A gallery-owner’s quest for beauty; a dancer in danger; a new mother struggling to cope with her baby; a sculptor’s search for inspiration; a teenager longing to live in the perfect family; a young boy lost and confused by the rules of life that everyone else seems to understand.
Six stand-alone short stories, spanning five decades. Each capturing a significant moment in the life of a different character.
Separate lives linked in subtle ways.
In What Tim Knows, and other stories, six supporting characters from my novel What Jennifer Knows share a pivotal event in their lives. Jennifer appears in each story, aging gracefully from student to grandmother.
Through the life experiences of Rollo, Cynthia, Sue, Gerald, Blythe and Tim, I explore a variety of themes, including, creativity, relationships, motherhood, marriage, adolescence and childhood.
Gerald wins my prize for the most amusing character in this collection.
He’s an English eccentric, rather self-centred and self-opinionated, and very witty. Even after I’ve finished writing about Gerald, I only need to think of him and he makes me laugh.
The inspiration for Gerald’s story came from numerous excellent writing blogs that give information about what to do, or rather what not to do, if you receive a critical review. Authors may recognise some of the sensible advice that these blogs provide through the advice that Jennifer attempts to give her husband.
When the story opens, Gerald has been a successful sculptor for many years. His confidence is high, but when he comes across a very critical review of his recent output, he fails to cope with it. I’d like to think that anyone who has received a negative review for something they have created, will find some catharsis in Gerald’s raw response.
While the next scene takes Gerald to a dark place, I hope that the resolution to the story will bring a smile to readers’ faces.
Wendy Janes spends her time writing novels and short stories, running her freelance proofreading business and volunteering for The National Autistic Society’s Education Rights Service. Her first solo novel, What Jennifer Knows, was published in 2015, and she has recently released a collection of short stories entitled What Tim Knows, and other stories. You can connect with Wendy online and discover more about her writing via Twitter, her Facebook author page, and Amazon author pages (UK/US).
Links to What Tim Knows, and other stories on Amazon:
A well-researched novel is a joy to read. I love it when an author seamlessly weaves his or her research into a story. An excellent example of this is Susan Louineau’s The Chapel in the Woods. I enjoyed this book so much, I felt compelled to write a review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/576806766
However, too many facts can get in the way. The research overpowers the fiction. I had to stop reading one political thriller because the author wanted to tell me everything he knew about the workings of the British Parliament from its inception to the present day. I was so lost in the detail that I couldn’t locate the beginning of the actual story.
Equally, a lack of research can also get in the way of telling a good story. If the facts are wrong it undermines the fiction.
These facts include things like the spelling and punctuation of the names of well-known companies, products and people. When proofreading novels I regularly have to remove an extraneous apostrophe from a popular coffee chain, and equally regularly add one to a popular burger chain.
I need the internet to do my job efficiently. Without checking online I wouldn’t know how many ff’s and whether it’s ei or ie for Michelle Pfeiffer.
I often wonder what the internet bods who monitor everyone’s online life must think about me. Driven by the proclivities of the fiction I’ve been proofreading in the last few months, I have recently found myself looking up French fashion designers of the 1950s, automatic pistols and yoga positions. I fondly hope they think I’m a well-dressed, dead-eyed assassin, who can balance on one leg for an hour.
As well as confirming spellings of the names of Renaissance artists, towns in Madagascar and the odd rare cheese, I sometimes carry out more extensive fact-checking and research online. Not to the level and expertise of an editor, but when proofreading I double-check dates and historical references if they strike me as incorrect. It gives me great joy to spot an anachronism or two. Allow me a little fun:
Debbie put the phone down and dashed to her diary. Turning to 10 January 1983, she wrote: “First date with G!!!!” Finally, finally, the man of her dreams had asked her out. Admittedly watching Pulp Fiction at the local cinema wouldn’t have been her first choice, she would have preferred a romantic meal at the new Italian restaurant in the high street, but a date was a date. And it was with Gary!
Not the ideal first-date movie, I’ll grant you, but that’s not the biggest problem for our young couple. They should be more concerned that that particular film won’t be out for more than a decade.
Living so close to London, I love proofreading books set in the capital. They give me an excuse to double-check all sorts of snippets about its history and geography. The London Underground is my favourite obsession – the three maps on my dining room walls can attest to that.
This is why I was thrilled when a few years ago, author Larry Brill asked me and my husband (an even bigger London buff than I am) to help him with some research for his satire on modern media, set in 1760s London. He’d written the story, but wanted some advice on the authenticity of the dialogue and the accuracy of the depiction of London geography.
Part of the humour of this story is generated by the juxtaposition of modern phrases alongside authentic eighteenth-century London language. However, the reader needs to feel secure that the author is in control and is using modern idiom on purpose, rather than in error. As soon as a reader starts to wonder whether a particular word would really have been used at that time, the suspension of disbelief is broken.
We looked for words that might jolt the reader out of eighteenth-century London and undermine the whole wonderful conceit. We debated long and hard about the use of words such as “moniker” and “conniption” (nineteenth century) “doozy” and “ginormous” (twentieth century).
As well as spending a lot of his time in London pubs, the lead character also wanders the streets of London. So we spent many a happy hour poring over old maps to check that his walks along Fleet Street and The Strand would indeed take him to his intended destinations.
We also double-checked the dates for the construction of the now-familiar bridges across the Thames. We were surprised to learn that there weren’t many options for walking over the Thames in 1760s London: only London and Westminster Bridges existed at that time. We suggested to the author that he remove or amend references to Blackfriars, which didn’t open to the public until 1769, and Waterloo Bridge, which wasn’t ready until 1817.
I would hesitate to put myself forward as a professional researcher, but it was heaps of fun and I hope we played a tiny part in helping the author ensure that the reader fully enjoys the reading experience.
An untrue “fact” or a historical “blooper”, while delighting the sort of person who loves to spot howlers, can spoil the flow for the majority of readers who want to be entertained as well as educated.
Too many facts, however brilliantly researched, can take a good story and turn it into a textbook, or worse – a dreary showing off of the author’s knowledge. A little learning goes a long way.
The internet and the reference library are the author’s/editor’s/proofreader’s friend. Authors/editors/proofreaders, do you have any websites or books you use when you research that you’d like to share?
Very few of us finish reading a novel and say, “That book was beautifully proofread.” And who would want to? A story should transport us, take us out of our everyday lives, excite or move us in some way. We don’t want the misspelling of a character’s name or a missing full stop to jolt us out of the story. OK, maybe that can be forgiven when we’re being swept along by an entertaining tale, but repeated typos and inconsistencies can undermine our trust in the author’s ability to spin a good yarn.
When I’m proofreading, I’m always thinking about the link between the author’s words and the reader’s mind. I like to believe that I play a tiny part in ensuring that the story travels cleanly from one to the other. I often find myself asking two questions: “What is this author trying to say?” and “Will the reader understand it?” Using these questions as my focus I spend hours choosing when to intervene and when to step away. It often feels like I’m walking a tightrope.
I’d like to demonstrate some elements of this high-wire act, and share with you the types of decisions I make when I’m proofreading fiction. This post inevitably touches on the differences between proofreading and editing, and I’ll say categorically, up-front, no doubt about it, I’m in the troupe that firmly pitches its circus tent in a fuzzy grey area. However, as a general rule, when proofreading I tend to only correct proofreading errors and make suggestions or ask questions about editing issues.
So, let’s get down to details with one example of a descriptive passage and a couple of examples of dialogue.
Dirk has escaped from his kidnappers and the author is describing how he’s now lost in the desert:
The son beat down like a demon, dragging his very soul from his aching limbs. Dirk couldn’t take any more of this dessert. It filled him with a stomach-churning dread. He could be stuck hear for ever in these dessert sands that stretched for ever. The harsh, cruel, unrelenting terrain played tricks on his tired mind and his weak body.
Having corrected “son” to “sun” and “dessert” to “desert” and “hear” to “here”, there really isn’t anything else I should go ahead and amend as a proofreader. I would probably add a note to suggest avoiding the repetition of “for ever”, but however much I might want to cut down on the number of adjectives describing the terrain or think that the word “battered” would work heaps better than “weak”, I have to rein myself in because it’s not my job to put my stamp on an author’s work.
Let’s move forward to the moment Dirk is being helicoptered out from the “harsh, cruel, unrelenting terrain” of the desert. The dialogue runs:
“How long have you been out there?” The medic enquired.
“Dunno,” said Dirk, “L-lost track of t-time,” he coughed.
“Take a sip of this,” the medic offered a bottle of water.
I’d make the following corrections:
Line 1: Change “The medic” to “the medic”.
Line 2: Alter the comma to a full stop after “Dirk”.
Line 3: Amend the comma to a full stop after “this” and “the medic” to “The medic”.
Basically I’m ensuring that speech tags and action tags are punctuated correctly. I have a dilemma deciding what to do with the second line. Strictly speaking “he coughed” is action rather than speech and so the comma after “time” should be a full stop and the “h” of “he” should be amended to upper case. However, the hyphens suggest to me that Dirk is coughing as he’s speaking (probably he’s suffering from all the sand that got down his throat after an undisclosed number of days in the desert), so I’d probably leave this, even though the grammar police are probably beating a path to my door as I type.
Dialogue can be an excellent way to efficiently drive a story forward, but often when a book has been through a few drafts I’ve found some authors have lost track, and included details in both the dialogue and the narrative, which results in unnecessary repetition. We now find Dirk being interviewed by the police after his kidnap ordeal. He’s been asked to provide a description of the kidnapper whose afternoon nap allowed him to escape:
“Tall guy, six-two or six-three maybe, well-built, massive shoulders, like a rugby player, black hair, longish, clean-shaven, broken nose.”
“What about accent? Anything unusual about his voice?” asked the policeman.
“English, probably London. Deep voice,” replied Dirk, remembering how the kidnapper tried to intimidate him with his height, his deep voice and rugby-playing physique, but that he whimpered like a baby in his sleep.
Here I would guess that the author initially put the detail in the speech, then in a later draft decided to do this via Dirk’s memory, but forgot to remove the detail from the description. It’s not a proofreading error, but I’d query whether the repetition was on purpose or not.
Which leads me on to another question I often ask: “Has the author done this on purpose or not?” The most exciting writing breaks the rules, and I need to be alert to the occasions when an author breaks the rules on purpose. A very simple example of this is when an author drops in short phrases rather than full sentences to inject pace and drama. It’s usually pretty clear that the author knows perfectly well how to write a conventional sentence, but has chosen a few choppy phrases to create an effect.
I don’t sit there wielding my red pen correcting novels as if I’m a teacher (although I was a teacher long, long ago), nor is it my job to criticise an author’s work or to show off. I’m fully aware that the author of Dirk’s adventure knows how to spell “sun”, “desert” and “here”. They are typos, not a reflection of the author’s intelligence or ability to write. I don’t approach my job in a judgemental way.
I do need to tune in and judge how formal or informal the author’s style is and in turn respect the author’s voice. So if an author regularly uses the comma splice or doesn’t punctuate “that” and “which” in the way that I was taught at school, as long as the meaning is clear I won’t change the text. And as long as the use of commas works for a sentence I won’t get bogged down in gradable, qualitative, classifying or coordinate adjectives. Essentially, if the author is getting the message across I try my hardest not to interfere.
A little aside, in case you are interested in the comma splice and the punctuation of “that” and “which”. Here’s a basic outline:
The comma splice, also known as the run-on sentence, occurs when you use a comma to join two unrelated main clauses. For example, “I enjoy proofreading novels, I spend all day playing with words.” Strictly speaking the comma should be replaced by a semicolon or colon, or the two clauses linked by a conjunction. I have to admit to a guilty fondness for the rhythm of comma splices.
“That” is used without a preceding comma to introduce text that is integral to the sentence, whereas “which” is preceded by a comma when the text is not integral to the sentence, which makes sense really.
If you’re interested in reading more about those gradable, qualitative, classifying and coordinate adjectives I suggest you set aside an hour, pour yourself a strong cup of tea or a stiff drink and read section 4.3.4 of TheOxford Style Manual (UK) and 6.33 of TheChicago Manual of Style (US).
There are rules, and many of them are there to help the author’s words convey his or her intended meaning, but equally many of those rules are made to be broken if the author knows what he or she is doing. A huge part of my job is to judge when to impose those rules and when to keep shtum.
Having raised my head above the parapet with this post, I’m now going to wrap myself in my invisibility cloak and return to working on other people’s words.
I want to thank Ms. Janes for giving us an inside look into the world of a proofreader. I must say I like her method, and the length of times she takes. Give me a person that says they will turn around a book in a couple or three days, and I will give you someone I worry about.~Ronovan
You’re considering sending the manuscript of your novel to a proofreader.
Her website is error free – that’s a good start.
She has a number of testimonials – so that’s reassuring.
You agree rates and dates, and she confirms it will take her ten to fourteen working days to return your book. You picture that happy day when, hey presto, typos will have been eliminated, inconsistencies expunged. Although you have confidence in her skills, what you’d really like to ask is: “What do you actually do with my book during those fourteen days?” You don’t want to sound like you don’t trust her, but…
So, this is a post for anyone who has ever wanted to know what a proofreader actually does with a manuscript but was afraid to ask. Of course this is only how I work, but from chatting with colleagues we all do pretty much the same, with a few slightly different incantations and flicks of the wand.
Welcome to my dining room where the magic takes place.
Day 1: As soon as an author sends me the Word document, I open the attachment on my PC to ensure that it is the author’s novel and not the email intended for Great Aunt Pam. I download and save that copy, and confirm receipt with the author.
Onscreen I look for formatting issues. I turn on “backward P” for this. Better known as the paragraph mark icon in the home menu, it allows you to view the invisible parts of a document. I look for things such as:
chapters set at the start of a page using carriage returns
unusual fonts/mix of fonts
mix of straight and curly (smart) quotes
double spaces after punctuation and between words
extra space before new paragraphs
incorrect/inconsistent use of hyphens, en and em dashes.
Over a cup of tea (and maybe a few biscuits), I email the author to clarify what I’m going to do (if anything) with these issues. I also encourage the author to allow me to make these particular changes with Word’s track changes facility turned off, otherwise the manuscript will be littered with red-lining and it will be very difficult for the author to see the detailed proofreading corrections.
So the first amendments I usually make are to simply delete multiple carriage returns and insert page breaks at the start of chapters, and alter the document to a single font (unless the story requires multiple fonts). The other agreed changes will be carried out later. I save this version of the original document with the novel’s title followed by the words “print version”.
Printing can take ages, so I usually do a bit of knitting or a crossword to keep me occupied or catch up with the Twittersphere or Facebook-land while my trusty printer does its stuff.
Day 2 to Day 4: Now the real fun starts. I proofread the printed manuscript while seated at the dining-room table, marking up any obvious errors using proofreading symbols in red pen, circling in pencil any words that may be wrong or inconsistent, and noting in pencil any factual errors or queries. I also write a list of characters as I come across them. We don’t want Edwin starting off as Elmira’s brother-in-law and ending up as her uncle – unless there have been some family shenanigans, of course. I try not to stop and research or double-check anything during this proofread because I’m aiming to pick up obvious errors and to get a good feel for the book. This results in a manuscript that is littered with my pencil scribbles.
Day 5 to Day 10: I like to let a novel rest for a day or two, and then I proofread the same hard copy again. I usually pick up a few more errors (yes, I will have missed some on the first reading) and work through my extensive pencil scribbles. I check spelling and hyphenation of words, grammar and style issues against one or more of the following reference books: the ConciseOxford English Dictionary, The Oxford Manual of Style (UK) (which, I confess, I need to update to the New Oxford Style Manual) and TheChicago Manual of Style (US). While I rely on my eyes – and a good pair of prescription lenses – to find inconsistencies, I also carry out double-checks and various searches using Word’s “find and replace” facility as back-up as well.
I write up a document with additional notes for the author. This consists of spelling, grammar and style points, including items such as:
a list of words I’ve amended for consistency
setting of numbers (eg, all numbers up to ten in words, numerals 11 onwards)
setting of correspondence (eg, indented) and emails (eg, in quote marks).
During this proofread I spend a lot of time dithering, trying to decide whether to intervene or not (a subject for another blog post, I think). At this point I also do my research and fact-checking (ah, another blog post beckons). This involves a lot of traipsing back and forth between dining-room table and PC – my exercise for the day.
Day 10 to Day 12: My next step is to transfer all the amendments from the hard copy to the document on my PC with track changes (TC) turned on. Then, I’ll turn track changes off and input the other amendments I agreed earlier with the author, such as:
amending straight to curly (smart) quotes
replacing double spaces with single spaces after punctuation and between words
deleting that pesky extra space before new paragraphs
replacing spaced hyphens with spaced en dashes (UK) or unspaced em dashes (US).
I’ve repeated this list because I think these types of things scream amateur if left in even the most beautiful prose. Again, Word’s “find and replace” facility is useful for some of these operations.
I name this document with the book’s title followed by “TC showing”. I put any specific questions for the author in a series of comment boxes on the document, and other general comments are added to my additional notes.
I generate a copy of the TC showing document, accept the changes, and call this document by the book’s title followed by “TC accepted”.
Day 13 to Day 14: I then compare the TC showing and the TC accepted documents side by side. This ensures that I haven’t introduced any errors with my corrections. I will admit – just between you and me – that I sometimes find a couple of last-minute boo-boos at this point, which I correct with thumping heart and dread fear that I’m not perfect. Any changes I make to the TC showing document means that I must generate another TC accepted document, which I save over the existing TC accepted document.
I send both documents, along with the additional notes, to the author. I like to send a TC accepted document so the author can see the book without all the red-lining. Both documents will display the comment boxes, which the author can deal with and delete one by one.
I encourage my authors to get back in touch with me if anything is unclear or if they have questions about the proofread. I hope this post has answered some of your questions and if it’s raised some more please get in touch via this blog or via the email address on my website.
I want to thank Ms. Janes for giving us an inside look into the world of a proofreader. I must say I like her method, and the length of times she takes. Give me a person that says they will turn around a book in a couple or three days, and I will give you someone I worry about.~Ronovan
I have two Author Interviews this week with one being from Brian D. Anderson of The Godling Chronicles fame and Wendy Anne Darling of Silver Lightning. I see THREE book Reviews coming this week one from Olga on Monday, Colleen on Tuesday and the other from Florence on Wednesday. Jo always comes through on Thursday. Then you will suffer whatever I come up with on Friday.
So Follow us, Bookmark Us, do whatever you need to do in order to come back every day for something new.
I’d like to share my experience of co-writing. Partly because it’s a funny story, and partly because I hope you’ll find it interesting to find out how we did it. It might even encourage you and a friend to have a go yourselves.
A few years ago my friend and I were sitting in her conservatory chatting about whether men or women could write better love letters, and via a little too much sharing, we bemoaned the fact that any books we’d read with good sex scenes had weak stories, or if the story was good, it glossed over the sex. So we decided to write an erotic romance with great characters that people would care about, an intriguing plot, and sex scenes that would excite our avid readers.
Now, bearing in mind neither of us had written a full-length novel before, one of us was a school governor and a grandmother, and the other enjoyed craft fairs and knitting, we didn’t seem likely candidates for writing erotic fiction.
I don’t want to get into the Fifty Shades debate, but I would like to say that we had finished writing our book before we’d heard of that publishing phenomenon.
So how did two middle-aged women from South London set about co-writing their novel?
Initially my writing partner (let’s call her Pandora) went out to buy lots and lots of stationery.
We met once a week to brainstorm characters, and pretty soon we had created four women who became real people to us. Authors need to know their characters inside out, but because we were co-writing we had to share out loud everything that we knew about them. Such as Hazel’s hairstyle, what Sonia ate for breakfast, the first song Paula bought and Jacqui’s worst memory from childhood. Within weeks the four women were joined by five men. We adored drop-dead gorgeous Billy, we also adored the vile Richard, but only because we were astonished that we could create such a creep.
During this time we also bandied around oodles of ideas for plots. Our notebooks were filling up fast, but we’d not written a word of the story yet.
We plotted Chapter One (which of course never made it to the final draft) and separately wrote our own versions of it. The idea was that we’d give each other feedback on what we liked and what we didn’t and somehow magically turn them into one sparkling opening chapter. That didn’t work. Mine was too full of emotion, more like a Mills and Boon romance and Pandora’s was too spare, more like a thriller. This was not looking good, and so far we’d not written a single sex scene.
Plan B. Pandora would write Chapter One and I’d write Chapter Two and we’d edit each other’s chapters. Plan B wasn’t wholly successful either. While we both agreed that we could write a darn erotic sex scene, I have to admit I took Pandora’s edits a little too personally and things were rather cool between us for a day or two.
Plan C. Pandora was lightning quick at generating ideas, and I was better at taking her ideas and developing them. Same with the writing. So for the next few months we met once a week to plot a chapter together. Then Pandora would take an hour to write the chapter, email it to me and I’d take six hours, often more, to develop it and send it back to her. We agreed there’d be no further revision until we reached the end of this first draft.
Then came the best bit. We read each chapter of Draft 1 out loud and talked through the revisions together. It was amazing how in tune we were with the characters and the plot, often voicing the ideas that were still in the other person’s head. I will gracefully admit that Pandora came up with the best ideas, including the plot twist that had us dancing round her conservatory with glee. What also became apparent at this point was that the four women who at the outset we’d thought were nothing like us, had traits of each of us. Pandora’s vibrancy and love of life shone through in gorgeous Paula. My insecurities were writ large in naïve Sonia!
We then sent the book to friends (male and female) who gave feedback – thank goodness I didn’t crumble in the face of criticism any more – and in the light of that feedback we revised again, and again, and again. By this point we couldn’t remember who had originally written what or whose idea was whose. We were having such fun we could have tinkered with our book for ever, but we also wanted to publish it. Eventually (!) we came up with a title and published our book under a pen name. We were proud of what we’d written, but our children (Pandora’s four and my three) begged us not to use our real names.
The book didn’t take the world by storm as we’d genuinely, honestly (naively) thought it would, but we had a wonderful laughter-filled two years writing it, and we’re still best friends. The whole experience introduced me to the world of self-publishing and helped me find my own writing voice. I reckon that’s a happy ending.
Author Integrity. This week on Lit World Interviews seems to be all about that. Whether you are an Indie or Traditionalist Author there are things we all should be doing. These days there really is only one difference between the two types of Authors and that’s who puts out your books. Some say the Publisher will do a lot more for you so you don’t have to, but that’s not always the case and it costs you.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against signing with a Publisher. I want to sign with one someday. But I do know that to be successful you need to be all in your own business and not simply sit back and let everyone else be all up in it.
I feel each article is linked in that each points to creating something and representing something that is professionally done. Integrity is the word that finally came to mind after reading Jo’s article. Through every draft you write, every proofreading, and every promotional idea you happen to come up with or is created for you, keep integrity in mind.
There are Authors out there that are popular and have great sales numbers. I don’t read them because I don’t trust them and their integrity is non existent in my eyes. That’s right, I look at an author and their product just like I do a person such as an actress. I am asked “Don’t you think she is so hot?” 9 times out of 10 the person they are talking about has the personality of a cross between Bill O’Reilly and Rosie O’Donnell. It doesn’t matter if you have all the physical characteristics of ‘hot’, if your personality is repulsive then you are repulsive as well.
If I look at your books and your promotions and see a lack of professional polish then I begin to think you simply rushed through a writing of it and threw it out there, and you are promoting it with fake gloss to trick people into buying what could have been a great story if you had just had the patience to go through as many drafts, proofreadings, and edits as was necessary to get that best work possible.
Patience and Integrity in the world of the Author go hand in hand. Don’t rush the love of your life out into the world of Amazon or wherever you publish. Let that love mature and grow and go shopping to look its best. This is a coming out party and it only gets one shot at it.
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.
A very good week here for Lit World Interviews. I believe our focus on quality over quantity is showing. Our two feature articles this week by Jo Robinson and Guest Author Wendy Janes struck a chord with our Readers and the feedback has been tremendous. Our Book Review Team continues to be strong as well with Olga Núñez Miret. I personally was thrilled to interview Anne JohnstonBrown.
Here are the articles for the week, if you missed one, go and check it out today.
I have an Author Interview with Dan McNeil of The Judas Apocalypse and Can’t Buy me Love on Monday. I know we have another Feature from Guest Author Wendy Janes coming up Wednesday. And you know we will have something great from Jo Robinson on Thursday.
I love my job as a freelance proofreader, but sometimes authors make it very difficult for me to do my job effectively.
However brilliant your writing, however delicious your story, if there are too many errors and inconsistencies, you are asking too much of your proofreader to spot everything.
Here are a few examples of things that should have been removed by the author/developmental editor/copy editor prior to proofreading. Just in case you’re wondering, they are all products of my fevered imagination:
A tear-jerking family saga opens with Davina playing with her five-year-old brother, Oliver, on the sprawling lawns of their darling papa’s country estate. When our feisty heroine rescues sweet young Oliver from his evil kidnappers two years later, he is ten years old. The hapless Oliver dies in a fire soon after his rescue, and (miraculously) reappears at Davina’s sumptuous wedding to Henrico a decade later.
In the opening scene of a delightful chick lit novella, independent career girl Polly totters off to meet hunky Blake wearing a pair of Jimmy Chew’s. She jumps off a Central Line tube train at Sloane Square. (Tricky in those dubious heels and even more tricky because Sloane Square isn’t on the Central Line.)
In a sci-fi/fantasy, the leader of the Heliopians may well fight with grit and determination throughout the thrilling spat with the Lunopians, but his name changes from Garvord to Gurvord and back again in the space of ten pages.
I have to be honest and say that it gives me great joy to catch these types of errors, but when a novel is littered with them it makes finding the typos, which are the bread and butter of proofreading, all the more difficult. Not only that but if your proofreader is charging you by the hour, you are in effect bumping up the cost.
While it is the proofreader’s role to spot and correct errors and inconsistencies, there are number of things you can do to avoid your manuscript being inundated with them:
Choose whether you’re using US or UK (or insert your choice here) spelling and punctuation. If you’re going for a hybrid, then be clear about your choices.
Punctuate speech correctly.
Check that spelling and hyphenation are consistent.
Use hyphens, en dashes and em dashes correctly, and delete double spaces between words and after punctuation.
Look for over-used words such as “that”, “just” (my own pet over-used word), “only”, “really”, “very” etc. Actually this isn’t something that every proofreader will automatically look for, but eliminating over-used words will improve your writing no end.
If a proofreader has been searching through a whole novel for “ise” endings in order to turn them into “ize” endings, he or she may miss all the unfortunate slips in the following: “Davina realized he loved Henrico wit all here hat.” If a proofreader needs to correct every single comma and full stop in order to punctuate speech correctly, there’s a good chance he or she could skip over that missing open quote at the start of Garvord’s battle cry.
I can’t say this enough, so I’ll repeat myself. However good your proofreader is, he or she won’t be able to pick up every single error if there are too many of them. It’s a bit like looking for a letter on a messy desk. You can’t see it for all the other pieces of paper, chocolate bar wrappers, pens, pencils, coffee cups and cake crumbs. If you sweep away the crumbs, put the cups in the kitchen and the wrappers in the bin, there’s a better chance of finding the letter.
You may be thinking, what on earth is a proofreader left to do if I make all these corrections before I send my manuscript off? The truth is that most mortals, even if they do all of the above, still need to have their book proofread by a professional. My next guest post will be about why it’s so difficult to proofread your own work, and will include some of my favourite bloopers (all made anonymous to spare authors’ blushes).
If I had money to spend as an author what would I do?
First I would make sure I was looking at the right bank account.
Then one thing I would spend money on is a . . .
Book Cover Artist
Sure, I think I could actually make my own book cover. I’m pretty creative, have a good eye. But a really great book cover takes time. That time is time I could be using writing or promoting my books or someone else’s books. I can give a book cover artist my basic idea and they will perform their magic and tweak until everything is just right. Of course I have the book cover artist for you. Even if I had a lot of money, I wouldn’t spend it carelessly. CHRIS GRAHAM has great rates on book covers and I KNOW he works with an author to get the cover just right. Not a stock cover but a one of a kind cover. How do I know this? He’s done covers for our very own Jo Robinson. Check his rates here.Can’t afford a Book Cover artist, even at Chris’ prices, check out Jo’s article on how to create your own book covers here.
Next, I’m a History guy. I used to teach and now I write. History, not English. That means I need help in proofing and editing. There is nothing worse than writing a great book and having it rejected because your grammar, punctuation and all of that just plain out stinks. Yeah, stinks. Give in and accept it. We all need help and I don’t care who you are. Fresh eyes are always better than your own. You will read a paragraph 100 times and read what it is supposed to say. I will read it once and find two words missing that when just annoy a publisher or agent because they expect you to put forth your best and most professional work. So who do I have for you? WENDY JANES, author and everything else I’ve mentioned. She has good rates from others I have heard but not so low you worry. Remember, you get what you pay for and I TRUST Wendy. Click here to get her rates. And she has testimonials here including those from highly reviewed books.
The first two people I know. I’ve interviewed them and they are great people. I trust them. Now here comes someone I haven’t met but hope to soon.
Yes, you need an editor. that person that will tell you like it is. They might make you cry as they point out that your favorite line in the book just doesn’t work and serves no purpose. Yeah, I’ve been there. I interviewed an author recently, read the unedited version of that person’s book and then part of the edited version. We all need editors. Just saying. A great one is the one that edited the book I read. Her name is NORMA BUDDEN. She’s also an author. I think it always helps for an Editor to be an Author as well. They get us. They understand how difficult it is for us. And they want it to be a success just as bad as we do. You can find Norma by clicking here.
Well those are the three things I would spend money on at the moment. Sure there are other things out there as well, but for now these are three things I would want to begin my career on the right foot.
From Cuddle Bug’s review of “Verity” in A Kind of Mad Courage on Amazon.com: The ending of one of my favorite stories, ‘Verity’ by Wendy Janes, about an aging woman in the UK, made me cry from surprise and possibility. I won’t spoil the story but say that the skillful denouement, and the general short story plot included a sort of lovely misdirection (whether intentional or unintentional) which meant I was surprised and truly touching in reading the ending. The prose pacing and ambiance of that story really flowed and gave me a sense of being there.
From Terry Tyler’s review of “Verity” in A Kind of Mad Courage on Amazon.com: …my other joint favourite! So touching, really moving, I loved it.
Joy E’s review of “The Stars They Never Own” in Romantic Heroes on Amazon.co.uk: …my favourite story within the anthology, by far…. The Author managed to draw me into the story so quickly and the twist at the end was absolutely charming. To construct a story like this in so few words is no mean feat and Ms. Janes should be complimented. I hope that she continues to write and look forward to reading more by her in the future.
I met my guest today in some way a time ago. I don’t always remember how I meet people ever since an accident brought about short and long term amnesia. For a History teacher and Author this is a frustrating thing. I tell you this only so you understand that my first meeting with today’s guest was not a case of not being memorable, just a case of me being the current me. A joy of a friend and social media supporter. A very accommodating person. Meet . . .
RW: We’ve known each other for a little while, and for some reason I never think of people being in places, I just think of names, faces, and words, but now it’s time to expose you to the world. Where are you from?
WENDY: I’ve always lived in the south of England. I was born and brought up in the leafy Surrey countryside, and I now live in a less leafy suburb of south London. I love being so close to the vibrancy and history of London.
RW: I swear I am like a British magnet. What is it about Britain and me? Is it the Scot in me? With that in mind what is your favorite beverage?
WENDY: Chilled champagne if I’m celebrating. A cup of Earl Grey if it’s afternoon teatime.
RW: You are fully British so let’s see, tell us who your favorite authors are?
RW: And there you go the British package complete Four from the British Isles. Let’s get into why you are here. First, what is the genre you would say your book falls into and why do you write in that genre?
WENDY: Contemporary women’s fiction. They say “write what you know” – so I do. I love to write about the people we meet every day; to delve into their private lives and reveal the depths below. It never ceases to amaze me how ordinary life is so extraordinary.
RW: You told me there is a conflict within you that you are striving to resolve. You must resolve this or never complete your novel. Why can’t you name your novel?
WENDY: Ah, I wish I could give you give you a straightforward answer to this question. You’ve no idea how many hours I’ve spent trying to summon up the perfect title for my novel. I have two front-runners at present – What Jennifer Knows and Take Two. The first captures the central dilemma of my lead character. The second is more subtle and works at a number of different levels. When readers reach a pivotal scene (my favourite) they’ll “get” the full ramifications of the second title. Oooh, which to go for…?
RW: Perhaps a Take Two: What Jennifer Knows? Tell us a little about your book and what inspired it and perhaps that will give as the reason for such a dilemma.
WENDY: Jennifer unwittingly stumbles across some information that she’d really rather not know: two of her friends who don’t know each other have more than Jennifer in common. She has to decide whether to speak out or not, and as the weeks roll by, things become more complicated, making her situation even more difficult.
A similar experience happened to my parents, but with far less drama involved. Many discussions around the family dinner table about what happened, and what might have occurred if things had panned out differently, led to my father suggesting it would make a good story for me to write. I eagerly took up the challenge. Essentially, my story is an exploration of all the tantalising “what ifs” that didn’t happen in the real-life story.
RW: What do you think will make your main characters connect to readers, which is key to a books success?
WENDY: Jennifer is a dance therapist. Her natural empathy for her students and her friends mean she’s excellent at her job and a trusted friend. It’s her kindness and her genuine wish to do the right thing that (I hope) readers will relate to. She also has a wonderfully eccentric husband, Gerald. Their relationship provides a lot of the comic and heartfelt moments in the book.
RW: Describe your book in one word.
WENDY: English. I hope I’m allowed to explain my choice. The setting, characters and feel of the book is very English – mannered and peppered with self-deprecating humor. It’s set during the 2012 Olympics and touches on the incredible wave of positive feeling that swept the country at that time.
RW: What message do you think your book delivers to the reader?
Jennifer would say: “When life gets complicated, do your best.”
Gerald would say: “When life gets complicated, hang on to your sense of humor.”
I’ve connected to Wendy everywhere now it’s your turn. I can tell you that she is a great social media friend. She has really helped with many of the Tweets and Google+ things I put out. Seeing what she does reminds me of techniques I’ve forgotten. (Remember I am the amnesiac author and poet.)
If you’ve visited before you know I have different types of questions, now we move into more shall I call them different types of questions. (Yes, I tried to come up with something funny but failed.)
RW: What is your escape when writing just is driving you a bit mad?
WENDY: Chocolate. It helps soothe so many of life’s problems.
RW: What is your favorite word?
**I see a pattern here.**
RW: What is your background in writing, what makes you a writer?
WENDY: I’ve spent many years writing journal entries (private) and book reviews (public), so I’d say that’s my background in writing. Then, five years ago I was sitting with my friend in her kitchen and our conversation turned to the lack of good books with well-written sex scenes in them, and on the spur of the moment we decided to write our own. We had a fantastic couple of years developing our characters and our story, and it was a good test of our friendship to negotiate how two very different writers could collaborate. Eventually we self-published Living Lives: Living Lies by Ruth Allen. Alas, the book didn’t take the world by storm as we’d imagined while scribbling away at the dining room table. I’m happy to report that we’re still very good friends, although my days of writing erotic fiction are over. The whole experience introduced me to self-publishing and helped me find my own writing voice. I now write short stories and am working on a novel that I’m planning to self-publish in 2015.
RW: What other books do you have to share with us and can you tell us a little about them?
WENDY: My short story “Verity” features in A Kind of Mad Courage, a selection of stories about motherhood, written to raise money for the Guthy-Jackson Charitable Foundation. Another short story, “The Stars They Never Own” appears in the anthology, Romantic Heroes. Although they are stories about very different people (a retired woman in her seventies and an actor in his thirties), both have their poignant and their funny moments.
**But Wendy isn’t just about her own fiction writing and anthologies, collections or even her own full length novel. There is a more personal work out there with her name on the cover.**
As a family we self-published my grandfather’s memoir in 2014. The One and Sixpenny Englishman tells of my grandfather’s arrival in England as a baby at the turn of the twentieth century, his experience in the First World War, and his eclectic choice of occupations. It’s a little slice of personal history told in words and family photos.
RW: Do you currently have representation? If so who, and if not describe what qualities you would like in an agent and what you would bring to the relationship.
WENDY: No I don’t currently have representation. My agent would need to be patient, honest, supportive, motivated, professional, and creative. And so would I.
RW: What are you working on right now?
WENDY: In addition to What Jennifer Knows/Take Two, I’m also working on a couple of short stories. One of them is a departure from my usual relationship-based drama, and is an absurd comedy. It’s making me laugh. Let’s hope it will make readers laugh too.
RW: What is your biggest tip for someone to getting published?
WENDY: I’m a proofreader, so I have to declare that my biggest tip is: “Get your book edited and proofread, please!”
Here’s a lovely little trailer we made for Living Lives: Living Lies
Wendy Janes, more than an Author. Yes, today was about her upcoming full length novel, but what I personally took away was something else. She’s authentic. Wendy, as I said before helps out with the little things at times with some Social Media retweets, Tweets, Google+ shout outs, and the like. Some do that to make connections in the business. Anyone that writes and works so much to put out a book about their grandfather is, to me at least, the real thing. To be honest if I had .99 to spare the book would be in my Kindle library already. Talking with Wendy outside of this interview I have discovered she only does something that she can give her all to. That’s the kind of Author I want to read. Connect with her everywhere, buy anything she is involved with and as always . . .