Monday, October 24, 2011

Editing a Manuscript—Where to Get Help

I always say it is easy to write, but that editing is hard!  Unfortunately I have always had problems getting all the letters in the right order.  I used to say my job is to put the letters there and my secretary’s job was to arrange them.  I don’t have a secretary anymore.  I have something more dangerous—spell check.  It tries to help, but sometimes the perfectly spelled word it comes up with to replace my inept attempt at getting the letters in the right order just isn’t what I intended to write.  I am reminded of the time I sent an e-mail to a few hundred people discussing a beautifully designed new “T-shit”.  It did not generate a lot of T-shirt sales!

So I use a paid editor.  My manuscripts go through multiple editing passes in an effort to get the spelling and grammar perfect.  The final step in my quality control process uses a three person team.  One person on the team reads the manuscript out loud.  I and a second person follow along using the written text comparing it to the oral reading.  You would be surprised how often the oral version differs from the actual written text.  As humans, we have a tendency to read what we expect the printed words to be.  Usually the person reading aloud will add missing words, skip over unnecessary words like "that" or supply a conjunction where no conjunction was used but probably should have been.  The out loud reading step always uncovers errors and always improves the text even after it has gone through other multiple traditional editing steps.

If you don’t believe me when I say we have a tendency as humans to read what we expect the written text to be, try reading this:
”Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!”

I mentioned the company 52 Novels in a prior post.  The man behind 52 Novels is Rob Siders, and on October 18 he was a guest poster on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.  This is his advice for finding editing assistance:

  1. Find or form a writer’s group.  Some of the best story and structure advice I’ve ever gotten has come from my peers.  
  2. Ask five people you trust to read the book.  Give them each a new red pen and require them to drain the ink barrel.  
  3. A good copy editor is worth every penny you’ll spend, so hire the best one you can afford.  
  4. Set up a crowdsource editing project using Amazon Mechanical Turk
With the creative destruction in the publishing business, independents and ebooks are on the increase.    Absent the critical eye of the publisher, self publishing authors have an even greater responsibility for quality control.

No comments:

Post a Comment