Obviously anything we put out to the world has to be properly edited, but which is the best way to ensure that your work is the best it can be?
My twitter feed normally contains a message or two from professional proof readers – now at this point in my writing career, I cannot afford a professional service (and considering that the majority of my current published work is strictly for charity, it sort of defeats the point a little). I am interested in what qualifications/experiences these people actual have. If you are an editor/proof reader please add a comment so that people can understand how you came to be offering your services – I mean can anyone become a proof reader? (That isn’t a disrespectful comment, just an honest question!)
My work is currently edited by a couple of fellow writers who are happy to offer their opinion. Having spoken to a number of authors, the use of beta readers appears to be a popular avenue to use when trying to edit your work and it not cost you. But I would offer a warning here, my first submission to a publisher was proof read by an english teacher friend of mine. She helpfully pointed out grammar mistakes (all very helpful and not something to expect the spell check to rectify!) and suggested alternative words to give the piece more emphasis, but my submission was rejected. Thankfully the publisher included a list of points and the story was rectified and resubmitted (and accepted!). The point being using people who also write gives you access to knowledge that a non writer perhaps doesn’t have. Obviously these people will want you to return the favour at some point, which brings me onto my final point.
As the publication date for the Short Story groups latest collection (this time the stories all have a romance theme) looms – I am finding myself involved in the editing of other people’s work. I have found this an invaluable experience. Once I have made a good stab at ironing out the obvious mistakes (names changing half way through a scene or the colour of a dress changing etc – which are all things I have seen in publications from ‘proper’ publishers with paid proof readers – so it is easy to miss) I drill deeper into the text and give it a real critical read. This has made a massive difference to my own writing as I am almost constantly asking myself – is this likely? One imprinted example was with a fellow writers story where they said the main character held up his left hand and the other character (who was several metres away) could clearly see the indentation left by a wedding ring long since removed – I removed mine and couldn’t tell it had been there with my hand several centimetres from my face when it had been removed seconds before.
Sometimes we are so proud of our writing, we become blind to the mistakes. I would recommend that you build up a bank of critical readers – family always say nice things in my experience – who can offer you critical advice, but are also happy to let you analyse their words. Providing its done in a supportive manner, both parties benefit and it won’t cost you – or at least it will help make your professional proof reading experience a little more pleasant.
Now before my comments box fills with complaints from proof readers – I am not saying these services are unnecessary, but suggesting methods to help improve the initial product you receive. Editing short stories is one thing, but whole novels needs someone with the time to give them the care and attention they need (can I stop digging now?)
PS – all mistakes in this blog are deliberate (yeah right!)