One of the hardest parts of writing a novel, or indeed anything, is not so much the creation, but the subsequent rewriting and editing. First, with editing, we sometimes have to make the painful decision to cut out some of our hard-wrought words, sentences, paragraphs and, yes, even scenes and chapters, to make the finished product as coherent and polished as possible. Rewriting might involve moving sections around so that the the piece flows better, or that exposition comes at the right time. It’s all very subjective, and very difficult.
It can take as long to hone your finished novel from it’s raw state into a beautifully-crafted masterpiece as it is to write it in the first place. If not longer.
Even once you’ve done that, words all in the right order, fat excerised, plot making sense, you then have to proofread it. This, as most people will agree, is practically impossible. While editing your work, you might have missed out or doubled up a small word like ‘the’, ‘an’, or ‘it’ – words we sub-consciously skim over because when scanning a long piece like a chapter we tend to lose concentration, stop checking and just read. We can also leave words in which should have come out when we changed the sentence.
Have you invented names? Have you used them consistently throughout your novel! People not you will notice that kind of stuff. Words where there’s another, similar-sounding word with a different meaning, like ‘to’, ‘too’, or ‘two’ will be ignored by your word-processor’s spell check, so make sure you don’t miss them. Misuse of words is another one to watch out for be confident of its meaning, and if not, then look it up.
Then there’s grammer. A misplaced comma, for instance, can change the entire meaning of a sentence. Two sentences ‘smushed’ together (technical term) can be hard to parse, even if you can’t decide where one ends and the other starts.
When we read, we’re usually skimming, which means jumping over small words for the sake of speed. Skim-reading is natural to us, but you can’t find mistakes that way. When proofreading, you don’t read. You’re checking your work. Any errors will be missed all over again.
Most of us can’t afford the services of either an editor or a proofreader, so these jobs come down to us. Those who might still be ignorant of the fact ought to know that a badly proof-read or edited submission will hit an agent or publisher’s slush pile without being considered. Better to have your work dismissed because it doesn’t fit the publisher’s criteria than because of bad grammar.
For that reason, I’ve put ten fairly obvious errors in this post. Your job is to find them. List them in the comments below and, if you can, tell me why you think they’re wrong and what how they should be corrected.
I’ll give you a score. Plus a bonus if you find ones in my text that I didn’t notice!