Monday, July 29, 2013

Another Sense Makes Sense and Saves Cents

I’ve been reading a discussion on an apparent lack of editing in traditionally published books. According to the comments, errors abound in at least some of the works that come out of the big houses. This is disturbing because a lot of us who choose to self-publish look to traditional publishing as a model. On the other hand, it opens a door of opportunity for us to leave our mark on the reading public. Whether we’re going for the hard-copy market or running headlong into the e-book age, we who self-pub can control the quality of our books and build a fan base that appreciates an error-free, great story.

In the past, we’ve discussed the importance of self-editing as the first step on the road to publication. That importance is even more essential now as poor quality books seep into the marketplace from previously revered publishers. Typically, self-editing is accomplished by careful reading and rereading of our manuscripts to find errors. The downside of this method is we know the story so well that we tend to read what we think is there rather than what may actually be on the page (or monitor).

The sense we employ in self-editing and proofing our work is sight, which, of course, is the obvious choice. However, we can at least double our effectiveness by adding another sense—sound. Recording our words, playing them back, and listening carefully provide an effective way to gauge flow and hear areas that need tweaking. An even better option is to have someone else record our words. Why? Another person will avoid the downside noted above by reading exactly what’s on the page because he or she doesn’t know the story. (Be sure to choose a good reader; one who stumbles through the reading will not give you an accurate depiction of the way your work will be perceived by your audience.) While this step may be time-consuming, it’s well worth the effort—even if you have to pay a modest fee for an outside reader to record your book. You will no doubt recoup your investment in the reduction of editing fees, as well as the cost of reprints after errors are discovered in your published book and in the reputation you will earn as an excellent writer.

Have you ever recorded your manuscript—or had someone else record it? Do you use other means to eliminate mistakes and polish your story? How do you react when you read a book that’s filled with errors?


Linda Lane and her editing team work with writers to translate mediocrity into excellence. The best story in the world will succumb to error-filled pages and miss out on the accolades and fans it should have if it is not polished to a high shine. Writing a book is an investment in time, effort, and money. Making it the best it can be only makes good sense. Visit her at www.denvereditor.com.

10 comments :

  1. Something I have found to be very helpful is that once I've finished editing a manuscript, I save the file in PDF format and then activate the read aloud function. I sit in a quiet room with the master file open and listen to the professional reader read back my work. I can then detect any errors, or anything that doesn't read as I intended...I can correct it as I go.

    I'm always amazed at the errors I pick up in what I think is an error free manuscript.

    To activated the read aloud feature...in PDF click on view and scroll down until you reach activate read aloud. It's a really great feature.

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  2. Excellent suggestion, Shirley. This employs the second sense and makes good use of a totally neutral reader. I'm going to try this one myself.

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  3. Deborah Turner HarrisJuly 29, 2013 at 6:27 AM

    Reading text aloud is an excellent exercise when it comes to evaluating your own prose style. I've been advocating it for years - not only for fiction writers, but for students writing critical essays. I tell the latter, "If you find yourself stumbling over your own words when you read them aloud, you need to re-evaluate your grammar and syntax." Using this tactic can work wonders!

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  4. The book I just finished had ten typos (trad published), sometimes using the wrong word, sometimes a string of three words that made no sense. I kept reading because the story was good. Alas, it seems "close enough" is the new standard.

    My mind glosses over errors on the computer screen. So, I always proof a print copy or two.

    I found a program called Natural Reader. You can download the free version or pay for a fancier model with more "voices" to choose from. They all sound mechanical, but the program reads back the manuscript you upload.

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  5. I absolutely hate reading my words aloud, but it is definitely a step worth taking. Clunkers we can't see become obvious when we hear them. I believe it was Harlan Coben who said his last step is to print the manuscript, lock himself into a room, close the curtains, and read it aloud.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

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  6. Debby, you're absolutely right that students benefit from hearing their work read and well as visually proofing it. So do non-fiction writers. The world's acceptance of mediocrity as the norm doesn't exactly paint a rosy picture for the future of written communication in any form.

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  7. "Close enough" hardly qualifies as a standard worth accepting, does it, Diana? I shudder and think my age is showing, although my children are on the same grammatical page and they're obviously younger.

    I plan to check out the Natural Reader program you mentioned. Thank you for sharing.

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  8. I agree about reading aloud, Terry, possibly because I stutter -- which interrupts flow. Perhaps the program mentioned by Diana or the PDF option Shirley suggested will address this issue.

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  9. I haven't recorded my work for editing, but I do read it aloud, and from printed paper, nit the screen. This has the double effect of discovering those errors familiarity would otherwise miss, whilst highlighting any pacing problems. It also makes it easier to spot where a comma, semi-colon, colon or full stop should be placed, as natural pauses whilst reading indicate the weight of the pause needed. Good piece, Linda. And I, in common with many writers, find poorly edited work that is presented to the public an insult to readers. Writers must know the rules. Only then can they break them in a manner that enhances rather than degrades their work.

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  10. "And I...find poorly edited work that is presented to the public an insult to readers."

    Well said, Stuart, and so true. Accountability to our audience, respect for their time, and gratitude for their purchase of our books dictate that we pursue excellence in all our work.

    How true, too, that only knowing the rules and demonstrating that knowledge in our writing gives us license to break them when the situation is right!

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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