You may not know it, but you’re too close…

“Look!” said Edward, pointing through the grimy veranda window at the distant hills. “The sun is shining again.”
The End

Example_of_copyedited_manuscript (2)That’s it! You have finished your magnum opus, pushed your chair back in smug satisfaction and, hands interlocked behind your head, closed your eyes and sighed contentedly.

Congratulations!

However, whatever you’re writing, however many words have emanated from your fingertips, you’re not finished yet!

Look, I’m sure you’ve read and reread it countless times. I’ll bet that you’ve rectified many grammatical errors and revamped a number of weaker passages. That’s great! But I can also guarantee that, no matter how many times you’ve checked it, your masterpiece still contains errors, inconsistencies and continuity issues.

Please don’t be annoyed by what I say. It is not an attack on your ability, but a simple matter of fact. Why? Because you’re not an editor or proof reader – you’re a writer!

In the same way that an actor is only the face of the film, needing directors, producers, foley artists, grips, best boys and so much more to achieve their ‘effortless’ portrayal, a writer needs to have their work professionally proof read. Our job is to write, to get the narrative down, to give the characters the colour and interest and to join the dots between the plot points. It is the job of proof readers and editors to make the necessary adjustments and to give it that final polish. That is their job, their expertise, and part of the reason why a publishing house takes a handsome percentage. This is especially true for self publishers. If you are the only one who has read your work, no matter how much you have checked it, you will be wasting time, effort and money by publishing it without investing in someone to proof it.

Initially, you can let people you trust have a copy of your work. Let them read, critique and aid you in the process. Just be sure to use friends and family whom you trust, and not sycophants who will just tell you how wonderful you are. Now is not the time for high praise and ego boosting. Leave that for your book signings.

Of course, you cannot hand in a pile of rubbish to your copy editor. Unedited, uncoordinated, unreadable waffle will simply be discarded – and you usually get just one shot at this. You are expected to have a slightly more than rudimentary understanding of grammar, style and spelling – these are your tools after all – but many established writers hand in their manuscripts knowing that there will probably be a handful inconsistencies and errors. As long as your work is not riddled with problems, you should be fine.

Even if you are an editor or proof reader – you’re too close to your own work. Because you understand the meaning of certain phrases or interactions and because you have read the passages countless times, you become blind to the words and, without even realising, can end up skimming things that you fully intended to analyse in detail. Even this post will probably contain elements I should change. I have skimmed through it three times, but feel free to share them below. 🙂

Don’t be annoyed when people point out these errors. Thank them instead. You’re a writer and, by pointing out your errors, they are helping you to improve your skills.

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