No matter how great you think your writing is, you need a proofreader. You can read as many writing books you want, and know all of the things you should avoid, but until someone completely unbiased looks at your work you’ll have mistakes. Of course, I’m not saying anything that other writers don’t know, but I am literally amazed at the improvements in my manuscript (MS) after having someone proofread it.
I’m working through my second set of revisions. The first was right after I finished writing. I fixed obvious mistakes and revised scenes before deciding to let it sit. While it sat, I read On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels and participated in a Writer’s Digest webinar. The webinar included an agent critique of the first three pages of my novel. The feedback was good. Strong characters and engaging story, but I needed to work on the mechanics of my writing. The agent commented that once I ironed this out, my novel would “sparkle”. Now, I hope that she really meant that and wasn’t just giving a ray of hope to every webinar participant. Either way, I’m counting on the fact that, as she said, I have a good “commercial novel”.
After doing all of this, I thought, Synithia, you need someone other than your best friend and husband to read your book. So a co-worker hooked me up with a contact of his that is good at proofreading. I was thrilled when she offered to review it, until the time came to actually give her my book. What if she hated it? Was I really ready for that criticism? Would a 62-year-old white lady get into a book about a black couple? My pessimist’s brain was near bursting with worry. So, with trembling hands and heavy heart, I handed it over and told her to do her worse.
I didn’t sit idle while she proofread. I began work on another novel, and decided to work on my writing. I read Grammatically Correct, and worked through the exercises in Donald Mass’ Writing the Breakout Novel workbook. Both proved extremely helpful. Especially the exercises in Writing the Breakout Novel. I would highly recommend these to others, if you take the advice of an unpublished author. Any who, Ester (proofreader) finally called. She wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be alarmed by the red marks. I told her that was the point of getting it proofread, and waited with bated breath for her to tell me it sucked. She liked it! She even skipped ahead to see what happened and raved about an unexpected turn of events. She wasn’t finished proofreading, but she wanted to touch base. Score! I was too excited.
When she finished, and I got my MS back, we went over the things she’d noted, or changed. She pointed out grammar mistakes, inconsistencies, overused phrases and redundancies. I was overwhelmed when I looked at all of those red marks. I put it aside for a few weeks before jumping in. Now that I’m going through her comments, I’ve been floored by her attention to detail and ability to point out the little things that would dull my book’s sparkle. I’m so grateful for her taking the time to read the book of a person she didn’t know, and putting so much effort into improving it. I know my revisions aren’t over after this. Even though I’m brushing up on grammar, I can’t get into it. I’m still going to seek beta readers, although she kinda was one, and get a few other set of eyes to look at it before I begin querying. I’d like to get my MS as near to perfect as I can before putting it out there. I know that once I begin querying, I’ll get plenty of criticism that I’ll have to consider. Yet, I’m prepared to stick with this for the long haul. It’ll take time, and I won’t land an agent and major book deal overnight, but it won’t be for lack of trying, or, because I didn’t do everything on my part to ensure that my work is on point. So, thank you, to my wonderful proofreader, for helping me strive for perfection.
“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it; autograph your work with excellence.” -Unknown