Revising Leah

January 18, 2009

Using “Find” to Proofread

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 3:07 pm
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Proofreading, though crucial to good writing, can sometimes be a tedious process. Fortunately, word processors have a function that can help a writer perform very precise proofreading searches. The “Find” (or “Find & Replace” in OpenOffice) function allows you to search for a specific word or phrase in a document. I spent a couple hours yesterday doing searches for some common typos that I, and many other writers, tend to make: its/it’s, lose/loose, affect/effect, etc. I would type, for example, “effect” into the Find box and the program would take me to each and every instance of that word in the text. Then, it was up to me to read the sentence and make sure I’m using the word correctly. I’m happy to report that most of these searches turned up very few errors.

I also used Find to check my use of the word “seemed”. I already knew that I use that word quite a lot in my novel. It appears often because although the narrative is third person, it is a third person narration which privileges Leah’s perspective. Since she isn’t very experienced socially, she often has to guess at the motives and reasons behind other people’s behavior. For example, I need to use “seemed” in a sentence like this one:

David stayed on the other side of the class and seemed to have forgotten about his group.

Leah can’t enter David’s mind. She doesn’t know why the boy does a lot of the things that he does. So much remains a mystery to her, so I need to use that word “seemed.”

But I discovered that about 20% of the appearances of the word “seemed” were not necessary. For example, I might have written something like,

She looked out the window, and it seemed dark outside.

Well, it’s either dark or it isn’t. “Seemed” would be completely inappropriate in this instance. Find allowed me to inspect each and every appearance of that word in the novel without having to read the entire novel straight through.

January 8, 2009

Twiddling My Thumbs

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 1:33 pm
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Earlier this week, I got the message that the proof copy for Leah had shipped, so right now I’m just waiting for it to arrive. If I’m lucky, it will come by Saturday. I’m anxious to hold the book in my hands and see the revised story “in the flesh” instead of just on a computer screen.

As I wait, I’m trying to plan my strategy for what will be the final round of editing. Obviously, the first concern that I’ll have will be to check the cover and the formatting of the text. On the cover, I’ll be looking to see that the pictures and text are all lined up where they should be, and I’ll especially be looking to see how bad the pixellation is on the back cover. I expect some pixellation, but the question will be how obvious is it? If it’s really obvious, I’ll either have to blur the image a little more or I’ll have to design something different. Yesterday, I got inspired after thinking about my use of quotes on the front page of my new website, and I think I might be able to come up with a better design.

But the real editing work will be with the text of the novel. I’m going to try, as hard as I can, not to make too many unnecessary edits. I know that if I give myself freedom to do whatever I want I’ll be rewriting sentences and replacing some words with other words til the cows come home. But I really just want to limit myself to fixing errors.

One kind of error that I know I commit has to do with my dialogue. I tend to commit two common errors in my dialogue: I misplace or omit capital letters, or I insert periods where commas should go (or vice-versa). For example, I might accidentally write a line of dialogue like this:

“Yes, he was lost,” Joe said, “He didn’t know where to go.”

or like this:

“I liked the movie,” she said, “it was really good.”

So after I’ve read a chapter with dialogue in it, I’m going to revisit each line of dialogue and make sure I haven’t left any typos in my text. Little things like that probably won’t be noticed by someone reading my book for the first time, but they’ll bug the heck out of me if I see them in the final product.

Beyond those concerns, I’ll just have to stay on the alert for surprises. I won’t be too worried if I catch a lot of little errors in this final read-through. It’s a fact that reading a hard copy of text is a very different physiological and psychological experience than reading it on the screen, and since this is the first time that I’ll be reading a hard copy of the entire revised text, it’s possible that I’ve missed a few things in my previous revision cycles.

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