Will I ever learn? Last week I sent off my short story (the dialogue one as mentioned previously) to a competition, then printed it off for my husband to read when he had the time.
Yes, I was in a hurry to send off the story. No, I didn’t read the story in print myself before sending it. Yes, I thought I’d edited it really well, and I’d made changes suggested by three people who’d read it for me. And yes, I read the story in paper form, over breakfast the following morning.
And yes, I found three things I would have changed, including a mysterious ‘h’ which should have been a ‘he’ – Spell Check hadn’t picked this up. I did a test while writing in Microsoft Word (the program in which the story was written) and found that Spell Check is not set up to check for ‘orphaned’ letters. After having a quick look, I couldn’t see a way to fix this (I use Word 2007 at home, so this may have been fixed in later versions). Very annoying!
But it shows that you can’t rely on Spell Check, of course, which I do know, but sometimes I get carried away, especially when short on time, or even just impatient to cross something off a ‘to-do’ list (oops).
I love to write and edit via the computer, but it really works better when you read your own writing in other ways.
Here’s a few ideas, probably more as a reminder to myself!
Read it aloud to yourself.
Have someone else read it themselves.
Have them read it aloud to you.
And yes, print it out! I’m not sure of the scientific reasons for being able to read differently between a printed page and an electronic screen, but it’s there. Perhaps it’s because it’s how we learnt to read? (here’s an interesting but rather long article that may help explain)
Leave it aside and go back to it the next day, after a good night’s sleep. DO NOT TOUCH IT or even think about it during that time!
What else? Someone I read recently suggested recording your work being read aloud, then listening back to it. I haven’t tried it, but it’s an interesting idea.
Find a reading buddy – an author in your genre, or just someone you get along with really well who can provide and accept constructive criticism.
Get beta readers to read it, once it’s enough of a draft to make a story. Find them on the internet.
And of course, for work that’s really important to you or your career, pay an editor to go over it once you’ve got it to a point where you feel that it’s worth spending the money.
And I promise I will take my own advice, eventually (but feel free to point out any errors in this post & I’ll pretend I was testing you) 😉