by Frances Brown
We’ve all heard that it’s almost impossible to self-edit our writing, and there are no truer words. You see, we are all human, but our eyes don’t know that. So, they perform this handy little function, akin to the “auto-correct” function on our smartphones. When our eyes read words that we have written, they skim right over all the errors, essentially “auto-correcting” the word, phrase, or sentence to what our brains know it should be. Which is why we rely on good content and copy-editors to perfect our work.
My problem is that once I get back the edited manuscript, I go through and make all the suggested edits. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? And why is that a problem? Because the manuscript does not return to the editor after I’ve made my edits. And in making those corrections or changes, I make yet more errors.
These errors are invisible to my auto-correct eyes on my computer screen. I’ve tried printing off the piece and reading the words on paper, but my eyes don’t fail me. They insist on inserting missing words and ignoring repeated ones. They refuse to admit when a sentence is awkward. They repeatedly, and insistently, insert commas where they aren’t needed.
So, what’s the answer? You’ve paid an editor, you’ve made all your edits, and you’re ready to pitch or publish your piece. But you can’t afford a second round of edits . . . what’s a girl to do?
This is advice I got from the publisher of my very first novel, Debbie Gilbert of Soul Mate Publishing—read it out loud. I didn’t believe her at the time. Boy, do I believe her now.
Your ears can hear what your eyes cannot see—even if the words are coming out of your own mouth. I am amazed every time I’ve gone over and over a piece of writing until I’m absolutely, positively certain that it’s perfect. Then I read it out loud. How did that extra “the” get in there? Why does that sentence sound so clunky? Did I really use the word “aggravate” three times in one paragraph?
In my office, I keep two giant aquariums filled with colorful, freshwater angelfish. They are the “best read” angelfish in the world, because they’ve heard almost every blog, story, and chapter I’ve ever written. Do they bother to offer their literary opinions? No. But they are patient and haven’t complained once about having to listen to endless hours of narration.
Yes, you read that right. Hours. I once lost my voice after reading an entire 349-page novel out loud in one weekend—to my angelfish. You would not believe how many errors I caught before the copy went to print. Precious time, well spent.
I’m still waiting, however, for one—just one!—of those snooty, stoic angelfish to post a review for me. Nothing yet. Guess they haven’t perfected aquatic laptops yet.
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Frances Brown is a multi-published, award winning author of a memoir, and five novels + one Author Resource book entitled, The Road to Publication under her pseudonym, Claire Gem. You can visit her at http://www.francessusannebrown.com and http://www.clairegem.com.
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