Today my guest is Lourdes Venard. Take it away Lourdes.
A Facebook posting the other day made me chuckle: “I do my best proofreading right after I hit send.” Funny—and true. How many of us have hit that send button on an email only to realize that we misspelled something, or forgot to send an attachment, or otherwise goofed up?
Now imagine that happening to a book. I had uploaded my book to Amazon, after it was proofread by five people and looked at by dozens of others. I had read it countless times (I’m an editor with 29 years of experience working in newspapers and freelance editing other books). Literally minutes after hitting the button for it to go live, I noticed a major error: the preface had the book’s title wrong! I had changed the title midway through writing my book, but I had never changed it in the preface.
Typos and mistakes are only human. Studies have shown our minds naturally read over missing words in a sentence. And using the wrong word (“too” instead of “to”) can also go unnoticed by the eye. I know because the too/to mistake almost got into my final book.
As an editor, I know there are larger issues, of course: bad grammar, large plot holes, and stiff dialogue. Those big-picture issues are important, but I want to give you three tips for avoiding the smaller errors, which can also be embarrassing.
Here are three ways that professional editors catch errors. You can do the same.
- Most editors keep a style sheet with each book they edit. At the minimum, this includes character names and place names, as well as any other words that an author wants spelled a certain way (perhaps the author wants to use “grey” instead of “gray,” for example). You can also make your own list of names, and add these to Word’s spell check dictionary (see instructions at http://office.microsoft.com/en-001/word-help/add-words-to-your-spell-check-dictionary-HA010354289.aspx). This way, when you run spell check, a name that has been misspelled or changed—not an uncommon occurrence—will come up, but not the correct names.
- Read your manuscript out loud. Just the act of slowing down and reading word for word will help you catch missing words, repeated words, homophones (to/too/two), and clunky or awkward language. It also helps with dialogue.
- Take a look at your dialogue beats. Almost all writers have a phrase they really like to use, and often it is found in dialogue beats. For example, one writer liked to use “He stared at her” or “she stared at him” or some combination of that before or after dialogue. Readers do notice repeated phrases, so go through your manuscript and highlight the repetitions.
The best way to avoid errors, of course, is to have others look at your work. And the more eyes, the better!
BIO: Lourdes Venard is a freelance editor for fiction and nonfiction. Her recently released book, “Publishing for Beginners: What First-Time Authors Need to Know,” is available on Amazon.com. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, and is the editor of the Guppy chapter’s newsletter, First Draft.
You can purchase Lourdes’s book at AMAZON
And find out more about Lourdes’ at her WEBSITE