How Do I Proofread Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

As I mentioned in my last post, editing is a crucial part of turning out a quality story. After solidifying story structure, plugging plot holes, nailing characterization, and powering up the writing itself, it’s time for proofreading.

Proofreading and polishing your own manuscript is nearly impossible. However, it’s awfully hard to spot your own mistakes. Since you know where there should be a “the” or a comma, you don’t necessarily see when it’s missing. Your brain fills in what’s not there.

Two sets of eyesSo how can you improve the odds of noticing and fixing your errors? Start with that tried-and-true saying: “Two sets of eyes are better than one.” Then create two sets of eyes from your own single set.

In other words, find ways to approach your manuscript from different viewpoints, and you’ll catch more than if you read it only one way. I’ve discovered this trick myself and want to share some ways a writer can edit or proofread their own words.

On the screen. Start with whatever program you typed it on and read through to catch the big errors that would stand out to almost anybody, as well as a few others you’ll notice.

Print it out. Yes, this requires using paper and ink, but there’s no substitute for seeing the story printed out on the page. Even more will jump out at you this way.

Read it aloud. I was surprised the first time I took someone’s advice and did this. It yielded such important information, including grammar mistakes, poor cadence, and stilted dialogue. Which I was then happy to edit to a higher quality.

Put it on an e-reader. I use Scrivener writing software, which allows me to easily compile my manuscript into an epub format for my Nook or a mobi format for my husband’s Kindle Fire. For my short story release, My Sister’s Demon, I read the story on both e-readers and caught different things each time.

Change the background and font. On an e-reader or other program, change the background to black and the font to white (or white/black if you usually do the other way). Flipping your color scheme reveals even more words and punctuation you may wish to change.

Have it read aloud to you. Check for a text-to-speech feature on your e-reader. Or save your manuscript as a pdf file and use Adobe’s Read Out Loud feature (Menu / View / Read Out Loud / Activate Read Out Loud). Yes, the voice sounds monotonous and robotic, but hearing your words can you help notice things you don’t see on the page.

Of course, once you’ve done all you can do, it’s time to get that real second set of eyes. Have an extremely knowledgeable friend or fellow writer (not just, “Hey, I was an English major!” but more like, “My friends want to pummel me sometimes because I’m such a grammar stickler.”) take a look.

Even better, hire a copy editor. Ask for recommendations and be prepared to pay a little for professional quality.

I’ve got my own fingers crossed that I caught all of the errors in my recently released short story. But, of course, if anyone notices a grammar oops, I’m all ears. I’ve definitely run out of sets of eyes.

Speaking of having my fingers crossed, let’s see how my writing went in the past two weeks. (Yep, I failed to check in last week!) Here’s my progress update for A Round of Words in 80 Days:

ROW80 Update

1. Read 12 books. I read Defiant, a historical romance novel, by Jessica Trapp, and How to Ruin a Summer Vacation, YA contemporary, by Simone Elkeles. I’m also halfway through Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. 8 1/2 of 12 finished!

2. Finish editing SHARING HUNTER, a young adult contemporary novel. I started editing, then peeled away to do more research on plotting and scene crafting. I’m currently reading The Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain and next up is Create a Plot Clinic by Holly Lisle. Another Mother May I baby step.

3. Edit one short story to publication quality. Edited all the way through A Little Fairy Dust, the next short story to be released. I also rewrote the first chapter, using feedback from a beta reader, and I’m happy with the result. Solid  progress.

4. Publish and promote two short storiesMy Sister’s Demon is available on Amazon and coming soon to Barnes & Noble, plus I now have a Goodreads Author pageHalf done!

5. Stay on top of ROW80 sponsor duties. Visited 7 blogs, including a couple of new ones. Done!

What do you do to proofread your own writing? What tricks have you discovered? And how was your week?

Challenges and Changes with the New Year

New YearA New Year is a perfect time to reevaluate where you are and where you want to be. Although really, I’ve been analyzing how I use my time and what I want to accomplish for several months. Sometime in the fall, I concluded that a few changes were warranted.

Here they are.

Blog. I love blogging. I didn’t know if I would, but it’s been a fabulous activity for me to hone my writing and, more importantly, to connect with, inform, and entertain readers. For quite a while, I’ve blogged three times a week–Sunday ROW80 updates, Amazing Words Wednesdays, and Deep-Fried Fridays. I will be taking that down to twice a week.

My Wednesday posts about the labyrinth of language (aka A-maze-ing Words Wednesday) will continue, and my Sunday posts will be devoted to sharing whatever I’ve learned and want to share. In keeping with the labyrinth theme, these will be Scarlet Thread Sundays. This is my last Deep-Fried Friday post.

copy editingCopy Editing. I’m a rare individual who enjoys–nay, delights!–in proofreading for people. It’s not that I’m some sick individual who wants to red pen all over perfectly good pages. To me, line editing, copy editing, proofreading are putting the polish on a finished product–making it shine. I revel in knowing that the read will be easier and flow better with proper word choice, grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. The story itself will come through and not be hindered by avoidable errors.

Consequently, my copy editing services are now for hire. If you are interested, click on the Copy Editing tab on the menu above for more information.

ROW80LogocopyROW80. I will once again be participating in A Round of Words in 80 Days. I still love this challenge from Kait Nolan for its focus, flexibility, accountability, and encouragement. Indeed, I have been a sponsor for several rounds now.

Although I will be continuing my own ROW80 challenge, I am stepping away from sponsorship this time. If you are interested in being a cheerleader for this worthy writers’ experience, head over to the ROW80 website and see about signing up as a future sponsor.

Self-publishing. This year I will be pursuing the traditional publishing route for my YA contemporary novel, Sharing Hunter. However, I plan to self-publish my first mystery, Grace & Fire, in 2013.

There are two sequels already plotted for this mystery trilogy, and it is my desire to write them as well and release all three in 2013 if I can. I have previously stated that, of all the routes now open to writers, the one of hybrid author–both self and traditionally published–appeals to me most.

What changes do you expect to make in 2013? How do you wish to redirect your focus? What are your most important goals for the new year?