Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Pains and Perils of Reviewing Proofs – Part I

I’ve been up to my neck–no, make that my nose, or higher–in the quagmire of reviewing the proofs of my upcoming novel, THAT BOY RED (HarperCollins Canada) due to be released in April 2011.

Don't get me wrong–I’ve loved writing this book. I love the process of writing all my books. I’ve even loved re-writing this book, and working through the edits. I’ve relished spending time with these people, being in their world.


But this stage is enough to make me pull out my hair–in chunks, if I had enough of it. It is PAINSTAKING this process. PAINFUL. A fragile and nerve-wracking time for any author for a number of reasons, not least because you know it’s your last chance to make changes.

And one of the grave dangers of this stage–oh, yes, dangers–isn't that you'll fail to spot minor errors, but that you that you will over fiddle and wreck what works.

Here’s the thing: each time you see your work, time has passed. You are different, so what you see and how you see is different. Sometimes you forget about the previous changes you'd made and the reasons for those changes (chances are you’re already deep into another work, or your mind is cleared of all details of this particular work because it's filled with life events).

One tip to help you catch what you need to as you review the proofs (this is helpful during any stage of the editing process) is to read the proofs out loud. I’ve mentioned this before. It helps at every stage, and this last stage is no exception, even if you’ve read your manuscript aloud many times before. Your ear catches things your eyes don’t, and you have the chance to hear (and see) how each sentence links to the ones before and after.

There can be a problem with reading out loud to yourself, though: when you don’t have an audience, the reading can stumble and stall, and trip and trick you into thinking something doesn’t work when it does. Or vice-versa.

So here are few tactics you can try to avoid the reading-aloud-to-yourself blues:

Read aloud, but slowly, as though you are reading to a class of kids.

Read aloud, but slowly and softly as though you’re reading to a kid sitting next to you on the couch.

Read standing up. When the diaphragm can take in larger quantities of air, it seems to help. If you find a part you stumble over, mark it, then try reading it again later.

Sometimes you’re stumbling because the writing needs to be fixed, but other times because you are in a hurry. I know. Because I change things back and forth and back and forth...a dizzying cycle.

My next several posts will continue to cover the pains and pitfalls of reviewing proofs–as well as how to avoid those pitfalls. I hope these suggestions will be relevant to any stage of editing.


  1. The hardest part is actually letting go, isn't it? Problem is, it's never going to be perfect, but at some point you've got to grit your teeth, close your eyes, and send it out.

  2. Oh, Karleen, that's so true. It sometimes feels like I have to pry my panicked fingers off that manuscript, one by one. I guess if we don't let go, we'd simply work on the one piece for the rest of our lives.