In the romance writer groups on Facebook, I noticed that every once in a while, the question of editing comes up: when do I need it? what type do I need? how do I find an editor? Is it going to be expensive? But the million dollar question that pops up is “Do I really need an editor?” The answer to that is “Ummmm…yes. Yes you do." Especially a proofreader and I’ll tell you why in a moment.
What does a proofreader do, exactly?
As it states on the homepage, proofreading is a surface check of your completed manuscript. It’s the last stage right before you send your work off to an agent or hit upload on KDP/Lightning Source/your indie publishing source of choice. It comes after the rewriting and editing, after the major changes and the minor adjustments.
Proofreading is different from other editing services because we check the mechanics, not the fiction elements. Which can include but is not limited to:
~ missing words and repeated words
~ misspelled or misused words
~ missing or incorrect punctuation
~ double punctuation marks at the ends of sentences
~ missing closing quotation mark
~ missing periods before closing quotation marks
~ missing punctuation in dialogue
~ missing second dash or comma of a pair
~ inconsistencies in capitalization or hyphenation
~ overuse of dashes or ellipses
~ missing capital letter for the first word of a sentence
~ extra character spaces between words
~ sentences inadvertently cut off
~ word repetition in neighboring paragraphs
~ overuse of I or there was/were/is
~ missing or wrong chapter numbers
~ timeline errors
~ inconsistent formatting
~ placeholders that were never changed or removed
~ notes to yourself within the text
~ bookmarks that can be removed
~ highlighting that no longer serves a purpose
~ duplicate scenes or paragraphs
Proofreading can come into play before and after a manuscript has been typeset (formatted and designed for publication). A professional proofreader can review the final Word doc before it’s been typeset. But then it would be your responsibility to get it typeset and conduct the final proofread to confirm the layout is correct. If you’re on a budget, this would be the best way to go; otherwise, you may incur additional charges if you have to make any changes after your material has been formatted.
Why you need a professional proofreader
1) You’re too entangled in the sheets
I’m not talking about the wild monkey marathon sex that went on all weekend where you and your Lover Man woke up amongst twisted sheets. Oh, no, no. I’m referring to when you’re so deep in the Writing Zone that you’re mainlining your go-to caffeine drink and when you resurface, you’re surrounded by skeletons because your family hasn’t been fed in months, your house could use a serious spa treatment and your answer to everything is “What the what?” You think you’re ready to proofread after all that? I think not, Writer McWriterton.
Yes, I still advocate for authors to proofread before sending it off to an editor. I mean, that first draft is going to be utter shite. But guaranteed, after that fourth or fifth read-through, the word jungle starts to get so dense you need a machete. Your eyes will play tricks on you and you may miss that homonym or the lack of punctuation in a paragraph. At some point, you will need to throw off those sheets and let someone else climb in.
2) The Friends and Family Plan isn’t going to cut it
When I published my YA novels, my friends and family bought copies, but I knew they weren’t going to read them. They just bought them as a show of support. And I was fine with that. Why? Because I knew the YA genre was something they wouldn’t be interested in reading. It was the reason I wouldn’t let them ever read my WIPs. It was the reason why I never used them as beta readers. It’s the reason why I never used them as proofreaders.
The type of books you write and the type of books your friends and family read may not mesh. If they do, well then, praise the Lord, Hallelujah, pass the biscuits. But if you write paranormal erotica and your parents prefer autobiographies, your BFF prefers chick lit, and your Honey-Baby-Sweetie-Pie prefers graphic novels, the best response you can expect is “You wrote a book? That’s awesome!”
3) Quick release is never a good thing
During the pandemic, I discovered insta-love short stories and can I say, those books are as addictive as coffee. Short stories you can read in less than half an hour? Sign me up. I could read 20 of those in a day. Maybe more. If you're a fast writer, I imagine you can crank those stories out on a monthly basis. Which is fabtastic. But if you're publishing that quickly it's possible you may be bypassing some editing steps to meet those deadlines. Not so fabtastic. Pat yourself on the back for knockin' that shit out, give your manuscript a breather, and then hand it off for an extra eye-bang. Your readers will be just as anxious for the next quickie, so make sure you give them a good time without any premature mistakes.
The struggle is real. I get it. For some writers, the least favorite part of the process is editing. However, if you want to put out a high-quality product, you’re going to need some professional assistance. Research the type of editing service you need (remember: proofreaders are the last line of defense before you print or upload), find someone who has experience in your genre, and be sure to budget for the service.
Do you like the editing process? Yay or nay? Let me know in the comments below.
Keepin’ it romantic,