Editing your own work

Proofreading and editing your own work is not easy. You read what you know you wrote. I’ve found small typos months later, having read the work over and over again.

But there are a few tricks you can try. Here are some of them:

  1. Keep the spelling and grammar checker on. It’s wrong often enough but it’s a simple matter to overrule it, just (in Word anyway) right click and select Ignore. It flags up spacing errors and occasionally makes suggestions that are an improvement. A word or name it doesn’t know I usually add to the dictionary. If you’re still not sure about its and it’s and all that sort of thing, ask someone who is completely clear about apostrophes, see point 4.
  2. Give it a few days, even weeks, before you go back to it. Get on with writing new chapters instead.
  3. Put it in a different format. I use Calibre to convert the book into Kindle MOBI format and upload it to my Kindle. When the words appear in a different place on the page, in a different font and on a different screen, typos you’ve missed can jump out at you.
  4. Show it to a friend. I’ve read at least two books that clearly hadn’t been shown to anyone before being published. Big mistake. A friend can point out plot inconsistencies, implausibilities and sheer naffness that you wouldn’t have seen yourself, as well as pointing out typos and awkward turns of phrase.
  5. Well this is really 4a. Choose your friend carefully. It’s your heart and soul you’re asking them to criticise. They need to be confident you won’t be upset. Which just means you need to know how well they know you, and vice versa. There are people I can’t take criticism from, and others I’m quite happy to listen to and take it on board. Like my protagonist, my scorn and contempt detector is on a hair trigger. This is where a professional editor you don’t know can be a problem. Like finding a therapist, you don’t know until you’ve already committed yourself, and I’ve had very bad luck with therapists.
  6. well, 4b. If there’s no one in your entire circle of acquaintance that you’re prepared to show it to, then you probably shouldn’t publish it at all.
  7. Live with the odd typo. I found one in a William Gibson novel.

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