Tag Archives: revising

Thoughts on Writing – Proofreading as a Reader

If you read my previous post, you know that I recently got in my paperback proof copy of Magic’s Stealing in the mail. My main goal was to make sure the formatting was correct, so I debated whether or not to correct typos, and then order a new proof (the answer is now ‘yes’), or to leave it be and not risk messing up the formatting.

But my concern was that trying to save money by not ordering a second proof would cost sales in the long run. (Read this BookBaby blog post for more about saving now costing more in the long run… though my main take from this was not to order a bunch of books before you’ve had someone else look at it).

Having found a couple of particularly stubborn errors in the paperback copy, I’ve decided that fixing those typos now, and then ordering a new copy, would be my best bet. That way I can put my best work forward (I’ll update the ebook versions once this is finalized) before purchasing a large number of books to hand-sell or giveaway. By ordering a new proof once I make the changes, I can also make sure I didn’t mess up the formatting.

The question is, what types of changes should I make?

There are two sorts of “errors” I’ve caught thus far: typos (for example, ones’ self instead of oneself, or “That’s the only string magic visible to a ribbon mages…” plural vs singular issue), and style choices (for example, whether or not to combine two paragraphs instead of leaving them separate).

For the most part, style issues will remain the same. Grammatically, they are correct, and that’s just me being picky. (Read this Fiction University blog post for ideas about when to stop revising).

However, typos will be corrected (the ones I find, anyway).

But why is it that, when we read our work with a fine-tooth proofer’s eye, we still miss things?

Why is it that even traditionally published books, with a lot of backing to their names, still have typos, when they have the funding to hire professional editors?

Part of the problem is that we know our work, so we know what it should say.

Even when reading aloud, or printing off a manuscript and scrutinizing it sentence-by-sentence, we’re going to miss some of these typos. We automatically correct them. Even proofers and editors will occasionally lapse and miss something, especially if they’ve been looking at the manuscript for a while (one editor I know said they limit the number of words they’ll read in a manuscript per day in order to avoid this problem).

Inevitably, however, we get our books printed, read through them later, and there it is… a giant, glaring typo.

Why do we see them now?

Well, one factor is time. With more distance from our work, we’re more likely to forget what we intended, so it’s “new” again. (This is why you see all those suggestions about waiting a few weeks or months between major edits).

Another factor is that you may have made an edit in the previous version of the book to correct a different typo, but in doing so, you accidentally hit a backspace key or inserted an extra letter, or you didn’t read the sentence fully after making adjustments. Whatever the problem, the previous edit created a new typo, which then was not proofed.

The final factor that I’ve been considering is perspective.

I went in trying to read the paperback proof of Magic’s Stealing as a reader–that is, I had no intentions of making edits. I wanted to try to enjoy the book as a reader, only noting typos if I saw them. I mean, that’s part of the reason we want to write, isn’t it? So that we can one day enjoy the fruits of our labor and read the book like a reader would? (Or maybe that’s just me).

Point is, when you read your manuscript in a format that is  the final format, and you read it as a reader, with no intention to edit, you’re likely to catch new typos. Your eye lingers just a bit longer on that odd word, because something threw you out of the story, which you were enjoying for story’s sake.

But that’s just a theory. A I’ve-been-watching-too-much-Game Theorists-theory (If you want to see video and computer game plots picked apart, this is a pretty good Youtube series. So is Film Theorists, but for movies and TV shows.)

Now, I’ve got to get back to editing The Multiverse Chronicles and proofreading Magic’s Stealing for typos.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. 🙂 Have you found any tricks for catching typos before you release your stories or send them to an agent?

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Thoughts On Writing – The Revision Process

I recently finished the major revisions on Magic’s Stealing, and though I’m still in the process of making a few tweaks (trying to give the end just a bit more ‘oomph’ and trying to make sure that the antagonist has a clear motive while maintaining her mysterious persona) I thought I’d spend today’s blog post talking about my revision process.

First off, the difference between editing and revising. Honestly, I confuse the two and tend to use the terms interchangeably. But for the purpose of this post, I wanted to make sure I was talking about the right thing. So I did a quick web search, and this is what I found:

Editing is when you focus on a manuscript’s grammatical conventions. You’re looking for typos, words that like to get flip-flopped (my offenders were rein/reign and lose/loose), and grammatical issues. The story looks better when you edit.

Revising is when you focus on the big picture. You’re checking that the reader understands what you mean, that the story is clear, and the plot makes sense. The story sounds better when you revise.

Sometimes the two might clash, depending on whether you’re going for how something sounds, or how something looks. I’m fairly certain I drove one of my beta readers up the wall for my tendency to have ‘ , then ‘ in the middle of a sentence. For example: The owl sighed, best an owl could, then tapped the window with his beak. To be grammatically correct, the sentence should read: The owl sighed, best an owl could, and then tapped the window with his beak.

To be fair, I was doing this quite a bit, and I did go through and fix a number of those issues. However, as I was revising, I chose to keep certain instances because I liked how the sentence sounded, especially when compared to other sentences in the paragraph.

Here’s a breakdown of my revision process:

Step 1: Write rough draft. I don’t usually do much editing/revising at this stage. I just want to see the story completed.

Step 2: Examine rough draft. Tighten the writing, cut/add scenes as needed, now that I know how the story flows, and look for loose ends. Mostly revision.

Step 3: Polish the draft. Repeat Step 2 as necessary until I can’t find anything left to polish. I both edit and revise at this point. In some cases, this only takes one or two passes. In others… many, many more. (I really don’t want to think about how many times I’ve read through Distant Horizon. I feel like it’s fairly polished now, but it took several years to figure out this whole writing thing).

Step 4: Send polished draft to beta readers. Step away from manuscript and work on something else while waiting for a response.

Step 5: Ask beta readers questions. Once I have responses from my beta readers, I look through their comments and ask them questions to clarify anything I don’t understand. If one beta reader brings up a question that I think I should ask others, I send them those questions. For Magic’s Stealing, I did this in regards to what age they saw the characters as, as well as the readers’ theories regarding the antagonist. By doing this, I got a broader understanding of problems in the manuscript.

Step 6: Examine beta comments as a whole. Since it has been a while since I last looked at the manuscript, I read through all the comments to jog my memory.

Step 7: Apply critique to one chunk of the manuscript at a time. I examine what all the beta readers said about a particular section (in case there were conflicting opinions), and then applied the appropriate changes as necessary.

Step 8: Read the manuscript aloud. Once a couple sections were completed, I read the revised sections aloud, looking for any areas where I tripped over myself. Since I’m hoping to eventually do an audio edition of Magic’s Stealing, this is especially important. But even if you don’t plan to do an audiobook, reading aloud can help you catch errors or plot holes you wouldn’t catch if you are simply scanning the page. Plus, it’s kind of fun. (My Speech and Debate background likes to kick in here).

Step 9: Make any final adjustments that you know need to be made. For example, I know that the ending of Magic’s Stealing needs a little bit more ‘oomph,’ possibly in the form of one final confrontation with the antagonist. So I’ve been re-examining the rest of the manuscript to see if there are any loose strings there that I can use in that confrontation.

Step 10: Divide story into chapters. If you haven’t done this already, now’s the time to do it. Unfortunately, this is the part I don’t really like. Do I stick with a specific word count? Do I end at a really dramatic scene and have some really long or really short chapters? Should I cut before or after the antagonist view point? Eh… I much prefer revising.

Step 11: Read the full manuscript. If the story is truly polished, you’re only going to be making small changes or adjusting a word here or there. Nit-picking. If you see a major plot hole or flaw, you may want to go back and do further revisions. Each story is different. Like I said earlier, Distant Horizon went through a lot of revisions, and now when I look at it, I mostly nit-pick.

Step 12: Set the manuscript aside. Hand it over to any remaining proof-readers/beta readers. Read through it again after it’s been out of your thoughts for a little while. If readers say you’re good to go, proceed to the next step.

Step 13: Proceed with querying for trade publication or with self-publishing, depending on your goals. For Magic’s Stealing, I’ll be self-publishing, and I intend to print out the manuscript so I can look through it for typos. For Distant Horizon, I’ll intend to hire an editor before self-publishing, since it has been through so many changes that I’m bound to be missing something. The story is also considerably longer than Magic’s Stealing, and has a lot more room for plot holes (Distant Horizon is almost 100,000 words vs Magic’s Stealing’s 31,000 words).

There you have it: my revision process.

I hope you found this post useful. Have you had any revision techniques you found to be particularly helpful? 🙂

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