Thursday, January 13, 2011

#5 Self-Editing: Do It and Do It Again...

This really isn’t a topic that needs a bunch of explanation. Short and sweet covers it.

Edit yourself.

Read your work. Set it aside. Read and edit again. When you are done that, if you want to go balls to the wall (and you should) read your work out loud. Why, you ask? Because your ear will hear the wrong word used when your eye supplies what it knows you meant. Your brain and your eyes are in cahoots and one will stick up for the other to a fault. Your ears are all rebellious and whatnot.

Your brain will show you, quite often, what you meant to type as opposed to what you wrote.

Case in point:

The other morning I typed an email to the man. I had had about three sips of coffee, there were two children arguing over the size of their bacon and who had more juice and a dog who kept standing between my feet because he thought he might also get some bacon.

This is a typical writing situation for me whether it’s an email or a chapter or a whole damn book. And I bet I’m not the only one! So here is what I meant to type:

We had a power issue last night after you went to bed…

I scanned my email and hit send, happy in my knowledge that I had done a good job explaining.

Two minutes later I got an email that said:

Pour issue?

I reread my message and (sadly) I had actually written:

We had a pour issue last night after you went to bed…

Believe it or not, this happens more often than you think. You mean coffin and you sip your coffee and write coffee. You mean your and type you’re or vice versa. Your brain will often show you what you know you meant. So if you read your work aloud you catch those coffees, yours, and pours. Your eyes might tell you it’s fine but your ears are all: “Say what?”

After you do all that reading, what now? Have someone you trust read it if at all possible. And then when they’re done, you read it again.

That’s really not a hard step in the self publishing effort, but it’s one that’s often skimped on. Trust me, I’ve gotten to this point from being told about typos, mistakes and errors that have been missed. On books I was certain were clean!

And no, you probably will not catch them all. Hell, I have found doozies in books put out by huge publishing houses for huge authors. Books you just know had to filter through a dozen or more people. So doo-doo still happens, folks. But if you are vigilant and careful and thoughtful, there will be less doo-doo to deal with.

Which is always a good thing.



  1. Yep. Happens to every single one of my documents. It's probably happening in this comment, but I'm at work and I can't read it aloud. But that trick really does work.

    I find it works better if I read it to someone. That way, I can't skip and skim at all. I'm forced to read every word.

    It even happened to Sommer in the second-to-last paragraph, where she typed "my" but meant "by." :-)

  2. Ummm - you missed one in the last paragraph. :P

    "..books put out BY huge publishing houses for huge authors."

    LOL. I totally agree with the self editing. And I still miss stuff, even when it's been re-read about a hundred times. (my recent entry in Project Smutway is a damn good example of this)

  3. ahem...I totally did that on purpose to illustrate a point (o_O) LOL! I have fixed it now so everyone will think you are both crazy people! X-D Or we'll just call you my proof readers (which I recommend) and call it a happy day.

    See, I did make my own point though. I did not read that aloud because I decided at the last moment to drive boy child to school. Guess I should take my own advice. :D


  4. Dear Sommer,

    When I first decided to self-publish a little over a year ago, one of the most frequent arguments in the anti-indie camp was that no piece of work could truly be professional without having gone through the editing process of the traditional publishing houses.

    Since I wasn't planning to pay a professional editor (what the pro-indie camp usually recommended), some of my first blog posts on my blog were entitled "How to be your Own Best Editor."

    Those posts have been some of my most popular posts and I think that this is a subject that needs a great deal of discussion, so thanks for bringing it up. I know that much of my success in the past year (I am one of those indie's who is now selling over 1000 books a month) is that my cover and my writing are at a professional level. But that isn't an accident. Every writer is at a different stage in developing their skill level, and I think that one of the most important pieces of advice I would give to a newbie, or someone who is having difficulty selling their self-published books, is to be extremely honest about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, and to ask for help.

    I got lots of help in my editing process, and I used some of the tactics mentioned in this post, and I hope that this will be the beginning of an interesting discussion, because we all have more to learn.

    M. Louisa Locke
    author of Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery
    see her blog The Front Parlor

  5. I'm dismayed by how good it is to print out my writing and read it that way. Dismayed, because I don't want to waste paper.

    But you're right - reading it out helps too!

  6. MLL, I say asking for help is always a strong point. I think it can make you a better writer as long as you don't let too many opinions muddle your thinking.

    Trisha, you can always sit and read it off the screen, yes? You don't have necessarily have to print it. I used to print a story, then put a slash through it and use the other side of the paper if I was proofing something else. Got two uses from the paper and then it went in the recycling bin. :)


  7. Very good advice! I've got two people proof reading my next book so that the mistakes I may have missed in my reviews will be caught. I do notice that when I have the print in my hands, I tend to see the errors versus looking at a screen - but that gets quite costly - so reading aloud is another good solution.

    I do advocate fresh eyes - especially someone that is reading it in the capacity of a proof reader and not just a family member or friend who might not be versed enough to catch the subtle errors.

    Thanks for a great post!

  8. I've done it. Typed "sex" for "six." Which isn't so awful in erotica, perhaps, but this was for an academic publication. ;) Fortunately, it was caught before it went to press.

    I'm a very good editor. I'm a decent writer/author. But--I find it very hard to edit myself. You just see things differently in those different roles. I'd always get a pair of outside eyes to look at my writing (well, for books--I don't do that with every email, obviously.)

  9. Editing allows cleaning and removing unnecessary elements on your writing. It gives way to corrections on grammar, sentence structure, word choice, spelling and punctuations. Editing gives assurance of an excellent written material.