Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Need for Editing and Proofreading

Most writers believe they are good writers. Most writers are good story tellers. I believe that I am a good writer and for a long time, I felt that my writing didn’t need much editing. After all, I’d been writing for years. I was wrong.

I am a good writer, but in the writing and telling of our own work, we are prone to mistakes. Words pour out of me almost like someone is telling me a story. When the words are flowing, I let them because to edit in the moment interrupts the flow. However, words that are speaking through me are like the under painting on a canvas. It’s the background that will need many layers before the project is complete. Each time I reread the piece, I touch up a part here, fix a word there. After awhile, my brain becomes a bit mushy and my eyes just slide over the words. I’ve read this over and over. There can’t be any more mistakes.

But often there are. Like a couple weeks ago when I wrote the word “ascetic” when it should have been “aesthetic.” Two very different meanings with ascetic meaning rigid self discipline (and totally wrong for what I was writing) and aesthetic meaning visually pleasing. In the interview, my mind heard the word ascetic and did not even realize it was the wrong word. In this case, the proofreader didn’t catch it and when the article came out in the paper, the interviewee called me on my mistake. Oops, how embarrassing; sorry.

I’ve researched various avenues for publishing and they all offer extra “services” like editing. (I used quotation marks because, in my sarcastic mind, the company is just looking for more money.) I refused to pay to have someone edit my work. I’m a good writer! I don’t need someone to look for mistakes that I knew I had taken care of. Wrong! I DO need someone to edit and proofread.

I hear this from others, too, who insist they are good writers. They are insulted when their work is edited. However, we all make mistakes. Sometimes it jumps off the page at the reader and other times it’s subtle. You want your writing to be understood, but when the reader has to reread a sentence a couple times to try to figure out what is being said, then that’s a red flag. The writer knows exactly what is being said, but if the reader doesn’t… and again, that’s why it’s helpful to have someone else proofread for you.

I’m not stressing this point just because I am now an official editor. I’m saying this because we all need help. I am getting better all the time, but I know that I cannot be the sole editor and proofreader of my own work. I need someone else to go over the writing when my mind is no longer seeing anything wrong. Oh, most of the time I’ve done the job well, but to have that surety, to know that what goes out to the public is excellent writing will help build my reputation as a writer and I do want to make a living from my art.

And that’s the whole point. I want people to like my writing. I want to sell my books and if people are seeing mistakes or they can’t understand what I was saying because my sentences are too long and confusing, then they won’t buy the next book. More than once I’ve heard someone say, “He told a good story, but I found the grammar and spelling errors distracting. I would not buy his book” or “Her sentences are too long and I couldn’t follow her line of thought” or “The paragraphs were so long that it was difficult to read.”

I know it’s hard to have someone read your work before it is published. You want the reader to be surprised and pleased by your work. You want them to be excited by your writing. You don’t want to give it all away before it’s printed as a beautiful-looking book. But please, if you want to sell that book, make every effort to be sure that it is written well!

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