Proofing your Work

Hidey-Ho Scribblers ~ J Monkeys here.  I recently blogged about finishing one of my WIPs. You can read that post here.   It was an exciting thing.  I may have overstated things when I said I finished it.  My next book is a departure for me, a non-fiction work call DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy.  Back when I wrote that post (all of 3 weeks ago) I had finished several steps in the journey to a final draft: I wrote the book, proofed the book, had the book edited by someone else, got input from a beta reader and modified the manuscript to incorporate the editor/beta reader’s thought and fought my way through formatting the book for print.

Then I ordered my proof copy and patted myself on the back for finishing it.  But it wasn’t really done.  No, no.  My proof copy arrived in the mail a week or so ago.  I sat down and over the course of several day, I read every word, evaluated every page and marked that copy up like a college student cramming for a test.

Today I finished inputting my changes and created version 4 of my DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy manuscript.  Moments ago, I placed an order for proof copy #2.  When you Indie Publish the proof copy replaces the galleys, blues and ARCs of the old publishing world.  I have learned to love the proof.  Just because you think your work is finalized doesn’t mean that it really is…

I’ll give you an example.  My editor noticed that I had some trouble with the style of quotes, apostrophes and dashes in my text.  In some cases the text had smart quotes, and in other cases there were…well, I’m sure they aren’t called dumb quotes, but I don’t know what to call them.  Straight quotes maybe.  You know what I mean, right?  I use MS Word and sometimes (like when Smart Quotes is turned on) the quotation marks look nice and round with a circle dohickey and a point going in opposite directions.  And other times they look like this: “.

I had the same problem with dashes.  Sometimes I had em-dashes and sometimes I didn’t.  Em dashes are those longer dashes that appear in Word when you put a space around the dash and then a space at the end of the word after the dash.  Word changes the dash to an em dash automatically, when you have it turned on through Autocorrect.  Well, I had to straighten this out.  It may not matter which type of quote or dash you use, but for sure you want to be consistent!

I dutifully went through my manuscript and fixed all of the quotes, apostrophes and dashes before I set up my proof copy.  Or so I thought.  Do you have any idea how many contractions I used in a hundred pages?  Lots.  And 80% of them we ugly straight apostrophes.  Well, I circled ever blasted one of them in my proof.  I fixed the over the last couple of days – an annoying little project, I can tell you! 

So now I wait, impatiently, for proof copy # 2 to arrive.  I expect it will look a lot cleaner than proof 1 and I hope that the changes I have to make will be so minor that I won’t need to wait for proof copy # 3 before I can say that I’m REALLY done with the book.

Stay tuned – I’m expecting to be able to release DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy in early November.

Today’s Secret: Sometimes getting a proof copy can be just the thing you need to put a little juice into your excitement level for a project.  If you are feeling down about your work, create a proof copy on and take a look at your work in a fresh way.  They don’t cost very much – usually less than $5.00.

Today’s Question: How many drafts does it take you reach perfection – or at least as close as you are likely to get?


10 thoughts on “Proofing your Work”

  1. I feel your pain about the finicky smart quote and ems. I had to go through my galley, as you did, and manually correct. For the ems, I used copy and paste. I’d love to read yor book when it comes out, so let me know.

      1. Thank you for this post. Proofing is so important.
        To fix quote marks (double and single) in Word, toggle on the Auto-correct feature for “smart quotes” then in the Find box type either a ” or a ‘ (depending on which you are fixing) and then type the exact same ” or ‘ in the Replace box. Do a Replace All, and all straight quotes and apostrophes will be turned into curly/smart quotes and apostrophes.

        You’ll still have to look for wayward apostrophes at the beginnings of contracted words such as ’em or ’round. Just do a search for (space)’ and since left single quotes aren’t used all that much, this won’t take long. You can check each one manually.

        To find wayward double quotes,.. Word has a bad habit of “fixing” double quotes attached to ellipses or em dashes. Do a Find for …” and for –” and “– and fix those manually.

        Em dashes are also easy. Instead of auto-correcting while composing, use the keyboard equivalent of “- -” (dash dash) and when you’re finished, in the Find box type “- -” and in the Replace box type “^+” (caret plus) and do a Replace All. Proper em dashes.

  2. As another indie-pubber, I know the value of the proof. I find a ton of errors in the print copy that as many as six sets of eyes misses on the digital version. There is something about the way our brains process information that makes these errors stand out in print. I order at least two versions of proofs before i send in that third draft and call it printworthy. But even still, I’m reading through the final version and have found one or two tiny errors–an extra space, a misplaced quotation mark, etc. The good news with Indie-publishing is that it’s ever too late to make corrections. As long as you haven’t made 200 copies of the book before catching them:-)

    1. Ah yes…the dangers of the large early print order. I ended up with about 35 special “first edition” copies of The Cordovan Vault before I caught the last of the errors. It’s a lemons to lemonade thing. I think I’m going to start with a standard of 3 proofs unless my second one comes back perfect or nearly so. Thanks!

    2. I now realize how mistakes make it to published books. I have read my book about ten times,a beta reader once, my agent has read it twice, my editor, a copy editor and I still found mistakes the last time I looked at it. At times it seems impossible to catch them all.

  3. Even my last version has a miss-spelled word in it. It’s a proper name. I’m pretty sure it was auto-corrected, because honestly I can’t believe I would ever have written it the way it is now printed. oy. So, 12, maybe? Maybe 13 is the lucky number? OMG. I can edit other people’s work flawlessly. My own, not so much. Next time I swear I’m going to do the entire thing backwards, word by word. AFTER the editors, the beta readers, the proof readers.

    1. I’ve heard about that backwards thing. I’m a terrible spelling, so I’m not sure that would help me. And it’s probably a proven fact that people can’t edit their own stuff, we tend to see what we meant instead of what we actually wrote. Good luck!

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