The Power of Proof-Reading


The Power of Proof-Reading

By Natalie Bright

A relative gave me a lovely picture book that his friend had self-published. The story is sweet and the illustrations absolutely blew me away which is not surprising since the author is an award winning artist. As I begin to read through the book again, with the intention of posting several online reviews, a typo on page one smacked me in the face. My heart sank.

Do You Tell Authors about Their Mistakes?

Do I contact the relative who gave me the gift? Or perhaps send a nice email to the author about the typo? It would be an easy fix, IF, and it’s a big if, a second print run is being planned. How can I recommend this book to the bookstore owners and gift shop managers in my area without damaging the professional relationship I have with them? What if one of their customers sees the typo and complains? Picture books don’t come cheap these days.

Proofread

Proofreading is an important step that seems to have been pushed aside in an effort to ‘become a published author in 72 hours’. Misprints and typos are not that uncommon in the eBooks I’ve purchased whether it’s by self-published or big name authors, although I understand that funky things happen in the digital process. That’s not to say how annoying it is after paying good money for what you assume will be a quality product. For print books from publishing houses, especially those priced on the high end with beautiful illustrations, typos are even worse but nonexistent. Professional copy-editors do good work.

Read Your Work Out Loud

There are things you can do to minimize typos. If I’m stuck on a chapter and it’s not flowing well, I’ll read it out loud. I also read the entire story out loud from beginning to end during the final revision process, after I’ve made edits based on critique group suggestions. Put your work aside and in a few days, or even longer, READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD. You will be shocked at the typos and awkward sentences. They’re an easy fix at this stage in the game. Also, you’ll get a sense of how the story flows from chapter to chapter. Listening to dialogue as you read it out loud will help conversations ring true. And it’s not all bad. You might be surprised at how good some parts are. Prior to your work being officially ‘published’, the editor or publisher will send you a proof to look over. Read it aloud again. For me personally, every single time there have been typos whether it was a big-big-name anthology, freelance magazine article, self-pub novel or eBook. Regardless of the gazillion times I’d already gone over it, there are misspelled words, awkward sentences, missing pieces of chapters before final publication. Every. Single. Time.

Why Settle for Okay?

Many people have dreams and hopes of being a professional author. There are many opportunities today enabling you to realize that dream. And yet, is it so critical that the story be published by  the end of this week?   I’ve been a reader all of my life, and I get giddy buying books with only the click of a mouse. I really do want to discover a great story. I want to post five-star reviews on my GoodReads page so maybe someone I know can discover that good story too.   Help your readers be true to you as the professional author you are. Make it easy for them to become a fan.

Give your story the time and attention it deserves before you share it with the world.

Scene by Scene to The End


Scene by Scene to The End

By Natalie Bright

 

At some point during the process of writing your great masterpiece you’ll have to reach THE END.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. – Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird.

That self-editor and self doubt. The need to write the perfect prose. These are the things that will prevent you from ever typing the words THE END.

So stop it. WRITE.

The idea of writing an entire novel is very daunting. I used to tell everyone that I like short stories and freelance articles best because I can see an end to my efforts. But then an idea came to me and I wrote during lunch breaks and when I finally typed The End after several years, my novel went into a drawer. The next idea came to me and after two years of intense work it became a published nonfiction, and a few more finished books followed. And then an idea formed by way of a character to become a story that would not leave my brain. The finished novel caught the interest of my literary agent.

Going back to that manuscript that’s been waiting patiently in the drawer for many, many years, I’ve revived it into the most recent completed novel. The characters are ten years older and their story has changed location, but it’s done. You never know what those sparks of ideas can turn into. Just go with it.

The point being I’ve typed THE END on many completed novels since the time I said I’d never write one.

Finding The End.

So how can you ever reach the end? The answer: Scene by scene. Sit down and write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, write the scene that’s in your head. And the next day, do it again. Don’t worry that the scenes may not be in order. You can fix that later, but you cannot fix a blank page. Stop obsessing over how long the chapters need to be or how the story will end. You’ll figure that out too. Don’t worry about your process. It’s going to be different for every book.

Just Keep Writing

Write whatever’s in your head, double-double space, type “Chapter Next”, and begin again with the next scene. Even if a bit of dialogue comes to me at the oddest of times, I make a note of it until I’m at the computer again. It might be a visual of action involving my characters, or a snippet of character conflict that needs to be added. I know what you’re thinking:

I can’t type that scene, I’m just on chapter two and that has to happen towards the middle.

I can’t type that character. I don’t even know who he is.

I can’t type that dialogue. It has nothing to do with the scene I’m writing now.

Some people read over what they’ve written to get them back in the story before they begin writing each time. For me, I have to sit down and type new words. If I re-read what’s before, I never get to the new parts because I’m obsessing over editing the words that are already there. Just keep writing, keep adding new words, however you have to make it happen.

Current WIP

As an example, the main character in my current WIP has a confrontation with her mother. The scene came to me out of the blue while I was school shopping with kids. I really concentrated at keeping the scene in my head until I could jot some notes when I got to the car. As soon as I got home, I hand-wrote it in a spiral. As I wrote, I realized this is part of a major arc for my main character and that the scene should probably be closer to the end. But who cares. I’ve got it down on paper. I can figure out where it goes later.

Allow your mind’s eye to see your story, because whether you realize it or not, your sub-conscious is working on that story 24/7. It has to be true. Otherwise why do those ideas come to you at the most ridiculous times. Listen to your internal creative muse and STOP arguing with yourself. As an added note, under Chapter Next, include notes as to what the main conflict or action might be. When the first draft is done, print it out and organize the chapters in order. During the next read through you can fill in plot holes. The good news is you’ve actually got words on paper. Let the editing begin!

Keep writing!

 

Something to Sit On


Something to Sit On

By Natalie Bright

It’s plush pleather (fake leather) mixed with springy black mesh, arch support, and swiveling arm rests. You can adjust the arm rests out straight for when you write or closer in if you’re holding something to read. The back and seat can tilt either way for maximum comfort. It’s a serious piece of office equipment. It’s beautiful and it’s my new desk chair.

Tools of the Trade

The reason I invested in an office chair is credited to Dusty Richards, SPUR award winning author and president of Western Writers of America. He said, “If there’s anything you remember from my talk, I hope it’s this: buy a quality office chair, because if the writing’s going good you have to stay put.” He explained that he’s logged in 10 to 12 hours straight before and walked away from it just fine. What a great piece of advice. If your back hurts or if your legs go to sleep you can’t keep writing. Something to sit on is an important piece of equipment essential to an author’s office.

The current work in progress is burning a hole in my head. Kids are back in school. Casseroles are put-together and stacked in the freezer.

Deep breath. Begin.

Blank.

My computer screen is blank. Well, it wasn’t blank a minute ago. I had just started reshaping chapter one because I’m making a huge revision for my character’s motivation…and then a blip. No, not a blip. A major, heart wrenching snafu.

Noooooooooo….

Some days, it really sucks to be a writer.