So here we are. The first real post on Help! I Suck at Writing! And this is one of my personal favourite topics.
Proofreading & Editing.
There is definitely a time to turn your inner editor off and just let the words flow out. And while I seem to be quite literally incapable of such a wonderful release, it is necessary. It gets your creative juices flowing and your ideas on paper. And let’s all face it, a first draft isn’t going to be Dickens quality work. It’s not supposed to be.
Which is why you don’t publish your first draft, even on writing community websites. You read over it, feel like a dyslexic first grader, realise that you spelt the word ‘guess’ wrong in three places, wonder why on earth you used the word ‘guess’ three times in the first place, and then you change pretty much everything about your first draft. It’s a time honoured process. A time honoured process which, apparently, many unpublished (and maybe some published?) writers have collectively decided to skip. The real problem here isn’t even that it makes the author look really unprofessional and careless. The problem is that it pretty much drops a bajillion pound anchor off the side of the readers’ focus boat. Seriously. It brutally murders the flow of the story and the readers’ concentration on the actual plot line.
I personally have gotten some really great advice in this area, so I thought I’d share it with you.
- When going over my own work, I’ve noticed that I’m roughly 100% more likely to notice a spelling/grammar mistake if I read my work out loud. I’m not sure why this is, and maybe it doesn’t work for some people, but I think it’s definitely worth a shot.
- Spell check only goes so far. You can depend on them to catch really blatant errors, but much like my iPhone’s autocorrect, it doesn’t always know what you’re trying to say. So even if you’ve got your spell check’s sensitivity on high (can you change that?), it’s still really, really, REALLY important to read through and proof it yourself.
- Don’t try to proof everything at once. Trying to check spelling, grammar, verb tense, extra spaces, the list goes on, all at once is really overwhelming. Read through it once and try to only focus on making sure everything’s spelt right. Then read through a second time for grammar. Then read through for verb tense errors. You get the point.
- Keep yourself refreshed on grammar rules. I know it’s boring, but it’s really important for producing quality work.
So, let’s collaborate here. What proofreading/editing advice would you add to this list?