Proofreading

Frontier Defiant is slated for release in August this year, from Hague Publishing. It marks the end of the Frontier Trilogy.

At the moment, I’m in the middle of proofreading the (hopefully) final draft. The hardest thing about proofreading is making sure you read every single word. I’ve learned that when you’re a writer, no matter how good your basic skills are, at some point you read what you thought you wrote.

Now, if you’re not a writer, you might not appreciate what that actually means. You see, I know what I wrote – or more correctly, I know what I think I wrote. Inside my head are the words and story that I thought I put onto the paper. My brain believes that I know exactly how I placed each word and idea, and in what order.

Over the last few years, I’ve learned how wrong that is. Once upon a time, I’d finish a piece of writing, and immediately begin editing. That’s the best way to allow many errors to slip through – or at least it is for me. Nowadays, I finish the first draft and then put it away for a while. I have to return to the story with fresh eyes.

That takes patience. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from galloping straight back into everything, particularly when I believe I’ve had a plot revelation. However, if I don’t give the story enough of a break, I now know I won’t pick up on the true plot holes, writing errors, or even spelling mistakes or misplaced words.

My current practice is to write the whole thing and then put it away for at least a month. (It’s a bit like resting pastry, actually – the whole thing needs to emulsify, or percolate perhaps – maybe it’s more like really good coffee.) Then I pull it out again, and begin the editing process.

The second run through is a combination of tightening up and structural editing. I make sure the plot hangs together, tweak the sentences and ruthlessly slash and burn where I need to. Then I put it away again. At this stage, I usually get a test reader or two to see if they like the story. At this stage I’m not worried about dodgy spelling, but dodgy story.

On the third pass, I read to see if the writing is as tight as I can make it. Sometimes I still have to adjust the plot and structure, but hopefully if I’ve done a good job on the second pass, the third is more for polishing.

I usually don’t use spellcheck until the third pass, and even then I don’t trust it. Because I’m a pretty decent speller, it tends not to pick up much, so I can be lulled into a false sense of security. I’m more likely to misplace a letter in a homonym (like to and too because I’m typing so fast my fingers run away with me) or leave off a full stop.

By then, the manuscript is usually looking pretty reasonable. Once again I put it away. Finally, I read through it again, and at that point, hopefully there’s very little to do. On that read, I try and lose myself in the story, much as I hope my readers will. If I’ve done my job well enough, I’m not going to be jerked out of the story because of dodgy writing.

Because I’m a fiddler, sometimes I have to tell myself to stop being super critical and to ‘just stop’ with the editing. I’ve heard writers talk about never finishing with their editing. I can understand this, because I always look back and think “Oh, I should have done this/that/the other thing/written it better/oh my goodness did I really write that?” Even after it’s published. There’s always something I feel I could have improved upon.

I’ve had to learn that if I ever want to finish something, that I have to stop with the fiddling.

Finishing a trilogy is a funny thing. It’s sort of a relief, and it’s sort of sad. I’m extremely fond of my characters. To say goodbye to them is a bit weird. Mind you, I’ve a quite a few more ideas for stories about some of them, so perhaps it isn’t goodbye, but just farewell for a little while.

In the meantime, I’m working on book 2 of what’s tentatively titled ‘Kazari’s Story.’ I’ve written the first one, currently called ‘Amethyst Pledge,’ and am working on ‘Dark Times’ the second story.

 

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