Monday, April 1, 2013

Ideas for proofreading your own work before sending it to an editor

Over the last few years, I’ve chatted with other authors and followed them on twitter and their blogs to learn more about the craft.

There are so many ideas on how to self-edit and proofread, so I’m going to share a few with you that have worked well for me. Keep in mind, it’s not a perfect process, and there are still a few minor errors, but around 80 – 90% of mistakes can be caught by using these methods.

These are in the order I usually do them, but you can do them out of order and it would still work.

·         I write my stories in Scrivener, so I first scroll through the entire document and look for anything underlined in red, blue or green. Make the necessary corrections.

·         I switch the document over to Word, and do the same. Sometimes Scrivener and Word disagree on how to spell certain words or on what’s okay and what’s not in terms of grammar. If that happens, then I’ll refer to my two favorite resources: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed. If they don’t have the answers then I turn to online reputable resources like Grammar Girl, for instance. Make the necessary corrections.

·         Let it sit for a week or more if possible. At least 3 days minimum. I can usually get away with this because I have Dory’s memory (sorry, I have kids, so you may find occasional Disney references in my blog posts ;D).

·         Put it into an e-pub and read it out loud on my phone to myself with my laptop in front of me and the story up on Scrivener. I make changes as I read along. If I’m out and about and reading it, I avoid reading it aloud, but I do note changes, highlight and bookmark what I need to fix and then the adjustments are made once I’m home. I think this is the most critical step because I need to see my story the way my readers’ are most likely going to view it. They’ll probably read it on their phones as well. It’s amazing how many mistakes I catch this way, and how I’ll find clunky phrasing or poor dialogue. The flow can be improved because when I’m reading it objectively this way, I’m thinking about how a new reader might take the story and how it might sound to them. I also find weak spots that maybe need more, so new sentences and paragraphs will develop, along with previously wordy ones, limited or eliminated altogether.

·         Let it sit again if possible. A week is good here, too. Even better would be two weeks to a month if I have the time to do this.

·         Reread it again on my phone and make the last few changes required and if possible, this is when I try to keep myself from constructing a whole slew of new sentences or paragraphs, since those might possibly have more mistakes.

Now it should be ready to send to an editor.

I know this might sound extreme, but it’ll save your editor or proofreader from finding minor mistakes you can get rid of on your own, which hopefully means a faster turn-around time for you to get your product back.

Hope this helps. Looking forward to sharing more tips in the future!