On Proofreading

 

I used ChamberProof to proofread Kimi’s Fear and was not disappointed with the finished product. As well as sweeping up my inadvertant typos, many excellent suggestions for improvements were put forward and Kimi’s Fear became a better book. I invited Perry from ChamberProof to explain what he can do for your writing…typso

Anyone can write a book now, and what’s more anyone can get it published. People can get their output to a mass audience much more easily – by creating their own websites, self-publishing their novels, writing blogs or making multiple appearances on social networking sites.

 

We’re all getting our fifteen minutes, and most of us waste them. I include myself in this category. Once, when I was young and smiling and had an outlook of innocent happiness and the sun glinted from my pearly-white teeth, I self-published a travel memoir. In it, I drove up a high mountain pass in France and it was so cold at the top I had to turn the car’s heater on. Except I wrote heather and the spell-check didn’t pick it up because heather is a word too – one that I write down and say quite a lot, for the simple reason that it’s my wife’s name. When I was at the top of my pass, she was home in Scotland, so I had to put up with lots of friends telling me what a man I was to do that to my wife over a distance of a thousand miles.

 

I was quite embarrassed, and I’m pretty thick-skinned – I find you have to be if you want to be a writer. But as a writer I was less embarrassed about the double-entendre than I was about the typo. The thing about typos is that they become encysted in the brain of their creator. I must have edited and re-written that passage dozens of times – each time seeing heather and reading heater. This means that there is one law and one law only governing typos and daft spelling mistakes that don’t get picked up, and that law is this: get someone else to read it. Simple as that. A new eye will pick up in an instant something you’ve overlooked a thousand times. “Is it worth it?” I hear you chorus, and the answer is that it’s entirely up to you. If you want to laugh it off and think “Oh we all knew he meant heater, not heather,” then that’s your little red wagon, as Stephen King would say. But if you approach writing with a mindset like that, you will not succeed. If you pay someone £500 to proofread your 140,000 word masterpiece and that person picks up three typos and that place on page 318 where you’ve accidentally written form instead of from, you might not consider it a worthwhile expense. Again, you will not succeed with such a mindset. Your book must be perfect. Every word. And a good proofreader will mark other little mistakes. Grammatical errors: “A crowd of people were forming at the scene”, niggles of repetition and minor lumps in the flow, an adverb that’s crept in and needs stamping on. It’s not a proofreader’s job to tell you to tighten up the action across chapters 5 to 7 or to point out that your protagonist acts out of character in the way he deals with something in Chapter 28. If you’re lucky, your agent, publisher or editor will tell you to do stuff like that, or you’ll pay someone good like mein host Mr Hudspith who will increase your chances of getting an agent by making general improvements to your book. But when it’s all finished, it’ll need a polish; just the finest sandpapering of proof-and-light-edit to turn heather back into heater and form back into from and stamp on that adverb that’s crept in and remind you that on page 47 you wrote “no one” but on page 421 you said “no-one” and you have to check which is right and then unify your choice throughout. Some bits of grammar have looser rules, but consistency is binding.

 

And in the final analysis, you need a proofreader at the end of the process because by then you’re fed up, and when you’re fed up you make mistakes. You’ve written eighteen drafts before you’re happy and then someone tells you alter this or that bit and you do so but now you just want to get it off to the publishers and be damned to it. This is where the mistakes come, and this is where the proofreading comes. Right at the end when all else is done. Ignore this stage at your peril.

Want a quotation?

Contact Perry at ChamberProof:

 chamberproof@yahoo.co.uk
07565 912750

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