So, you’ve had an idea for a story. You’ve scribbled down notes. You’ve drafted a basic story outline. You’ve tapped your keyboard into oblivion writing the entire thing, crafting your story with painstaking attention to detail. You think the hard work is over. It’s only just begun.
The truth is, be it a story, an article or indeed anything, nobody really likes having to read it all over again. Once you’ve transferred this big, galumphing thing from your brain to the page you’re not always in the mood to revisit it. After all, it’s all good, right? You’d have seen any mistakes as you went along, right? Wrong.
Proof reading is a vital step in the writing process that must not be overlooked. I speak from personal experience when I say there is no worse feeling than putting your work out there to discover mistakes in the text. Mistakes, however, are our greatest teachers. Here are some little tips that have helped me personally when it comes to proof reading.
- Read aloud. Yes, this may annoy your neighbours, flatmates, significant others but I have found that reading the text out loud allows for greater analysis. When you read silently, a sentence can often read in your head the way you originally intended it to, but in reality it does not. Reading aloud stops you from skipping or skimming over potential mistakes.
- Take breaks. If you’re proof reading a large body of work, little and often is the best way to go. Reading for too long in one go increases the chances of you missing something due to fatigue. Go grab a drink, a snack, take a walk. Your work will be waiting for you.
- Keep track. With my last novel I began keeping track of how many times I had proof read each chapter. This makes it easier to return to proof reading after a break with a quick glance at your chart or list.
- Do it again. You will eventually get to the stage where you think it’s ready. That little voice in your head will tell you all’s well. Agree with that little voice, but give the text one more proof read for safety.
- Get help. A fresh pair of eyes is always helpful. Find someone who is willing to have a look at your work. Give them a physical copy wherever possible. Be patient and don’t rush them. They are doing you a favour in agreeing to have a look at your work.
- Be kind. Sometimes when you look back at your work and find multiple mistakes it can leave you feeling a little down hearted. Don’t beat yourself up. We all make mistakes, just make sure you’re the kind of person that takes the time to fix them.
As a general note on the process of proof reading and my own approach to it, there are many schools of thought regarding proof reading each individual chapter just after you’ve finished it. There are certainly benefits to looking over your work while it is fresh in your mind, but personally I find that a little time away from your work allows you to be more detached from it and see any errors or ways to improve what you’ve done. Ultimately I do the bulk of my proof reading once the whole piece is initially ‘complete’.
So there we have it. My own little ways of coping with having to read my own work over and over again. I do hope they’ve been of some use to you, but however you go about your proof reading, just remember that nobody’s prefect.