Progress on self-publishing!

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So! Yesterday (was it yesterday? Actually, I think it was Friday), I finished my edit/proof read of my novel. That’s right! All five-hundred and something pages checked, double-checked, and tweaked. Surprisingly the new format of the novel made catching things that I’d never noticed before much easier – such as missing speech marks, duplicated words, or words that had clearly hung on despite the rewriting of the sentence. Inevitably, I will have missed one or two things. My three-pronged approach of reading in my head, reading aloud, or getting dictation & speech to read for me can’t have picked up everything. As a result I have sent my final draft off to my proof-readers, and am awaiting their verdict. I shall have to resist the urge to edit again when comments come back – after all this is the start of a story, and there are always so many ways to tell it.

In the meantime I am trying to work my way through the minefield that is writing your own blurb. I should be able to manage it, I’ve written a novel, right? I edited that novel, then after that I did the unthinkable – I trimmed down 120,000 words into a one-page synopsis. That, at the time, seemed impossible – but as it is often shown, the impossible turned out to be possible after all. 200 words or less is a much shorter order to work to, however, and (so far) I’ve found it’s the sort of thing that can only be approached in short bursts.

One draft – a splurge of sentences on the page that make little sense. Break. Another draft, writing an alternative to the above. Research, lots of research – or at least just a little bit – looking at book blurbs in your own library and googling ‘how to write a book blurb’, only to find that there are several ways one can do it. Writing again, with these strict guidelines in mind. Deleting all the above because, surprisingly, the guidelines were actually quite helpful. Break, because what you wrote needs to sink in before you can edit it. But you’re there, you’ve got the tone and the content right. Now it just needs to… pop.

Other than that, my schedule at the moment includes getting other aspects right – in particular things like text for the acknowledgements. As I am destined to a reasonable wait before I can continue with the whole publishing thing (everything is on hold now until the book itself is ready to be uploaded), I will probably return to some of the other points on my to-do list for a while. Scanning my grandfathers’ slides of plants and butterflies is one, illustrating a few projects is another, working on a children’s book is my third (nearly done, I just need a decent ending). Presently I am battling the urge to try restructuring my book completely, just to see if it would be better (or worse). Knowing when to stop tweaking is a good skill, and it’s easier to do when working on a painting or drawing. The result of a drawing is usually completely visible on one page, and is therefore easier to conclude that it is, actually, finished. Perhaps someday I will be able to transfer such understanding to my written work, and the whole process may become a little easier to draw a line under.

10 things I have learned whilst proof reading

  1. Unless you are a professional proof reader, it is inevitable that you will always miss something (but then I wonder, do professional proof readers miss things too?).
  2. It is surprising how one can read a manuscript multiple times, catching double-spaces, incorrectly formatted dashes and dots, missing words, extra words, and yet on the hundredth read discover an entirely overlooked error – in my case missing speech marks at the end of some lines.
  3. Relying on speech & dictation to catch things for you is a very useful method (particularly for spotting typos) – but it is not to be relied upon 100%. Only yesterday my reader Alex decided to add ‘that’ into my sentence. Clearly he thought the sentence was better with an extra demonstrative pronoun.
  4. A formatted manuscript is much easier to spot mistakes in than a non-formatted manuscript. I suppose it’s the increased space between lines, the fewer words per page, or something.
  5. Fewer words per page and a smaller page size means that you’ll have twice as many pages to proof read, yet somehow because of this the whole task seems to go faster (120 pages per day! Woo!).
  6. Knowing when to stop proof reading is a real issue. How many times do you go through it? With each change lies the potential for fresh mistakes. What if you have a blind spot to the difference between her and his? You meant his, but you typed her. You might not see you typed her until your book is already in print.
  7. I suppose the above is why I am asking friends and family to read through my manuscript for me (trusting, of course, in their superior ability to sense typos in a sentence – much like those who sense a formidable, horrible disruption when one digit is off in pi – can you? 3.141592653589793238462643383279
    50288419716939937510582097494459230781640628620899862803482
    534211706798214808651328230664709384460955058223172535940812
    848111745028410270193852110555964462294895492038196442881097
    56659334461284756482337867831652712019091456485).
  8. The fear of releasing one of those books that we’ve all come across – when you’re on page seven, and a word is missing, or wrong, or repeated – is quite possibly irrational, but also very real.
  9. Don’t try to proof read if you’re tired or hungry. Unless you’re in the right frame of mind whilst reading, you will approach the end of the chapter with the feeling you have not done as well as you could have, and then resign yourself to combing through the same pages again later, when you’re feeling a little less useless.
  10. With all the above taken into consideration, a novel can always be amended to fix any overlooked errors. After all, we all know that’s what editions are really for, right?