I’ve never been one for patience, so as soon as the manuscript for Speak for the Dead was drafted, I wanted to get it ready for submission. But, I have my pride & there was no way I was going to send something as poorly edited as Fifty Shades of Grey to be published.
Reading the First Way
The first step was, simply enough, to read what I’d written. This comes with it’s own problems, namely that, as an author, I am far too “close” to my own work & it can be difficult to see certain flaws. I know that I have a bad habit of skimming when I read, even when I think I’m trying to read closely, & my brain just skips over minor errors as if they weren’t even there. To combat this, I’ve been putting the manuscript through a spell checker every single time I make an edit. Probably excessive, but the readers <strong?are going to find every spelling and grammatical error I make, so the more I can catch now, the better.
Reading the Second Way
Technically, this doesn’t actually constitute reading, but it is very effective &, if your system offers the feature, I highly recommend letting your computer read your novel to you. I use yWriter (see the sidebar for links), & there is a text-to-speech function, so I had Vaguely Asian Lady Robot read to me. Despite the unusual inflections, the text-to-speech is able to interpret unfamiliar words (her pronunciation of Razakiel from my WIP Broken Wings is almost spot-on), so even if the emotional feel isn’t there, you can still get a solid feel of what your writing might sound like to a stranger.
The best part of this feature, depending on how closely you’re listening, is that it can be very obvious where a verb has been conjugated poorly, or you have accidentally [left] a word out. Interrupting the flow of what we expect to hear is harder for the brain to “fix” than what we expect to read, these kinds of instances stick out like a sore thumb.
Reading the Third Way
This is the most expensive, but the most critical to your work: printing out the manuscript & reading it “for real”. Studies suggest that reading comprehension improves when presented with a physical piece of paper over reading words on a computer screen &, if your book is going into print, this is the format you’ll expect your readers to use.
I’ve always been told that people read “better” when reading from paper, but I don’t know how recently that sort of thing has been studied. Already I’m one of a shrinking minority of those who prefer physical books. most people I speak to nowadays prefer eBooks, or even refuse to purchase physical books.
As more and more kids grow up with tablet computers in their hands, computers integrated into their learning from even before school age, will this edict still hold true?
Whether paper-reading is better or not, I’m a member of an old guard for whom the pen-in-hand instinct is proving to be almost unbreakable. Over the last few days I sat down with a print-out of my manuscript, pen at the ready, making my “final” mark-up.
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I feel as though I have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make sure than my novella has been proofed to the best of my ability. I have reached the limit of the editing I can do as one person. I’m still – impatiently – waiting for my reader to give me feedback so I can push through to the submission stage. Though, if I could afford it, I would be paying for a professional editor to give it a look-over.
Still, with many of the design, layout, & front/end matter components already done, I feel like I’m getting pretty close now. I’m excited (still).