Tag Archives: proofing

The art of knowing when to stop

I am in the thick of final, final, FINAL proofing for my next novel, The Last Dreamseer.

Somehow, I thought it would be quicker than this. I’ll explain my editing process: I’ve written the book, had writer friends look at it, revised and revised again. It’s then been to a professional editor for substantive edits (what’s wrong with the plot/characters), and revised. And then to a line editor (what’s wrong with the sentences), and revised. It’s then been printed out and read through by me, as well as being proofed by two professionals and fed through my Kindle to catch any errors I couldn’t see on the PC screen. I’ve then gone through the formatting, so all that was needed was to upload the final version to my retailers (Amazon and Smashwords).

I thought it would take me maybe an hour.

Two days.

It’s the oddest thing, but reading it through on the Amazon on-line checker made me see all manner of repetitions (and a few, plain, good-old typos) that had managed to escape all the eyes that have looked through the book so far.

Finally, it’s now done and uploaded and I’m relieved to see the back of it, if I’m honest.

Cover of Katy Haye's The Last Dreamseer
It’s beautiful … but it’s time it got off my PC and out into the real world.

Because the thing is, writing is the kind of art that doesn’t ever have to be finished. As well as checking for typos and errors, I was also aware of my fingers twitching over the keyboard, while my mind nagged at me, “Is that the right verb? Are you sure?” and “Maybe that scene would be better if it took place outside instead of in her room.”

I had to grit my teeth and stop myself making some unnecessary changes, thankful that I had a deadline because otherwise I might still be tinkering with the thing on my deathbed.

So that’s my tip for this week. If you have a piece you can’t stop messing about with, but you’re confident it is, fundamentally, fine as it is, then set yourself a deadline and move on. Publish it, if you plan to self-publish, or get it sent off to agents and editors.

And then move on to the next. Because that’s the other ‘always’ – there’ll always be another story to write.

And I can’t wait to get on with my next.

The Devil’s in the details

Today’s blog was prompted by a discussion I had with friends about reviews and whether they’re actually any help to readers and whether anyone (except paranoid writers) pays any attention to them.

Opinions varied with some readers always using reviews to help them decide whether or not to buy/read a book, while others paid no attention to them and used other factors.

While I don’t use them slavishly, I do tend to glance over reviews as part of my decision-making process, and the reviews I’m most likely to stop and read are the 1* ones. This is because, with the not-that-common exception of trolls, I’ve found them the most useful at flagging up proofing and editing errors (or, more accurately, the entire absence of proofing and editing of the book concerned) which make a book (for me) unreadable.

The only book I’ve ever given a 1* review to was for exactly that reason. It was by a New York Times bestselling author, published by an imprint of the big 6 publishers and it was so poorly proof-read as to be unreadable. I was constantly pulled out of the story when a “that” turned into “than” and “is”, “if” and “it” seemed to be considered interchangeable.  I threw down the book and vented my spleen on Goodreads, absolutely infuriated that either the publisher or the author (or both) had so little respect for the reader that they’d let something so shoddy out of the door.

So if I click through to a book on Amazon and see there’s a 1* review I always have a quick look. On several occasions this has helped me decide to take a book no further.

There are so many books out there, why would a writer want to damage the chances of theirs being successful for such a petty (and so easily corrected) reason? I’m not sure whether it’s arrogance, ignorance or poverty that leads to poorly-proofed books being released, but these are explanations, not excuses. It’s a condemnation most usually levelled at self-published books, although it’s not exclusive to them. In traditionally published books I’ve read lately I’ve come across flaunted/flouted used incorrectly and a poor historical character being “hung” when it should be “hanged” if it’s from the neck until dead. Both of those books did get finished because they were single errors in otherwise fantastic books, but they dragged me from the story for long enough to tut and sigh, which is never a good thing mid-book.

So I’ll keep on reading 1* reviews, and being grateful to those who post them to warn the unwary reader away from those books whose creators really couldn’t be bothered. If nothing else, they give me comfort that there are other sticklers out there and I’m not the only person remaining whose heart sinks when disinterested and uninterested get muddled, or who grieves at a poorly-placed apostrophe.

Any other hardliners out there, or is everyone else more tolerant of writer frailty?