Annie On Writing

January 23, 2009

Proofreading Induced Coma

Filed under: Writing Tools — Annie Evett @ 11:16 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Has anyone ever experienced this?

Having created a plethora of short stories last year, I decided it was time to go back and edit my masterpieces; shaping them for entry into competitions or future publication. What seemed to be a few afternoons light work – for after all, my short stories – as I remembered them – were all wonderful, well rounded, full of intrigue and perfect grammar,turned into weeks of grueling hard labour.

What a shock it was to re-read and begin editing my work. Blow torches and chain saws seemed to be appropriate tools to swathe through the misspelling and bad grammar. Self doubt began to creep into my heart and I began to wonder if I aught to even continue the path of writing. I began to slip into a proofreading coma, finding any other excuse or job , NOT to continue with my editing work. Truth be known, I am writing this as a partial excuse not to complete my editing!

Happily, I have continued on and would like to share some thoughts on editing and proofreading your own work; hoping it may assist you in the future.

Catalogue it.

With each piece of work you create, ensure you catalogue it for future reference immediately. Some use a spreadsheet to record details, however I not only save my stories in different files (Science Fiction, romance etc), but I use tags when I publish my work on my blog. Word count is very handy, should you need to find a piece of a specific length quickly. Genre is a given – though try to be specific (eg -Historic Romance, ChicLit). Give your first drafts a rating ( 1 – 5 or 1 – 10 on the quality of the story in your eyes) and date it ( so that you can easily identify your work from 2007 compared to 2008). All of this will make searching for a specific piece much less tedious; especially if you are time poor.

Go beyond the spell checker

Spell checker doesn’t pick up every misspelling; in fact many words form valid – though contextually confusing – words which in a rushed proofread, your brain does not pick up.

Read Aloud

When you proofread silently – that is skimming your work with your eyes, you tend to miss possible mistakes as your brain rushes ahead only searching for specific things . Although a little tedious, if you read aloud, there is no way your mouth can keep up with your brain. By slowing down the process, you are able to hear your mistakes and contextually incorrect words. If you are concerned about tenses, reading aloud tends to pick up inconstancies here as well.

Get Quality Feedback

Ask someone you trust to give good feedback, to read through your work and either use “track changes” – or a red pen to highlight the mistakes. Although great for the ego, your partner ( or your mum) saying “its very nice”, won’t help your growth as a writer.

Print it out

I attempt not to print out unnecessary sheets, however, proofreading is difficult on the screen. Use recycled paper if necessary – but grab a red marker and a drink and go and sit near a sunny window to read through your work. The change of setting and medium will refocus your mind and allow your brain to reset itself to search for mistakes and suggest improvements.

Sleep on it.

Unless you have a pressing deadline, getting some time away from the piece or a good nights rest, will improve your editing ability. Fresh eyes will see errors and new opportunities to round out characters and situations.

I found a clever poem on spell checkers and thought you’d enjoy it as a round up to my article.  Ode to a SpellChecker

Happy editing and proofreading – may your eyes remain wide open and your brain alert!

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  1. Although great for the ego, your partner ( or your mum) saying “its very nice”, won’t help your growth as a writer.

    No. It would be more helpful, of course, if they said “it’s very nice.”


    Comment by Mr Spotted A Mistake — January 24, 2009 @ 7:58 pm | Reply

  2. Hi – thanks so much for commenting on my site – I do appreciate the time it takes to put some thoughts down and make the effort – so many people don’t!

    and yes – you are right – it would be great if everyone just said – “oh that’s a nice story…..” I think I would rather that than the resounding silence I usually get on my blog…


    Comment by Annie — January 24, 2009 @ 11:01 pm | Reply

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