October 26, 2011

do-it-yourself proofreading

It’s been a while since I’ve actually discussed anything writing related. Reason: I haven’t been doing much writing. I did start writing the sequel to The Clockwork Giant on Friday, but that has officially been put on hold until Monday, at the earliest. For those of you who don’t follow along on Twitter and Google+, my husband and I are doing some major renovations to our house, and if we’re to get it all done in a timely manner, I have to sacrifice my writing time. In fact, I have to go do some drywall right now so that I can paint it this afternoon. …

Now that’s done, I can focus on this blog post.

So, the new novel has about 1300 words, and they may or may not be utter crap. That’s first drafts for you. But, I don’t want to talk about first drafts today. I want to talk about second drafts, third drafts, twelfth drafts, and zomg-worked-on-for-ten-years drafts. I was lucky enough to go through one major revision and several smaller revisions. If I want to be technical, The Clockwork Giant went through half a dozen drafts, but I call the current draft the third draft because it includes me changing material that came about in the major revision that I call the second draft (which was really the fifth draft, but I don’t want to confuse you).

Now that I’m nearing my date of publication (sometime in December; more on that later), I need to check the book for grammar, spelling, and other such errors. I could hire an editor to do this for me, but I don’t have $850 to drop on a proofreader (the cheapest price I could find in a quick Google search, mind you; the most expensive was $5000). Should I need more substantive edits, I could pay anywhere from $1500 to $2500, minimum. And to be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t know what sort of proofreaders/editors to trust. I imagine some of the cheaper options wouldn’t do any more work than running the file through spell check. The credited editors are likely to be more expensive.

The point is, I don’t have the money for an editor. I know the taboo: self-published authors don’t hire editors. Well, now you know why. They’re ridiculously expensive. However, I think I can get by on my own talent, and a little help from the Find feature in MS Word. I did take several writing courses in college, and I was the editor of the literary journal. It’s not like I came into this writing game unprepared.

So when self-editing/proofreading/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, what do I look for? Obviously, I run spell check with grammar and style. That gets most of the mistakes. But spell check doesn’t get everything.

The biggest mistakes I find in my own writing deals with homonyms. I know the right word, the one I meant to type, but sometimes, I write so dang fast that my fingers don’t listen to my brain properly. I’ll write “hear” instead of “here” or “there” instead of “they’re”. My other mistake is writing “that” at the beginning of a clause that requires a “who”. For example: “She’s the girl that won first place in the 400m dash.” The sentence should read: “She’s the girl who won first place in the 400m dash.” I didn’t even realize that I did that until one of my beta-readers pointed it out.

So, if you know you mess things like that up, find a list of homonyms and do a search through your document to make sure you use the proper word and not its similar-sounding evil twin. Common ones for me: alter—altar, bare—bear, threw—through, right—write, site—sight, for—four, foreword—forward, afterward—afterword, one—won, and of course hear—here. There are also plenty of websites and books that will tell you other things to look for when self-editing, and I recommend reading at least one book on the matter.

I think next week, I’ll do another proofread run on The Clockwork Giant, but I’m not going to do it from beginning to end, because then I’ll get caught up in the story. I’m going to print it out, shuffle the pages, and then proofread. The story will read like utter gibberish, leaving me to focus on typos and other such errors. Hopefully, that works out for me, because I definitely don’t have money for a professional proofreader. I do well enough on my own, I think. And my husband does a good job of pointing out typos too.

I leave you with the following questions: Have you ever hired an editor or a proofreader for your work? If you intend to self-publish, will you hire an editor or proofreader?

And for unrelated questions: I’m planning on releasing my book in December. What are the pros and cons of releasing a book during holiday season? Do I have a better chance at sales before or after Christmas? Does it matter? And what about competing titles? The Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare also releases in December. Should I release my similarly titled book The Clockwork Giant the same week or after? I’m afraid if I release it too close to Clare’s, people will accidentally buy it and be mad at me for tricking them, even if that’s not my intent.


  1. I can't edit my stuff for crap. I do all right with the homonyms most of the time, but I tend to phrase things awkwardly. Luckily, my critique partner catches all of that.

    As for the book release: you should do it after if you don't want to steal the other lady's thunder. (I, however, am not above trickery and would secretly hope people would still get confused.)

  2. Have you ever tried any programs to help with editing like AutoCrit or ErrNet? The 10% Solution is a small book on Fictionwise that helps a bit and is cheap. BUT all-in-all you have to shop around and find a good inexpensive editor. Sorry, it's a must. I did and am very happy, but she's also booked until 2013...

  3. My only real worry is the number of typos, and (not against anyone who proofreads) I don't think it's worth the money to hire someone to find something that I can find myself. Yes, it may drive me crazy by the time I reach the end, but if there are one to two typos every chapter, I just have to dig around and fix them. If I had the money? Sure, I'd hire an editor in a heartbeat. But I don't. Maybe on the next book I'll have enough saved up to hire one.

  4. Being dyslexic, I read what I think I have written instead of what I actually wrote so I am crap at proofreading my own writing. If I end up self publishing anything I will either use a specialty software program or hire a copyeditor.

    I would put out your book just after Xmas so all those people who got Kindles for Xmas see it. :-)

  5. Katya, I had the same thought! I figure a lot of people will be getting ereaders and gift cards around Christmas. But really, I think I might do better if the book is out before Christmas, rather than after. Maybe the 20th?

  6. Brooke, perhaps the 20th is too close to Christmas, but I'm not sure. Is there any data out there on book sales, in terms of the best days/months to release?

    I would definitely, definitely get another set of eyes on your manuscript. When you're close to it, you don't catch every mistake, no matter how keen of eye you have. You know what you intend to say, and so your mind just sees what it expects. And I speak from personal experience. I work in the editing field at my day job, and I still goof. In a draft of my latest WIP, my hubby caught a lovely typo: I said "finders" instead of "fingers." Oops.

    If you have critique partners, I'd have them read it over. If not, consider looking for a fellow author to exchange manuscripts with. Then you won't have to pay but you'll still get the proofreading that you need. I don't believe we can go the writing path alone. Somewhere along the way, we need a trusted critique partner or two and a few beta readers. We writers have got to stick together!

  7. Thanks for the comment Janelle :) I'll try to find a beta-reader who has the time to proofread the manuscript, but I don't want to burden anyone!

    Maybe I could release the book the 13th? It's a week after Cassandra Clare's release and two weeks before Christmas...