With the first main edit of Jack Gilmour: Wish Lawyer finished with Autocrit, it’s time for the next pass. Time to start tidying up the text before sending off to my editor. All of which, leads to the obvious question…
Why bother editing when your editor will do it for you?
There are two main reasons for this:
- Ask yourself “what do I want my editor to focus on?” Working on useful things like structure, or getting bogged down in endless minor corrections?
- The percentage game. Even if a good editor spots 95% of errors, the more you have to start with, the more will sneak through. It’s the same reason to proof-read afterwards, too (but more of that later).
So what tools are there to help? MS Word’s basic spelling and grammar checker will only get you so far.
Grammarly comes in two versions – a premium and free version. I use the free one, which I find more than enough for my ‘hobbyist’ writing. I use it as a plug-in for MS Word, but it also comes as a stand-alone program, and an add-in for Chrome.
Whereas Autocrit will give you the broad brushstrokes, Grammarly focuses on the finer details. Incorrect words, strange comma usage, repeated words and use of tense all come under the spotlight. It also explains why it thinks the error is there, which can be handy for triaging.
Here’s an example of a comedy error Grammarly found that Word didn’t:
One thing to bear in mind is that these types of utilities can throw up false positives, so it’s important to carefully review any recommendations. This is especially true when handling dialogue. Another issue is that Grammarly is very US-centric, and if you write in British English it will constantly annoy you with ‘inconsistent spelling’ critical errors. If, however, you are from the UK and want to turn to the dark side of US English (as I ended up doing), it’s actually quite useful!
With the first pass on Grammarly completed, it’s on to probably the scariest part of the process…
Choosing an editor can be tricky, and they can vary wildly in both price and the level of service they provide. I chose Karl Drinkwater, after reading his excellently-paced novella Harvest Festival. Karl offers a developmental edit and copyedit as part of the service, so you get both notes on structure / plot and the line per line detail.
Here are a few examples of Karl’s work on my draft text:
Whether you need an editor as a self-published author is a matter of constant debate on social media and, as with most things on the internet, views can get quite polarised. To go through it all, though, is a blog post for another time. I didn’t get my first novel edited and it suffered because of it (I have since got Karl to go through it post-release, and it’s waiting in my in-tray for me to do something about).
Personally, I’d definitely recommend having your book edited by someone else. Given the number of books many new self-published authors will shift, are you likely to make the money back from the extra sales? Possibly not, but if you care about making your story the best it can be, it’s a very worthwhile exercise.
Going through all the corrections can be a long process, especially when trying to find a different way to write or condense something you’ve probably re-written five times already. Changing the text can also re-introduce errors that you thought were fixed weeks ago, so proof-reading is imperative. Which leads us neatly to:
The most useful proof-reading function in MS Word
The human brain is a marvellous thing. It’s especially good at skipping over mistakes that you’ve proofread yourself four times and tricking you into thinking that everything is perfectly fine. It’s not.
Getting other humans to proofread for you will help, but isn’t foolproof, especially when it comes to word skipping. Don’t believe me? Ask science! It doesn’t even matter if the words are completely jumbled up.
So, the best way is to bypass reading completely, and use another sense. In this case, your ears. Enter MS Word’s ‘text-to-speech’ function. Actually finding the command isn’t that easy, however, and you’ll need to add it to the quick access toolbar. Instructions on how to do this can be found here. Once it’s set up, all you need to do is highlight the text a (I tend to choose a paragraph at a time) and away you go. If something sounds wrong, it probably is.
I can’t state enough how awesome text-to-speech is when it comes to proofreading for basic errors, but it also has another great use. If a sentence comes across as clumsy when spoken, then it will probably read like it, too.
With the final proofreading complete, it’s time for the real challenge to begin. Getting someone to read and review the thing before release day…