Tag Archives: proof reading

Back to work under the gaze of Mariah Carey

Phil: Regular readers will be pleased to know there were no fights in team NolanParker last week in Birmingham last week.

No, we met up in the Museum cafe and enjoyed some excellent tea, cake and chat. As Candice said last week, our problem is that we have more projects than time and this means none of them is making any headway. We need to focus on one, get it down and then move on to another.

First, we focused on eating cake – result – cake was eaten. Well done us!

Next, there was a look at our writing ambitions.

We’ve got 2 books out and a third half-written. But, and it’s a big but, we’ve never been entirely happy with the first one. There’s nothing really wrong with it, the story and jokes are excellent, but it didn’t seem like a finished and polished package.

Kate vs the Navy benefitted from a proper proof-reading. Kate vs the Dirtboffins was proofread, but not nearly as well. Some things you just have to pay for, instead we relied on our (then) publisher.

So, Book 1 has been sent off for proofing and we received the results a couple of weeks ago. As ever, Catherine has done a superb job. We learned a lot about our own book from the list of characters and locations in the accompanying notes. She also complimented up on some aspects of our writing.

But, this still leaves a huge number of changes to be looked at from tiny punctuation marks to sentence tweaks to pick up the pace. Someone has to go through these and I volunteered that someone better be me.

So, last Saturday I grabbed a seat in my local library. Candice being unavailable to supervise me, Mariah Carey stood in for her.  You’d never know them apart except that MK is older. And on a bag of crips. (No, I don’t know why)

I thought a good day we see this done. It wouldn’t, Katherine has been far too thorough. 6 hours and a second location with cake later, I’m only at chapter 10. That’s about 1/3 of the way through the book. After that, I’ll be left with the bigger changes that will need the full team to discuss.

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Beriberi doesn’t cause diarrhoea. Try dysentery.

Phil: We’re hard at work on the Kate vs the Navy’s edits thanks to some really superb work from proofreader Catherine Fitzsimons.

All the way through the manuscript, Catherine has annotated changes and made suggestions. Working on these is a little like the days of handing your work in to a teacher and seeing what they have written at the bottom of the page.

We’d expected little more than a tidy up for the grammar and spelling plus some useful text formatting. What we have is far better. Catherine has read the book and provided all sorts of plotline advice. There are notes about references that appear later in the book, the sort of the things you only know when you have fully grasped the structure of the narrative. To be honest, I think she knows our book better than we do!

Along the way there are also technical points such as the sort of illness one of the characters could have suffered in the past, although Candice was glad to have read this AFTER eating her Warwickshire Rarebit lunch (It’s like Welsh, but with local ingredients since you ask).

Once you get over the idea that someone has criticised your work, then the process of applying many of the suggestions is great fun. For a start, we have to really think about sections of text, some of which require a bit of head-scratching. However, the result will be far better than we’d have managed on our own and makes the service well worth every penny.

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Your search history

Candice: You know you are having a bad week when you start to type in your search into Google and when you put in d the word “diarrhea” comes up.

Luckily it’s not me being ill but another, smaller member of the household.  She’s fine in herself but not so well in other areas.  This means, of course, that she can’t go to nursery.  We are now a week in and I’ve used up all my grandparent passes so the other half and I are stepping in to the breach and having to take some time off to look after her.

But I am always harping on about time and the issues with having a child so I will shut up!

I did manage to squeeze in some book time the other day as we have  new typeset version of our book, courtesy of Clink Street. However, in the transfer from Word to Indesign a lot of the formatting has changed, and we have spotted some typos.

I’ve also had a colleague at work read the book and give me some good feedback on it (its a bloke so that’s even better) but also give me a list of things he spotted.

Between the two we now have a long list of things to change to make the printed version even  better!  However, by the end of the two hour proofing session my eyes were going a little screwy.

I have a recommendation to anyone who needs to proof read their work.  Read it from the end.  You don’t get distracted by the meaning and the story, you literally just spot the mistakes.

After many missed speech marks and full stops, it definitely worked for me.

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Finding the right format

Open Office/MS WordPhil: There have been many obstacles in the path of our writing efforts in the last year. Work, moving house, more work, babies – in other words, life. If you want to publish a novel, you just have to suck those up and get on with it. That’s what differentiates novelists from those who like the idea of writing a book but will never get around to it. Well, until you get a top publishing deal and can give up real work for a life of lounging around in front of a computer thinking up stories anyway.

Another problem, but one of our own making occurred at the same time. This time it wasn’t so much a speed hump on our road to literary greatness, more a brick wall.

Back in August, we’d rewritten the first 3 chapters of the book and sent them over to Libroediting for proof reading. Liz had done the biz and sent a file back complete with suggested changes. Candice being otherwise occupied, I volunteered to take a look.

Being a good boy, I quickly opened up the file and hit a problem. On my computer, because I don’t want to be beholden to The Man and also a cheapskate, I use OpenOffice for word processing. Candice and Liz use Word. For some reason, the document as I saw it was sprayed across a huge number of pages with Liz’s comments dotted around seemingly randomly. This isn’t a problem I’ve had before, but as my past life on an IT helpdesk tells me, you only have problems with important files.

“Oh dear”, I thought. Something like that anyway.

Which all helps to explain why it has taken 4 months for anything to happen. I was too busy with what I laughingly call real work to chase things up. Even if I had, other matters were slightly higher up the priority list of she who I’d be chasing it up with.

Never mind. All is now sorted. The file has been re-saved into RTF format. I was able to open this, read the comments, make changes to the text and send it back for bedtime reading. We now have 12 pages of book opening that seems pretty tight. All sorts of stuff that used to be gradually introduced is now pelted at the reader like crystalline water in a snowball fight. By the end, you know a lot more about Kate and the situations she finds herself in – the basis of the story you will hopefully now be desperate to read.

Next – the query letter and then to the Post Office. I have “Writers and Artists Yearbook” out of the library in preparation.

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The Proof is in the, er, Reading

Magnified (8/365)

Phil: Candice mentioned on Tuesday that both our manuscript and query letter had been through a professional proof-reader. We think this is a vitally important step towards getting published.

I’ve recently donned my anorak and have been working on a bookazine . When setting out the budget for this, a chunk of the money was set aside to pay for proof-reading services. I wasn’t going to go ahead with anything that will appear in front of a group of pedants as large as the intended audience without at least a little protection from my own stupidity. I am the man with a publication to my name where a mis-spelling of the word “diesel” appears on the contents page. In a large font. Ouch.

Anyway, my reader checked all the pages sent over and I think every single one came back with suggestions. Some were worse than other but I considered each bit of red ink and most of the time applied the change it represented. The result will be a much better read than if I’d ploughed ahead without the check.

Now, I’ve read internet forum discussions on proof reading and in every one, a contributor has huffed that “some of us can proof read our own work.”

I take great heart every time I read this, for a simple reason. That is one person out of the race to be published. One person who will undoubtedly submit a manuscript that doesn’t read well, contains spelling mistakes or simply isn’t as good as it could be. Proof reading is not optional. You are far too close to the words you have written and it doesn’t matter how disciplined you are, you can’t avoid reading what you want to read, not what is on the page. Possibly the biggest source of errors is editing. I am a terror for re-writing a sentence and accidentally leaving odd words from the older version hanging around. Wordy processors make text-fiddling easy and this type of error even easier.

Just as importantly, as we have discovered, you can write bits of story that make sense to you because you know your characters inside out, but aren’t clear to the reader because they don’t. The proof read, even by a friend or relative, will highlight these.

All this is so that once our words find themselves in front of someone who could change our writing lives, or are containing in a book that has been paid for, they will be as good as we can possibly manage. It’s been a lot of effort to get this far. The cost of the service isn’t too scary high. We don’t want to fail thinking, “If only we’d had the text checked”.


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Here we go again

Candice: After some time, some editing, some literary festival discussions and some cake; the first three chapters of ‘Kate and the Dirtboffins’ are almost ready to go out to unsuspecting Agents again.

Phil’s and my novel has been rewritten within an inch of its life; characters removed, plot lines reassessed, wardrobes updated and now its been through the helpful hands of Liz at Libroediting who’ve given our bad spelling, crap use of speech and general dyslexia a once over to help make this a quality document. Liz looked at the last version, and her comment about it lacking a hook really made us think.  Well this time apparently, it’s more compelling than it was before! We may not agree will all the changes she’s suggested but at least we have an outside opinion on what we have done.

We’ve also given her our newly revamped, marketised and generally much better query letter so she can give it the once over.  I’m actually very happy with that one particularly as Phil and I ripped the other one apart, whilst sweating buckets under a tree at the Hatton Arms a few weeks ago, and I now think this is something that people will go “humm, this sounds very interesting” rather than getting lost in the slush pile.

So the last step lies with Mr Parker as I am busy packing boxes on the proviso I will be moving house in just over a week.  The girl can only concentrate on so many things at one time, you know.  He’s been in the library with Writer’s and Artist’s again, working out who might like our new book.

However, in the middle of all this Liz came back and said, ” I don’t know how the publishing industry is the moment, have you considered self publishing?” Well that is interesting, the word is obviously getting further and further out there that things have changed (it also shows she doesn’t read our blog 😦  ). I went back and said yes we have, but want to give the old-fashioned,traditional route one more try.

So Phil is making notes, printing packs and stuffing envelopes for one last time before we go and see Authoright for self publishing ideas.


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