5 Mistakes Series

A Self-Editor Be Not Be

mistakes 1 The 5 Mistakes I Made with My 1st Novel (Part 2 of 5)

I’ll make the point right up front in case you want to skip the rest. An author cannot edit their own work. It is impossible. You will never see every mistake, in fact you’ll miss a lot more than you think that you have missed. I’m not a cheap guy and I’m hardly frugal with my money (I can’t walk into a Barnes & Noble or a Wal-Mart without spending a $100). I’m not certain where the over-confidence in my self-editing competency developed.

(Read Part One Here)

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t do a quick read through of my book and decide it was good to go. I went through chapter and verse two times and that was after the rewrites. Yes, I touched each chapter a total of five times. 1. After the second draft. 2. Before I web posted. 3. After I read it aloud. 4. and 5. before I submitted to my printer.

When I received my first copy of the book I was so excited. When I read the first copy of my book I cringed. I should have pulled the whole thing right then and there, but in for a penny in for a pound. In truth, the mistakes and errors are hardly noticeable by some of today’s standards. You might not have even see half of them in your own reading – they were mostly small things like your/you’re and its/it’s type of things. There was a section however that ultimately led to my decision to pull the edition and get an editor. The section should have read (and now reads) –

The sounds of the living world were gone. Sounds like the hum of the refrigerator, the soft whoosh of distant traffic, and the tick of a clock. The sounds that had once been so common to his world that they had gone unnoticed. Now in their absence, they created a silence that almost felt like a sound itself. The voice of a dead world.

In the unedited version all is the same -except the second to last line, the one that sets up the very last line ( the point of the whole darn thing) was written –  Now they absence they made a  silence  … I have no idea how “in their” became “they.” Perhaps I meant to say something else, but how did I miss such a thing? Easy. You can not self-edit your own work.

I went through that published novel with a yellow highlighter and found every mistakes I had made. I went to my word file (Scrivener actually) and corrected them all. I sent it to someone to review and they found a few more. At which point I was convinced that either I was half-blind to not see these errors or the words were being changed while I slept. Perhaps an evil Microsoft gremlin.

My first (bad) decision was I found an independent editor, didn’t draw up a contract, and paid for the service. I never received the work and I never got my money back – that is a topic for another post. Finally I found a legitimate company on line Proofreading Service US . The going rate for proofreading is about 1.3 cents per word. So 90k words comes at a cost of about $1,000. Ouch I know. But far less painful than chancing fifty reviews that say, “way to many typos” or “the writing was sloppy.” I never received any reviews like that, in fact people never mentioned grammar and spelling at all in my reviews – which is exactly the way it should be.

What amazed me most though, what absolutely astounded me, was that after all my work, after other readers found things that I corrected…Proofreading Services found more mistakes than I would ever have imagined. Again not the glaring stuff the average reader would even register, but important if the book is ever to be a best-seller. Here is an example from page 10 – now on the tenth page I should have been still pretty fresh on editing:

 U&Me Edit Example

It was a mistake not to get a professional edit. I am now a lot more confident that the value of my story rests on its content and is not obscured by grammatical errors and typos. You may be better at self-editing than I am – I suggest you answer one question before you publish – Is my story English Teacher Proof? If not – find an editor.

My third mistake – and the third segment was side stepping a developmental edit. Being so married to the words I wrote that I didn’t consider better ways to tell the story. You can read about that in my post – Good Intentions Make Bad Books.

4 replies »

  1. I go through my manuscripts about four or five times myself. I don’t manage to find all my mistakes, but I do find a few. And I liked that passage for the most part…though I thought the word “sound” was used a bit too much.

    • LOL – yes the use of the word “sound” was my attempt at anaphora. In the larger context of the entire book “time” is measured by “sound” because human’s clocks have stopped. Okay maybe a little deep for a zombie-like story but what the hell right.

      • Sounds like it could’ve worked, but wouldn’t the sun and the moon and the stars make a better measurement of the passage of time than sound? The Mayans did it all the time before clocks were invented.

  2. I do the same thing–reading, editing, rereading, editing again…until I’m both blind to my own work and irrationally confident in its perfection. Then, of course, I hand it to a real editor who points out the folly of my arrogance.

    Just wanted to add this–you can save some time by reading your work out loud. You can read to others, read to yourself, record the “audiobook” and listen to it later, but something about giving voice to those words can really change the way you see them. At least, it’s always helped me.

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