Posts Tagged ‘editing’

Office politicsIf you want to be be taken seriously you need to be able to write clearly, use good grammar, speling, and clear up as many tpyos as you can. Easier said than done. Three errors in that one sentence alone! The occasional typo might be forgiven, but if your work is littered with them, you can’t expect to win many readers to your cause.

The main problem with self editing is this: as a writer, you know what you think you’ve written. But writers also develop a blindness to their words, so they look at a sentence and overlay what is physically written with an image of what they imagine is written.

I’ve been dipping into my novel “Between the tides”, self published last year, and I’m still finding typos. Note to self: Must do better! I’m not big on hints and tips for writers, since I’ve hardly made the bigtime, and my work is frequently riddled with editing bugs that serve only to highlight my own shortcomings in this respect. But here goes:

1) Spell checkers are useful. Turn them on. Spellcheckers won’t correct bad grammar of course. “Their” “There” and “They’re” are all correctly spelled but so often found in the wrong places.

If you’re writing in English, stick to your native version. American English is most prevalent on the internet, but UK writers shouldn’t be confused or intimidated by that. Whatever your version, stick to it. Be consistent.

2) Show your work to someone else, and give them a red pen. They don’t need to be an expert, and you’re not asking them to comment on your style, nor even how good they think your work is. They’re simply a fresh pair of eyes, unblinkered by an author’s blindness to his own errors. I guarantee they’ll find errors you’ve missed.

Having said this, I don’t do it. It’s asking a lot – fine for a few thousand words, a short story or an article, maybe, but if it’s a two hundred thousand word novel, that’s a serious favour. If you’re like me then, you end up falling back upon your own sluggish wit. So:

3) Shake things up a bit. You’re used to seeing that text laid out in a certain way on screen, so before you run your eyes through it yet again, change the font. If the text is justified, unjustify it and vice versa. Change the paper size so the lines get chopped up a different way. Change the text and and page colour. If it’s a short piece, print it out – there’s nothing like printing out for highlighting your sins.

This re-presentation of a text means it will no longer fall into the subliminal patterns your brain has already made for it, so the occasional elusive typo has has a chance of poking you in the eye. Spot the mistake there? (double has)You probably did. I only found it on the umptheenth reading – decided to leave it in.

4) Don’t make it a chore. Remember, as writers, each time we run our eyes through a piece of text, we’re breathing life into it, we’re feeling the pulse and the rhythm of it, like playing a piece of music over and over, each time finding something new. And we get to change the notes as we go along, find new harmonies, new emphases, new shapes. It’s a stage in writing, and an enjoyable one. It just happens to be a good opportunity to spot our mistakes as we go along.

5) Let it cool. Don’t be in a hurry to publish. As a speculative or self publishing writer, your deadlines are imaginary anyway. Save your work, then forget it for a bit. If it’s a blog piece, don’t publish the same night. Leave it until tomorrow or the day after, or the weekend.

Allowing the writing to cool we also allow the subliminal patterns in our mind to dissolve, so next time we pick it up we no longer overlay a piece with what we imagine it says. We see exactly what it says, and that can sometimes come as a surprise.

After all of that, at some point we have to let it go. So trust in yourself, in fate, in the good nature of your reader, and and publish!

Editing is more than just tidying up typos of course – especially when we talk about writing fiction. That’s a complex business and people write books on it – use of passive language and adverbs, continuity, homogeneity and stuff like that, all of which I’m guilty of bodging, so the least I have to say about that the better.

Graeme Out

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because you writeRoll up, roll up! Put your novels and short stories on Feedbooks, Lulu, Createspace, Smashwords, Wattpad. Don’t charge for them, then others can scrape your content freely like stinking great estuary dredgers. Then Google yourself. Go on, don’t be shy,… you’ll be amazed where your work ends up: Rapidshare, Scribd, Filesflush, Getebooksfree, ebdb.net,… the list is endless. The pirates will love you too. They’ll cut and paste your work and sell it on The Kindle Marketplace, publish it as you, cutting and pasting even your pseudonym in to the vast nefarious money making machine that forms the unregulated realm of cyberspace. But try it yourself and you’ll run into the opaque and somewhat circular regulatory labyrinth regarding income tax on your occasional 50p downloads.

Not satisfied yet? Then set up a blog too, put something up there a couple of times a week so the spammers know you’re still alive and can continue attaching their odious marketing limpets to your work by way of “likes” and comments and “follows”. Yes, Josh, I’m talking about you!

“Hi there click my blog and see how I got rich and handsome and incredibly successful using WordPress blogging.”


“No Josh. You are an MLM spammer.”

To be sure, it’s a weird business – one in which a small number of crazy people go about creating genuinely original content for others to exploit and farm and pirate at will. Be under no illusion, dear frustrated, friendless writer, if self publishing online is something that interests you, this will happen to your work. You will be adding your muse’s sincerest outpourings to that vast ocean of words the web savvy tech trawlers crawl for content to make their own vacuous machine generated pap look worth pausing over.

And it can be really annoying.

So why do it?

Well why not? It’s not half so bad as sending your hundred thousand word manuscript off to a publisher, waiting six months in hope and expectation, then getting it back torn and creased and the front cover blobbed with grease from someone’s lunch – but otherwise no real indication it’s been read past the first page. Do this year in year out with every single thing you’ve ever written and you start to get the picture. Need advice on how to narrow the odds a bit? Spend a fortune on those trite and useless “how to get your novel published” books, but in the main just keep going, refuse to admit defeat – five, ten, fifteen years,… or worse drop dead with a pile of work going rotten in your shed, for your unfortunate executors to finally throw away.

Now that’s mad! And worse, it’s pointless. But the alternative,… giving your work away for free online? Really? Well, speaking as an unknown writer of otherwise unmarketable material, I’d probably go mad if I didn’t.

BTTCoverMy novel “Between the tides” – the seventh I’ve given away – has been live on Feedbooks now since the end of February. It’s had 1600 downloads. The rate has tapered off somewhat in recent months, and is currently averaging about 4 per day – not massive, but it’s out there, it’s being read and some of those readers have said nice things about it. Oh, it would probably benefit from an editor’s know-how – probably benefit from a proofreading eye other than my own – but if I’d gone down that route, “Between the tides” would still be sitting in the first of many editors’ slush-piles waiting for a long line of underpaid office numpties to stick it in the return envelope, unread.

For me, reaching a bunch of people who seem interested in actually reading your stuff – you know – readers – and reaching them directly – is better than holding out for a few thousand pounds in royalties and never getting your story published in the first place. Nobody will ever know who you are of course – how great, how cool, how handsome, how indisputably “A list” your demeanour, and you will never be invited onto that TV chatshow to pontificate and shamelessly promote yourself . But if that’s the sort of thing that turns you on, you’ve a lot of growing up to do and maybe writing’s not the best course for you anyway.  As for the dead weight of all those webscrapers and pirates and other hangers on,…

Who cares?

What’s that you say? Who is this guy? Well, my name isn’t really Michael Graeme and I write stories, for the people who read them. And to the people who have read Between the Tides and all my other stories, as always, I say thank you.

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