One of the biggest things I learned on my Indie trip was that I couldn’t see my own mistakes. I must have proofread my first manuscript dozens and dozens of times, and I was very confident that it was pristine. Then I went on to editing and made some changes to paragraphs, swopped words around, and thought that that was that. I had put many hours into the polishing, and was feeling all warm and fuzzy that I’d done the work well when I hit that publish button. How very, very wrong I was. There were still typos and grammar gremlins in the book after all of that hard graft, primarily in the changes I’d made, and I came down to Earth with a bang in a blaze of shame, realising that that the editing was not at all complete when I thought it was.

I learned that if you write something and proofread it yourself, your brain knows what word is coming next, so it often sees a typo as it should be, even though a typo in another writer’s work will stop you in your tracks, seeing your own isn’t so easy. These days I’m much more careful, and I make sure that eyeballs other than my own go over my stories before they’re published. Typos still can slip through, but luckily with Indie publishing they can be very quickly fixed. There are some tried and tested ways to help yourself when you dive into your first round of proofing.

Firstly, take a break and put the manuscript away for a week or so, or at least a few days if you can’t wait. Do your run of the mill spell check, then choose how you’re going to read it. I generally print it out for the first go around, and mark it up with a gel pen, using a thick ruler under the sentence I’m reading so my eyes can’t be drawn to what comes next. After fixing the errors I’ve found so far I then convert it to a Mobi file using the free Calibre software, and read it through again on my Kindle for PC. I’m always amazed at how many errors I pick up this way. Then after another fix up session I’ll read the word document with the font size increased quite a bit, and then print it out again for another going over. I have heard some writers say that changing the font colour when reading on the computer is jarring enough for them to spot more errors, but I haven’t tried this one out myself yet.

It’s a slow process, and so it should be, as I discovered to my mortification, so now I do the work. For my semi-final going over, I separate the book into chapters and read them in random order. I read a page at a time, and from the bottom up, one sentence at a time. It took me some getting used to, but it really worked for me. I tried reading upside down as one fellow scribbler recommended but that just made me feel a little queasy. Finally I use the Find function in word to search for words I know I always overuse. I check my character’s name spellings the same way, and I then search a couple of commonly mixed up contractions and apostrophes.

Then the manuscript heads off to fresh eyeballs for a brand new going over, and when it comes back I read it again, out loud, before starting on the formatting for publishing. If you can’t afford to pay for a professional proofreader then you could maybe try and swop proofing with another writer. Or maybe exchange it for something else that you’re good at – like cover design if that’s what the other writer prefers, but you definitely need someone other than you to read your book before you publish it. It’s a learning enterprise this Indie journey, and we grow as we go, and help each other along the way. I’ve heard some wonderful things about Grammarly lately. It’s a free online tool that finds so much more than just typos – things like homonyms and other grammar gremlins that hide so well, so I’ll be giving that a try next time round. Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend fellow scribblers.

Grammar Gremlins

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