Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Day Two: Interview On Travelling With T

Today’s stop on my lovely blog tour is at Travelling with T! Here I’m answering T’s brilliant interview questions and there’s another chance to enter the competitions. Tomorrow sees the first of the blog tour reviews, so be sure to come back for that! Please leave a comment for me over at T’s blog – I’m popping over there myself right now.

I also wanted to share a fantastic post about self-editing on Cathy Bramley’s blog. Cathy’s running a week-long series called ‘What Does It Take To …’ and today she has Debi Alper AKA The Editrix answering questions about editing and writing courses. Click here to take a look.
great escape tour banner small MURDER AT THE MAPLES

Tomorrow – Socrates’ Book Review Blog review and guest post
October 10 – readalot review
October 11 – Shelley’s Book Case review
October 12 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book review and guest post
October 14 –  Queen of All She Reads review and guest post
October 15 – Chloe Gets A Clue exclusive interview
October 16 – rantin’ ravin’ and reading review and guest post
October 17 – Brooke Blogs review and exclusive interview
October 18 – StoreyBook Reviews review
October 20 – A Chick Who Reads review
October 21 – THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK review
October 22 – Dru’s Book Musings guest post as Flora Lively herself!

Is Anything Ever 100% Perfect?

I took my proof copy of Murder at the Maples on holiday with me and read it. You know, I’ve not had time to do this with my previous two books, but I’m really glad I did with this one and I’ll schedule in time to do one final paperback reading in future for sure. Because guess what? Even after all the editing, and all the proofreading – professional proofreading, mind – I spotted 3 mistakes.

I spotted 3 mistakes, but how many more lurk between the pages waiting to pounce on the reader who just loves to give 1 star reviews for books with typos? I’ll never know, until someone tells me. And that’s quite scary. I was talking to a fellow author the other day who told me about a trad-published author friend of hers whose book had been through 10 rounds of proofreading, only to still have errors. I tell you, something’s going wrong here …

Well, I have my theory, which I’ll come to in a minute. But first I have to say this: I’m not complaining about the quality of proofreading for Murder at the Maples. Jude has done a sterling job, as she always does – and let’s not forget the mistakes were mine and mine alone! Here are the three that were missed, for anyone who’s interested:

  • By the time Flora returned she’d make a tray … Should have been ‘made’.
  • … at the foot of stairs. Should have a ‘the’ before stairs.
  • Also, hadn’t Ida had left her entire … ‘Had’ should have been deleted.

Fascinating: three classic typing and editing errors here. A missing word; an extra word that hung around from an earlier draft; a tense error, which could either be a typo or also left over from an earlier version. Of course, hundreds of other errors or typos were picked up in the proofreading stage – hopefully this is all that was missed – and you have to keep reminding yourself that proofreaders are only human. They’re bound to miss a couple of things. The responsibility – always – is with the author/publisher who signs off the final version.

So, on to my theory about more mistakes in books these days – traditionally published as well as self. It’s simple: proofreading on screen.

I know exactly how this works because of indexing. Times past, editors would send me – through the post – a stack of A3 sheets to work from. I’d read through them and make notes, then transfer the terms and locations to the computer. Now they send me pdfs. It’s quicker, it saves trees, it saves money. When I download the proofs from the publishers’ FTP sites I can see the other jobs that are going out to other freelancers, proofreaders amongst them. I’d be willing to bet that the days of proofreaders, or editors, working from printed proofs – especially from printed and bound copies of the actual book – are long gone. I imagine it’s rare, at best. My proofreader works on my Word document, and gives me her comments and corrections in Track Changes. This is, I believe, fairly standard. Of course, professionals are trained to spot errors even in this format, and pick up almost all of the errors they most certainly do.

But not 100% of them. There really is nothing like the printed page to focus the eye on typos and omissions. And in the good old days, all proofing was done this way. E-format only traditional publishers are getting the same reputation as early self-publishing authors for failing to have their books properly proofread – but the sad thing is, they are having them proofed! But maybe because no paper copy exists, mistakes are getting through.

Well, this isn’t a rant by any means – at the end of the day, does it matter? I feel embarrassed – mortified – if a reader finds a mistake in one of my books, but that’s because I’m that kind of gal, and it’s all down to me as author/publisher and I want to be seen to be doing my absolute best for the reader. And I am. So if the odd typo gets through, so be it. I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. And I’m certainly not going to blame the proofreader, because she is also doing her very best. And hey, as I said before, all these mistake are mine and mine alone 🙂

Tips For Working On Your Proofread Book

I’ve just finished working through my proofreader’s comments on Murder at the Maples. This is a process I really love – my proofreader-stroke-editor, Jude White, is brilliant at picking up what I meant to say, at making my own words sound even better and more polished. This is the fourth book she’s worked on for me, and I think a working relationship between editor/author improves over time because the editor begins to get a real feel for your voice, and knows what to leave alone as well as when to jump in and suggest changes.

Flora Lively cover

Still, I expect Jude was tearing out her hair with my lack of knowledge of hyphenated words! Forlorn-looking and twenty-nine are just two examples of times I failed to join up linked words, and I tend to compound words that shouldn’t be, or fail to join words that should! Ah well, this is why we have a proofreader after all 🙂

But working on a Word document in Track Changes was a learning curve for me, and quite scary the first time I did it, so I thought a blog post about it was long overdue. Here are my top tips for working on your proofread book:

1. Save the master copy and leave it alone. I always save the copy Jude sends me and then make another copy called something like: Murder at the Maples proofed – working copy. This I save at the end of every session with the date and time, as it’s impossible to get through the whole document in one go. When I return to work on it, I make sure I’m working on the most up to date copy, but it also gives me the option to go back to previous copies if I suddenly decide I want to reject some changes but don’t want to have to start all over again from the original. (This happens, believe me.)

2. Get comfortable with Track Changes. When I received my very first proofread copy of Can’t Live Without back from Jude, I’d never used Track Changes before. I was terrified of the responsibility of clicking the right buttons, the whole concept of ‘Accept or Reject’, and worried I’d miss something, or change something by mistake thus making even more errors.

It’s not that bad once you get used to it. Here is a screenshot of Track Changes in Word, with the first page of my proofread document.

Track changes

The main buttons you need to worry about are Accept, Reject & Next, and under ‘Comments’, Delete. One tip I picked up is don’t click on Accept if you are happy to accept a change – this will automatically jump you to the next suggestion, and I get twitchy if I can’t see with my own eyes that the change has taken place! Instead, click on the drop-down menu underneath Accept and choose ‘Accept Change’. Then you can see the change has worked and click on Next to go to the next one. Remember for changes like those shown above, you’ll need to Accept twice – once for the deleted text and once for the new text.

If your proofreader or editor has put comments in the grey margin, you can read and then delete these using the Delete button in the Comments box, which is greyed out in the screenshot above but will show when you have clicked inside a comment. Sometimes my proofreader will query something to check it’s as clear as it can be, and sometimes I’ll take her comments on board, other times I won’t.

3. Take your time. There really is no point rushing this stage. You might even find other things you want to change as you go through, but I cannot stress enough the importance of not adding new material at this point. Who is going to proof the new stuff if you’ve already had it proofread? Only send your final, final, triple-final copy to be proofed.

4. Make a Master Copy of the finished document. From my master copy I then go on to format the book for Kindle, and typeset it for Word. You need to make sure you have one copy that is perfect, and make sure you give it a file name that identifies it as such. It’s easy to end up with so many copies of your book you can’t tell which is which!

5. Make a style sheet for next time. If you find there are certain preferences which come up a lot, you can save your proofreader – and yourself – time by making a proofing style sheet for future books. For example, my preference is to have numbers written out in words, and I also like to use okay, instead of OK. And forever, to mean ‘he’s forever telling me to eat my greens’, but ‘I’ll stay with you for ever.’ I can change my mind about this stuff, but it helps to think about it first and let your proofreader know so she/he can help you be consistent.

Well, over to you – what proofreading tips can you share? Does anyone have a proofreader who works on a printed copy? Looking forward to reading your comments.

pen and ink

Lose The Puppy – The Trials and Tribulations of Editing

Last night I had a long conversation with my hubby (poor hubby) about a scene I’m struggling with while editing the first in my Flora Lively series. I’d made a few structural changes to tighten things up, and the story is working far better, but … then I came to a scene that simply didn’t fit with the new structure. No problem, you might say, just ditch it. Well, if only it were as simple as that!

The scene involved Flora and a puppy, and the puppy provided just the right tone to offset something else that was going on, as well as adding a bit of important conflict. Oh, and did I mention that the puppy is just so cute? But because of changes made to some earlier scenes, there was just no reason for the puppy to be there anymore! I’d have had to invent a whole new reason for her existence, which would have muddied the waters of the entire plot. Not good! After an hour of going round and round the houses trying to figure out how to make it all work, my husband’s advice was: Lose the puppy!

A portrait of a Beagle puppy.
A portrait of a Beagle puppy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No! I cried. I can’t do it. I’ve spent hours writing that puppy in – and did I mention that it is just so cute …?

This is the essence of editing, particularly structural. To make some parts better other parts will have to be sacrificed, even if the writing is good, and even if the puppy is cute. It’s hard, but necessary, and it’s what separates you as a writer from those who can’t self-edit. I’ve looked at it again today, and the puppy definitely has to go. Even though it was really just so …

(No puppies were harmed in the writing of this blog post. Petal the puppy will be reincarnated in another Flora Lively story, probably book 2.)

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