Look at the following:
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearchr at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what ordr the ltteers in a word are, the only iprmoetnt thing is that frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can still raed it wouthit porbelm. This is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itself but the word as a wlohe.
How did you do reading it? I’ll bet you had no problems it at all. Clear as a bell, right? Did you find the fact you had no trouble reading it fascinating? I know I sure did.
What does this tell you? Well, it’s a statement that says our mind’s eye is very good at tricking us. This is why careful editing distinguishes amateurs from professionals.
You need a keen eye to catch errors when developmental editing, and it can be expensive to pay an editor to clean up the fine details. However, there’s a lot you can do to save editing costs and still send a clean project to attract a New York editor or agent and above all, ensure your readers with the best product (a great story, wonderfully crafted).
On August 14, I’m teaching a class on how to edit your manuscript into a lean, clean and mean project. Here are some tips to get you started and to trick your mind’s eye to find errors:
- Step away from your work.
- How long do you do that? Most experts a few weeks is best. I know—the reality is we don’t always have that kind of time but do try for a few days up to a week.
- Consider using other media.
- Do you proof better on the computer screen or printout? I have a friend who has three stages—she handwrites her chapters, types them out, then prints to revise. That’s too much work for me. I do everything on the computer, but I must admit that on those occasions I’ve printed, it DOES make a difference. Try both methods and see what works best for you.
- Read your work out loud.
- This works; this seriously works. It’s odd to hear yourself read but time and time again when I read something out loud, I find errors. I recommend my authors do this all the time, both to find errors but also to hear their story’s flow and pacing and hear their characters’ “voice”.
- Piecemeal your editing time.
- Don’t try to do it all in one sitting. The more tired your brain is, the more chances are there to skip errors.
- Changing the appearance of your type.
- Change the font, go bigger, increase or decrease line spacing, etc. I’ve had this work as well, especially going bigger. Along with this, I’ll also zoom in so the print is BIG. I’ve found this works to help with the pesky punctuation.
- Other suggestions I’ve heard that works for other authors:
- Take a specific area and work on that before moving to another. For example, they may work on adverbs then work on POV and so on. To me, that means I’d be looking at my book much too often and that would lead to fatigue so that style doesn’t work for me. But it could work for you.
- Read your work backward to see each word separately and out of context. I’ll be honest and say I’ve never tried it. Sounds exhausting. ? But it has worked for others so if nothing else is working, give it a shot.
BIG TIP! Do NOT rely on the software’s spelling or grammar checker! Use it, yes please (you’d be surprised at how many authors don’t use this feature), to catch “obvious” issues but don’t let be your sole source of proofreading. I can’t even count the number of times I either remove or insert a hyphen because the author is “listening” to Word. Word is not the be-all to end-all of grammar, spelling and punctuation.
One of the things I do is provide my authors with what I call a pre-edit checklist. What that does is assist the authors with doing some general work on the manuscript before the editors dive into developmental/story editing. The checklist addresses things like overused words (walked, stood), filler words (up, down, all, that, had), sure cues that one is telling, not showing (felt, knew, heard, saw), and other assorted things that clutter a manuscript.
The tips above are just a start to get you to the point where your mind’s eye isn’t tricked by your lovely words and allows things like form for from to slip by. If you are interested in more tips and tricks, along with the pre-edit checklist, please join me at my workshop, Lean and Clean, beginning this Monday.
Cassiel Knight has worked in the publishing industry as an author and editor for over twenty years. She has taken her love of the industry far and is now the proud owner of Champagne Book Group, an independent small press that has been around since 2004. Champagne Book Group has continued to grow and now boasts authors in all corners of the globe.
In addition to running a successful digital-first publishing company, her passion about the industry, craft and the business of writing, especially within the romance genre, has led to her actively mentoring writers and teaching numerous workshops, both in-person and online for Savvy Authors and several writing groups.
As an author, she writes (when she has time) paranormal romances with “kick-assitude” that blend archeology and mythology. Cassie’s books are available from Samhain Publishing, Kensington/Lyrical Press and Champagne Book Group. Her professional credits also include freelance editing and non-fiction writing.