Why can’t you successfully proofread your own work?
It’s very simple – you read what you expect to see.
When you read other people’s work it’s fresh and new. Any errors seem to leap from the page, as the following examples demonstrate:
“Perdita was so angry she felt like throwing the laptop out of the the attic window.”
“Mark was fifty-five minutes younger that Spencer. An injustice than irritated him no end.”
The errors in the above sentences look so obvious. However, when you’ve been working on your book for months, maybe longer, and you’ve re-worked, revised, edited, tweaked, fallen in and out of love with it more times than you can remember, it’s almost impossible to gain the professional distance that is required to proofread it effectively. This is no reflection on your skills as a writer.
I’d like to share my own (humbling) experience. You see, I’d been telling people for years that it was unwise to proofread their own work, but to be honest I didn’t believe it would be true for me. I’d been proofreading for over a decade, I knew what to look for. So when I co-wrote an erotic romance with a friend a few years ago (that’s another humbling story) and we sent the book to our proofreader, I was confident that she wouldn’t find anything to correct.
Let’s pause, while you chuckle, because you know what’s coming.
When the proof copy was returned to us, I was MORTIFIED.
Yes, it deserves capital letters.
Characters who were as dear to me as my own family had their names spelled inconsistently, missing quote marks made a nonsense of dialogue, and there were typos galore.
Nothing like first-hand experience to teach you (ie me) a lesson!
And now, to make me feel a bit better and to entertain you, I’d like to share a few of my favourite bloopers of recent years (I’ve used artistic licence to ensure that no author can be identified):
“Maddy checked that her trouser suit was free of creases before she walked into the interview room. She shook hands with the CEO and felt the waist band of her skirt tighten alarmingly as she took the seat he offered.”
“A warrior through and through, Mardor fought on, the blood dripping from his severed arm. Around him, his soldiers spilled their blood for the victory that was destined to be theirs. Mardor gripped his sword with both hands and brought it down…”
“Maria shook the last painkiller from the bottle and swallowed the table with a gulp of water.”
“Discretion is the better part of velour.”
“This was the last pubic lecture he’d ever give. His nerves were too bad to ever consider doing anything so embarrassing ever again.”
I hope you enjoyed those bloopers as much as I did.
I’d like to add a practical coda to this post:
If you want to self-publish, but you can’t afford a proofreader I encourage you either to save up or to consider some old-fashioned bartering. For example, swapping proofreads with another author, or offering your website design skills to a proofreader. Or you could try a micro-version of the approach used by an innovative publisher called Booktrope, where you offer a proofreader a share of the income from your book.
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