Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adventures in Self-Publishing - Proofing and Editing

I'm skipping the whole "how to write" thing, you're on your own there. The roles of various copy editors, proofreaders, and the like confuse me, and I also don't use them. I know I suck, and I'm not going to pay someone else to tell me I suck. At the bare bones proofing level there are things like punctuation, spelling, grammar, etc. Stuff that should give you colored squiggly lines when you look at it. You can do this yourself, but spellcheck isn't enough. If you're super serious, you hire a proofer, find alpha readers, get friends to check it out, but if you're a broke misanthrope (aka, a writer), you won't do those things.

Here's what I do. I use the spell and grammar checks from multiple plug ins in Open Office to find the obvious stuff. Obvious misspellings can be missed on a read through. It won't catch everything. Do you have a habit of mixing up your and you're? Its and it's? So does everyone else. Do a search and double check every instance - it won't take long. Unsure of the rule? Just google "its vs it's" or whatever and figure it out. Read the damn thing, preferably a while after you wrote it. Take notes for continuity. That express elevator needs to stop on a floor in the middle, better fix that. Is his name Zach or Zack? Better do a search and replace.

Other people will tell you what to do on your third and twentieth draft - do that if you like, Proust, but your steampunk shifter erotica won't get any better. Check for continuity of style, again with the find feature. OK, ok, or okay - doesn't matter, just make it consistent. Decide you like dashes instead of ellipses? Change all of them.

Editing is something different. An editor addresses story concerns, not just the typing. A lot of it has to do with pacing, and in practice an editor tells an author to throw away half of the material. The sucky half. The Tom Bombadil half. This might apply more to your 200,000 word epic fantasy than your 15,000 word masked vigilante short, but a good editor will make you a better writer, and you will hate them for it. But we're not talking about how to make your writing better. We're talking about getting your crappy writing published. You do want it to be polished as possible the first time, and don't EVER submit an unfinished or first draft version. EVER. EVER. If you find a mistake later you can update the file, so don't panic, but the version you submit should be the version you're ready for the world to ignore.  A shocking number of people hit "submit" first, then do their spellchecking. Don't do that.

Next up, a little about formatting.

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