Monday Classroom: Befores/Afters – Errors and Reading your manuscript aloud . . .

I could not make my side trip toTexas, so I am home in my mountain cove from the Fairhope trip and ready to find my routine again. Though it will be an altered routine as I will really need to put my head down and work on the next book. I hope to continue my blog posts three times a week as I have been doing, though my visiting will be scattered willy nilly, so if you do make it by here, I so appreciate your support.

My deadline is a year away, and that may seem a long time, but it is not. Nopeses. That time will fleetingly flyyyyyyy on by and next I know I’ll be going, “OMG OMG, DEADLINE DEADLINE DEADLINE ALERT ALERT ALERT SOUND THE ALARM! BAAA-WOOOP, BAAAA-WOOOP, BAAA-WOOOP!”

Let me tell y’allses. There is Life Before Publication and Life After Publication—where I had my “pre published” notions naïve arse kicked. And I’ll be posting some of those thoughts in future Monday Classroom postings. For exampleroony, Errors In Books. That bane of an author’s existence. The burr in our backsides. The thorn in our toeses. The—okay, you get the idea: the ARRRRRGGHH! of discovering an error after all our hard work. Lawd.

author contemplating her smugness gone buh-bye

Before I had novels published, I used to feel this sense of smugness when I’d find an error in an author’s novel. A sort of “Humph, that won’t happen to me! I won’t be so sloppy.” Ha. Boy, the naïve things I used to think about this business “before and after publishing my own.”

The frustration truth is: somehow, errors do find a way of slipping through in our work—and this includes the work of seasoned “big time” authors with “big time” publishers, oh yes.

Now, y’all, not only do I read my novel multiples of times, and that means on my computer, on a print-out, and now on my Kindle, but my publishers have a copy-editor and a proof-reader who scour the novel for nits. And, guess whatses? Still, things can slip through. They hide, giggling in the pages, and then come out once the novel is published—lawdy! Those little stinkers. Some authors won’t read their published books, but I do. I have to. I have to “see;” and I want to re-visit the characters and place as a reader instead of an author. I am compelled to read the finished product.

Now, all that said, I can’t stand “lazy writing—” when it is obvious the author didn’t take care with their book and instead slammed it out in a hurry to be published. There is the occasional error that may slip through, and then there is the sloppy slip-slop of which every so often I read and shake my haid and go tsk tsk tsk, for shaaaaaammmmme.

"serious" authors

Truth is, for most all us serious authors (and I say “serious” authors as the ones who really do care about our final product), it’s difficult when an author is on deadline, and when books are coming at least one a year (some authors write more than that, and one year I did—never again!), for the time it takes to develop the story and then go through all the stages before publication can be stressful if one is pushed to their limits. And we want you readers to love us so, and to enjoy/love our books and characters and places. We are sincere, you can bet your booticles.

The last chance an author has to find errors is in the galley proof. Galley Proofs make authors, or at least this one, gulp and swallow. For if we miss an error at this point, oh well! It goes to print like that. Oh deary.

This time when I received the galley for Family Graces, I did something I have always said I would do, but never did it—mostly because it’s a pain in the arse. Big Danged Ole Pain In The Big Pain In the Big Danged Ass. But, I did it. I forced myself to read the entire manuscript aloud. Aw Lawd!

My tongue swelled. My throat dried to a crispy critter. My voice warbled and wavered and graveled. And not only did I read aloud, but I forced myself to trail my pen along the manuscript on each word. Ungh. Ungh. Ungh. He’p me lawd. Again: Pain. In. The. Arse.

But guess what? I found a few errors I’d missed in my multiple readings on multiple devices. I found errors missed by the copy-editor and by the proofer—and they are good at what they do! But there they were, nitty little sneaky little bast—um, stinkers that had hidden away, giggling with their little hands over their little mouths. Luckily, the only errors I found were those little gigglers and not anything major, but still. Ungh. There they were, hiding in plain danged ole sight.

If there is a giggler left hiding in Family Graces after all that proofing, I Do.Not.Want.To.Know. Aw lawd! I’m going to read the published book with one eye closed.

Now, will I read my future manuscripts aloud? You bet I will. Would I suggest to you to do it: Yup, and believe me, I didn’t think I’d go for it—it takes an incredible amount of time, and it’s boring and it makes your tongue feel as if it’s going

only nature is perfection

to fall out of your mouth and go slugging off for the Bahamas. But what happens is, as you read and trail along that pen, if your mind reads what it wants to read versus what is on the paper, your eyes/pen will note it, so that your brain takes a little “skip” there and you go “wait . . . wait . . .” and go back. It takes mere seconds for this to happen, and it’s effective.  But if you are not reading aloud, your mind will just read what it wants without your mouth along for the ride—does that even make sense? Haw! Just think about it for a bit and it’ll become clear—right? Riiiiiggghht.

Though I didn’t find any in Family Graces, this is a great way to discover other blips and blurps in your book—wonky scenes and such-all. There were a few places where I may have altered the sentence/phrase a bit, but not enough to send my editor into fits of LAWD NO LAWD NO LAWD NO STOP IT KAT STOP BEING SO DANGED PICKY—YOU ARE DRIVING US INSANE WITH YOUR PICKY-PERSNICKITY- AUUUGGGHHH! Teeeheeeheee.

Folkses, I never thought I’d be able to read an entire novel aloud. That’s approximately 90,000 words in this book. One.Word.At.A.Time. But I cannot deny the effectiveness of this. I’ll do it again–after my tongue returns from its vacay to the Bahamas. Lawd.

So, any of you out there read aloud your work? And have you found it an effective way to find errors?

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15 thoughts on “Monday Classroom: Befores/Afters – Errors and Reading your manuscript aloud . . .

  1. Reading out loud. I have suggested this (more so for shorter pieces), but felt a little weird about it. Thinking all those words, out loud?! Now your confirmation confirms it. It sounds different out loud than it does in the head.

  2. Reading aloud is a great tool. It removes the product enough from the cocoon the author creates to be able to “see” it. I frequently do this with my work. It is also a tool I have employed, though rarely, to read a work (not mine) that I was having a hard time reading, but which I knew I wanted to finish. The only way to get through, it turned out, was to read out loud. Guess what? It worked. I also had the sense that I was honoring the old way of storytelling, which was oral.

  3. I too have to read some of my work aloud….I have also found that to myself I tend to “skim”, missing this and that. Usually by the time for the final edit back from the publisher my mind is on the next manuscript so I REALLY have to concentrate…..but I invariably do find “little errors” subtly missed….as you say hiding out. I used to have my children file for me when they visited my Financial Analyst positions on Children’s Day just to show them that all of the job is not always fun…..so it is with editing…..though without those first few edits I cringe to think what a mess the story line would sometime have…..when my mind skips a beat or whatever and the sentence falls totally apart. Anyway, they both have their own viable business now so those early lessons worked well, but I still have to remind myself of this very tiring but necessary part of writing.

  4. YES! Read the work out loud! *head banging desk multiple times* I KNOW this so why, oh why, don’t I do it?

    Our eyes deceive us as writers – every time – because we wrote it we miss a, to, do, all, it, those little doodies (made up word) that help work make sense.

    I must admit reading work on the actual kindle device itself adds another layer of catching the doodies but we must be ever vigilant. The only reason I can sleep at night is because even Nora Roberts books have the odd doodies too. But it’s scary stuff because we only ever see them ONCE something has been published.

    • I was the same way — kept saying I needed to at least try it – and three books and a novella went by without me doing it — finally, finally, I tried it and went ‘Ugh this sucks” but . . . well, it did work! Laugh

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