Editorial Tips: What If You Really Mess Up?

Just this weekend I posted a blog with a misspelled word in the heading–“dos” instead of “does”. Well, my Spanish isn’t good enough to pawn it off as the number two, which didn’t make sense anyway, so there I was with the only line showing on the link broadcasting my error. A delightful friend immediately sent me a comment on Facebook, “Is this an editor’s test? lol” Why didn’t I just go with it and say, “Yes!”? I caught it and fixed it right after I hit “Publish” on WordPress, but since I have automatic share for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google, it was out there for all to see. In my haste to remedy this, I sent the whole post to trash. It was a rather lengthy poem with visually descriptive words, now lost and gone forever, except for the heading postings everywhere which now link to nothing.

A Magic Button on Your Keyboard to Fix Everything ... Wouldn't That Be Nice?
A Magic Button on Your Keyboard to Fix Everything … Wouldn’t That Be Nice?

As much as every writer and editor would love to have an all-knowing editing key or a magic wand to clean up any discrepancies and errors/typos in a manuscript, business letter, a blog posting, even an email, it just doesn’t exist. The human element of eyes, ears, and touch remains the only way to be sure you’ve said what you meant to say in a manner that will relate to your target audience.

There’s no way a computer can think and analyze like a human brain. We speak and write metaphorically, tongue-in-cheek, sarcastically with puns and wit and comparisons that a machine governed by a finite set of rules and commands cannot comprehend. The hard drive doesn’t care how many times you use the same, monotonous word in a sentence, in a paragraph, on a page, in a chapter. Nor does your spell-check, grammar-check, or latest software package notice inconsistencies in who, what, when, where, and how.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if you sent an RSVP with all the information garbled by the automatic words the smart phones or tablets choose for you? For example, misspelling both names:   Who was giving the event and for whom; What the event was–hmm..wouldn’t that make for a colorful dress code, jeans and shorts to black-tie and gown, perhaps festive and mourning attire; When the event was occurring–time and date; and Where? Of course a misspelled street name and an incorrect address number and zip code. How to get there? Try GPS or mapquest on that one!

Destination Nowhere
Destination Nowhere

You can’t trust your own eyes to show you what you’ve written. They see what they expect to see.

You can’t hear your mistakes in your mind as you read silently to yourself. Your inner ear hears what it expects to hear.

You can’t touch your words on the screen with a pencil, a pen, an eraser. If you print it out your eyes, ears, and engrained memory of what you’ve written will still have you reading right over a misplaced, forgotten, or left out word.

All is not hopeless. You just need a proofreader or editor who hasn’t seen your words before. Also, editors train their senses to see, to hear, and to touch inconsistencies, discrepancies, and content that is awkward or structurally unsound. They just can’t proofread for themselves. I don’t see technology changing these basic human traits.

So please let me know if I’ve messed up again. I’m always grateful for a chance to make things right.

Destination Somewhere!
Destination Somewhere!

Book Reviews (a subject dear to all of our hearts!)

Those of you who follow my blog, and especially my tweets, know that I’ve been extremely ill this winter. It comes with the territory, unfortunately, when you have SLE–Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis. I’ve been dealing with this over 20 years so I know what to do, which means becoming a recluse for the winter! But it does give me time to do something very important, which is review other authors’ works.

I’ve reviewed about 7 books in the past two weeks and really found some gems, including one diamond! “It Really IS Rocket Science!” by BH Branham. Also, anything by Donna Zadunajsky is really worth the read. For children, I strongly recommend, “Sam, The Super Kitty” by M. Lovato! It’s just adorable.

I haven’t been totally idle with my own writing, but it is hard to make sense when your fever’s 103–lol. I’ve written five chapters for the next novella in the Denny Ryder Paranormal Crime Series, STROKE OF SILENCE! It should be on amazon.com in March 2014. I want to take this opportunity, again, to thank those of you who reviewed my Denny Ryder Series and even the reviewer who was brave enough (Donna, my friend) to get through all 400 pages of LIVING IN A SHADAW, my full-length, mature-adult novel.

I’ll put in my own 2 cents about reviews, which I covered much more seriously in a previous blog that might be worth taking a look at: I purchase/buy eBooks that I review . . . after all, we’re all writers because we have to be, whether anyone else reads it or not, but we are also trying to make a living, so I don’t ask for freebies.

eBooks are inexpensive, especially for the author first starting out, so it’s not going to break the budget. Reviewing on a Kindle or e-reader allows you to highlight, make notes, refer back, and in my case, since I’ve been an editor for 30+ years, mark the errors. I just want to say finding a good editor or proofreader is essential to a good manuscript. If there are so many typos, errors, spelling/grammar mistakes (and spell-check and grammar-check aren’t human; they can create more problems than they solve–so I suggest you don’t rely on them!) that the book is unreadable, no matter how good the theme or plot, you loose your reader before you have a chance to make any kind of impression as an author.

This being said, I say in all kindness, that you can’t proofread your own stuff. I’ve been in the technical (scientific/government) side of this business . . . forevah! And I can’t edit, proofread my own stuff . . . no matter how “cold” I let it get. When you write/create something, little beknownst to you, the words become ingrained in your mind. When you read it for errors, you read right over them because your brain “sees” what it has unconsciously memorized. It’s really very medical that you can’t read your own stuff!

Your best friend is not your best proofreader. Sometimes they’re so excited over the fact that you’re an author, “they” read right through the errors, or they’re afraid to mention them and upset you OR they aren’t equipped with the skills a proofreader must have . . . good grammar, good spelling, and an eye to catch “glitches” in the story line: names change, scenes are referred to but are somehow different, or things don’t add up: 2 + 2 = 3 or 2 + 2 = 5. I’m sure you get my point. Family members can be prejudiced either “for” or “against” your writing (“Anything my child/brother/sister/aunt/uncle writes is wonderful!” or “Please, just get a job all ready.”)

A couple of tricks for proofreading, if you’re forced to read your own stuff, is put it on your Kindle Fire in reverse: white copy on black background. I found this quite by accident. I read in black background at night while my husband sleeps beside me. The Kindle Fire (only) is not near as bright this way. But all the sudden, errors started popping out at me! Unfortunately, not all of them.

An even better way, again found by accident, is let the Kindle Fire “read” to you. My eyes were almost swollen shut with this flu/pneumonia/whatever? so for the first time ever, I put on the text-to-speech function. When a mechanical voice (not bad on the newer versions of the Kindle) says the wrong word that doesn’t make sense or can’t pronounce a misspelling or the grammar is wrong where you didn’t do it purposely because your character’s voice doesn’t speak that way . . . well, there’s a problem and when you look back at it, you find it!

I hope these little ‘tricks of the trade’ help all of you out there honing your craft!

In conclusion, I just want to say, “Be honest it your reviews,” but most of all, authors need to support each other. After all, “Writers are readers!” (my own quote). It really doesn’t help a poor book in a genre to plant negative reviews in the same genre by a different author (or a book that has similar keywords), and it doesn’t help an author needing an editor, proofreader, another pair of eyes to give them rave reviews that are “puffed up,” so to speak.

This is my 2 cents on reviews and proofreading. Best wishes to your all!

Deborah A. Bowman, author