The indomitable Karen S. Elliott, known to many as the Word Shark, offers some tips and tricks to H&C readers. We know many of you story-tellers and alchemists of words and worlds need a little expert advice as you revise, edit, and drink too much caffeine. We will feature Part II October 3rd. For further information regarding Karen’s professional editing service, follow the links at the end of the post. Thank you, Karen, for throwing us a life line. ~Tonia
DIY Editing and Proofreading Part I
With self-publishing comes great responsibility. Whether you self-publish or go the way of an agent/publisher, you want to be sure your manuscript makes it to readers as cleanly as possible and makes sense from Chapter One through to The End. This is the challenge of editing and proofreading.
Editing – getting the bugs out
Editing- Getting the Bugs Out
Editing can cover everything from consistency, subject-verb agreement, verb tenses, to word choice or denotation; more in-depth editing might include substantive paragraph and chapter re-writes through developmental rewriting (overhaul).
Consistency – One of the biggest problems I see is lack of consistency. It’s not the story’s structure – it’s keeping that structure cohesive with consistent language, proper names, and characters’ personalities.
Character – Check for inconsistencies – where your characters live, where they work, their likes and dislikes, their phobias (don’t say your character is afraid of snakes and then have her holding a python in Chapter Ten), favorite foods/allergies (someone is allergic to shellfish and later eats a lobster), and so on.
Names, Proper Nouns – Did you call your main character’s boyfriend Allan in the first chapter and Alan in all the other chapters?
Electronic Age – The jury seems to be in a dead-lock over new language and emerging language terms that describe the electronic age and new gadgets. Whether you agree with the AP Stylebook or not, if you are going to use words like e-mail or email, web-site or website, on-line or online – each of these words needs to be consistent throughout your manuscript.
Who’s talking? – If your English-teacher character is talking prim and proper English in Chapter Three, make sure she doesn’t go all street in Chapter Twenty.
Know your props – If you have your police officer with a Glock in Chapter Four, he should still have a Glock in the final chapter.
Where are you? – I have often drawn my own maps on a large sheet of paper to maintain perspective. Or use Google maps. If you write Route 83 and Burdick Expressway intersect in Minot, ND, they’d better intersect. If the Sandia Mountains are east of downtown Albuquerque in one chapter, don’t put them west in a subsequent chapter.
Proofreading,an inch at a time
Proofreading, an inch at a time
I cannot define proofreading in finite terms – neither, it seems, can anyone else. I’ll stick my neck out and say “proofreading” is your garden variety punctuation, typos, and spelling. But it’s more than just having a dictionary handy. It’s more than what you think you know.
Adjust your mind set from “writer” to “proofreader.” Forget that you are looking at your baby, your pet, your sweat-stained manuscript. Once you are ready to proofread, it’s a whole ‘nother animal. It’s a project. You are looking for things that are wrong.
Spell check – Do not – DO NOT – depend on your computer’s spell checker.
Read out loud – Read the piece out loud. This will help you hear where there are stops and starts, what’s awkward. Take it a step further – read your MS or short story into a tape recorder, and then listen to it while looking at a printed copy.
Change the font – Seriously. If you have been looking at your MS in Times New Roman for a long time, change it to Palatino Linotype. It will look completely different.
Print it – Sounds silly, but it works. You’ve been looking at your project on the screen for a year or two – you need a new perspective – you need to see it on paper. Red pen at the ready!
Dictionary and Style Guides – Use the dictionary and style guides like The Associated Press Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style, and desk references for grammar and punctuation –
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus, Diane Hacker’s Rules for Writers, or the Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.
First Reader – Do ask someone to look at your MS with a critical eye. If they come back to you and say they loved it, they are not critical enough.
Mom or BFF – Don’t ask mom or the BFF to proofread – unless mom was a proofreader for Merriam-Webster (my mom was!). Your peeps will probably tell you, “It’s wonderful!” or “Fabulous!” Not that you shouldn’t trust them, but you shouldn’t trust them with proofreading your manuscript.
Sounds like – Look at words like there and their, you’re and your, and its and it’s. If you know you have trouble with a certain word(s), search for that word throughout your manuscript. Labor-intensive – yes. But it works. Also check for words like wet and whet, rain, reign, and rein.
Take a break – Put the manuscript aside for a few weeks or a month or two. Then go back to it with fresh eyes.
Karen S. Elliott was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen is an editor and proofreader, blogger, and writer. Her short stories have been featured in The Rose & Thorn Journal, Every Child is Entitled to Innocence anthology, Valley Living Magazine, BewilderingStories.com, and WritingRaw.com. Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
*Photos from this Proofreading Two-Pack are courtesy of Gwen Dubeau. Please stop by and see some of her fabulous work at Gwen Dubeau.