emerge from simple descriptions and observations on the human and natural world — anything too convoluted will reek of trying just a little too hard. Keeping it simple doesn’t mean eliminating beauty.

3) Enlist trusted friends and editors. This could be the scariest moment of editing. The world has not yet seen your masterpiece, and this is the first step. And boy, is it a rough one. Your trusted editors and friends will be reading a piece of fiction that hasn’t yet been seen by other eyes. They will be of great assistance, pointing out flaws in grammar, continuity, and things that downright just don’t work. Inversely, they will also let you know what parts are great, where you shouldn’t change a thing, and how much they like it. It’s a quick dive into a cold pool, but for your novel’s sake, you have to do it.

4) Enlist professional services. Start with the Editorial Quality Review, in which, “a professional copy editor will review your book and provide a diagnostic tool of invaluable advice regarding the editing needs of your book. This service also includes a helpful 5-8 page sample edit to illustrate the level of edit recommended for your book.”Follow up with a Copy Edit Service.

What helps you edit your piece? Has editing made your novel’s better or worse? Do these tips work? Let us know in the comments below.

Additional Reading from the Lulu Blog:

DIY Proofreading

How To Choose An Editor

The Editorial Process

The Editorial Process

Photo courtesy of TheCreativePenn’s photostream on Flickr

Michael Crichton once said of revising, “Books aren’t written. They’re re-written.” As any of us who have slogged through draft after draft knows, he’s entirely on the mark, and it’s what you do during the rounds of revisions that make your book closer to finally being finished.

Editors at traditional houses work extensively with writers on everything from a book’s plot and character to title and cover design. After a book is acquired, the author will receive an extensive, pages-long editorial letter that is not for the faint of heart. It outlines a number of changes that will need to be made, thus kicking off a long revision period that ultimately ends with publishing as much as 18 months later.

As an author using an open-publishing platform, you have more flexibility in accepting or rejecting where you want the story and characters to go, and you don’t have to wait nearly two years to hold a copy of your book in your hands.

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DIY Proofreading

Happy Editing Month: DIY Proofreading

Proofreading is an important topic these days, particularly for indie authors. Just this week we caught sight of a conversation on Quora that started with the thread: “What does it say about you if you are terrible at proofreading?” What we’ll say is that self-proofreading is very challenging, but doable. So, we thought we’d provide some tips.

Once you’ve edited your text and you’re 100 percent confident as to your content and narrative, it’s time to proofread. Self-proofreading isn’t optimal. Look at it this way: self-proofreaders inevitably see what they want to see. In other words, if you’re not serious about finding errors and typos, then you’re probably not up for the task—there’s that and let’s face it, if you don’t know something is a mistake, then a different set of eyes can make all the difference. That said, while it’s not ideal, it can be done. Editing expert Ellie Maas Davis is back today to give some tips on self-proofreading.

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