The Many Layers of Proof Reading – A personal experience

I have learnt so much since my early years of writing a decade ago and something I’ve discovered quite by chance is that proof reading has many layers:

The writing in progress – layer of proof reading

At the end of every writing session I have tried to get into the habit of printing out a copy of the day’s writing. I leave this aside until my next ‘writing’ time and then I sit down and read it aloud. At first my husband thought I was forever talking to people on the phone and joked as to how little writing I must be achieving. As my characters took on voices of their own I can imagine it sounded just as if I was talking to someone. Most of the time I try to do this when he’s out, so that I can stretch out on the sofa in the lounge, but otherwise I have a small couch in the office and I close the office door. In this way I get rid of many glitches as I go along and it also settles me into a rhythm, ready to write again the following session.

The specialist chapters – layer of proof reading

With the nature of my current project I have the support of many experts in their own wide ranging fields from fishing to The Hampshire Regiment. As I prepare a section to be sent to be scrutinised I read it several times before I’m fully satisfied, often leaving it several days and rechecking before putting it  in the post or clicking the ‘send’ button.

The feedback can lead to mainly minor but occasionally major changes and then I need to scan the chapters once more.

The overview – layer of proof reading

I have to put my hand up here and admit the error of my ways. In my ignorance, and also because I was rarely free for a long enough period of time, I did not proof read ‘Riduna’ from cover to cover over a short period of time, before I had a request to send the full manuscript off to Pegasus Elliot Mc Kenzie. I can only thank them for their patience at that stage of the project, as they guided me though a proof reading process which sorted out any discrepancies in the story, as well as any errors I’d missed along the way.

This time I have carried out an overview proof read long before the novel is ready to be sent off.

The writing Buddy – layer of proof reading

How does your story read to someone else? Have you painted a picture of your characters or made the most of a dramatic, moving or humorous chapter? I get together with my writing partner about once every three weeks. We put the world to rights before talking about our writing, passing sections over for each other to read in the mean time. I find feedback of this nature as I am writing vital. It is wonderful to be spurred on by positive encouragement, but it is also excellent to discuss sections that do not scan so well or scenes which have not been set as effectively. A writing group would be equally beneficial and supportive in a similar way.

It’s all in the detail – layer of proof reading

Now, this is the layer that can be time consuming. I’ve heard it recommended that you do this by reading the sentences backwards, but that doesn’t work for me. There is also the common comment that an author reads what she/ he wants to read and not always what’s actually in print.  That’s certainly true. (I’ve found mistakes the following day on my blog when I’m sure that I have proof read it carefully before and after publishing) As you scrutinise the writing for errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, repeated words and phrases, you mustn’t forget inconsistencies of formatting too, like an extra space or unnecessary line space.

It’s been said many times before, but it’s worth repeating that getting a friend whose knowledge of English you trust to check it at this stage is an excellent idea. Mind you, this is a totally different favour to ask than the friend who gives you piecemeal feedback on the content of the novel.

Well –so there you have it. Do any of you know of any other layers I’ve missed?

And remember the old adage – The mistakes are all mine and mine alone!

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Filed under Proof Reading, Research, Writing, Writing a novel

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