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?

Christmas Gifts and #ROW80

After doing a series on gifts for the grammar geek, word lover, book reader, and writer, I was thrilled to get a few writer-themed gifts myself on Christmas Day. Check these out!

My new laptop stand. I’ve talked about how important it is to be nice to your back and shoulders while writing on a computer. However, it’s impossible to get both your keyboard and your screen at the right level while using a laptop. Thanks to my hubby, I can now use this laptop stand at home along with a bluetooth keyboard and keep my muscles happy. I think he was a little motivated by the idea of me not begging for a shoulder massage all the time.

Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. I’ve heard this writing craft book mentioned several times, so it’s been on my short list. I happily received a copy from my mother, and I’ll probably read in it round two of ROW80.

Jane Eyre book charmBook charms. These were featured in my Gifts for the Book Reader post and were one of the items I drooled over when I found them online. My husband ordered the Jane Eyre charm for me, and my sons got me Hunger Games. I love both of these books–obviously for different reasons. You’d better believe I’ll be wearing them when I attend my next writers’ conference.

Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez. I took the Scrivener online course with Gwen, and it was excellent. I’m using more features of the Scrivener software now, and it’s helping me to plot, organize, and turn out good writing. However, I wanted the reference book as well, and my family came to the rescue! Scrivener for Dummies now sits on my shelf, ready for me to look up how to do this, that, and whatever.

Karen DeLabar
“Orange Karen”

Orange Karen Anthology. Obviously, this is NOT a gift to me. Rather, it is an anthology being put together to benefit fellow writer Karen DeLabar, who suffered through toxic shock syndrome this past summer. You can read her amazing story HERE. However, I was delighted to receive the news a few days before Christmas that my short story had been chosen for inclusion in the anthology. The proceeds from this project will go toward Karen’s mounting medical bills. It’s a pleasure to be able to support Karen with my words, as well as my thoughts and prayers. The anthology is due for release in April 2013.

And the continuing gift of A Round of Words in 80 Days–the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Here is the crux of the challenge: You have 80 days to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself; you post biweekly (or weekly) updates; and fellow writers keep you accountable and cheer you on. Easy peasy, right?

It’s time to declare my goals for Round 1, which runs from January 7 through March 28. Here are my ROW80 goals for the first round of 2013:

Editing

  • Complete full rewrite of SHARING HUNTER.
  • Work with editors on short story for Orange Karen Anthology.
  • Revisit GRACE & FIRE (1st novel) and run through one more round of edits.

Writing

  • Write one full short story.
  • Write blog posts for Sundays (including ROW80 updates) and Wednesdays.
  • Start plotting sequel to GRACE & FIRE (working title: HOPE & ASHES).

Reading

Non-writing goals

  • Exercise twice a week.
  • Take a true Sabbath–no working and time with God and family one day a week.

So what were some of your favorite Christmas gifts? What are your goals for ROW80? Be sure to check out the challenge HERE, and you can sign up or see who’s participating HERE.