Proofreaders and Professors: 2013 365 Challenge #175

Another blog post written while walking the dog!

Another blog post written while walking the dog!

I’ve had an interesting day thinking about writing (to the point of brain ache!).

This morning I finished a book I got for free off Amazon (I won’t say which book, for reasons that will become obvious) and it was an interesting experience. I shall compare it to a G&T- enjoyable without it being clear why, because it had a taste both lovely and bitter. That bitterness was caused by editing, or lack of.

Followers of this blog will know my history with editing: the fact I can’t afford a proof-reader, never mind a copy-editor, and that it worries me.

Well, I finished this book, littered with missing words, random grammar, escapee-commas, poor structure (not starting a new line for each person speaking for example) and that’s saying nothing about the number of characters and points of view (though, to be fair, I never got lost). I had two immediate thoughts: My first thought was that I should drop the author a line to say I loved the book but found a bucket load of errors (obviously worded better than that). This was prompted by Kirsten Lamb’s recent posts about writing reviews when you’re an author (i.e. don’t, especially if it’s more a critique than a review). She suggests sending an email instead.

The Findaproofreader website

The Findaproofreader website

My second thought was, ‘I need a proofreader. I really don’t want to be that person who has that book littered with typos.’ So I did some research and came across a site called findaproofreader.com. They have a facility whereby you list your project and budget and people contact you with quotes if they’re interested.

I don’t have any budget, and I know even a proofread costs £500-£1000 for a book as long as mine, but I thought, why not? I put in my requirements and a budget of £100-£200, just to see if there were any takers.

The first response, almost immediately, told me I was being unrealistic and no one would proofread for under £2 per thousand words (and that’s with me saying Baby Blues is 112k words, which still leaves me 4,000 to cut out!) I might have been disheartened, but the next three messages all said, Yes, I’ll do it. I had two more people tell me my budget was too low, but I have ten people willing to take it on, provided my later chapters are as clean as my sample three (More work required there!) in the interests of building a relationship for future novels (when, presumably, the price will go up!)

Spot the dog!

Spot the dog!

My head is now whirring with thoughts on how to choose between them. I have a feel for ones I don’t think would fit, but I can’t really tell from a short email. (A few are unpublished authors, can’t decide if that’s good or bad). I think my plan is to pick a bad paragraph or two from Baby Blues and ask them to sample edit, to give me a feel for what their work is like.

The first respondent suggested if I pay peanuts I’ll get monkeys. Maybe. However, I’m encouraged by another person who said they’d normally charge £500 but the English in my sample chapters was so good they were happy to do it for less. Here’s hoping.

Oh, and the first thought? Sending the unnamed author an email? A little internet search revealed that his book has five star reviews and he’s a university professor, teaching fiction. I don’t think it’s my place to suggest he visit findaproofreader.com! Besides, I’m off to download book two. Sometimes (as someone said of Dragon Wraiths) a story can be great despite the typos. Whether I’d let him teach my children is another matter!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Llwyn-y-celyn. Someone should introduce the Welsh to the vowel.”

Claire walked up from the car park to the hostel and looked at the latest whitewashed farmhouse on her Welsh adventure. Something told her this one might be less luxurious than her previous night’s accommodation.

Inside, sofas huddled round a blackened fireplace, where a wood-burner held centre stage, and long wooden tables crowded in the dining room. I hope it isn’t full. Could get a bit cosy.

She walked through the building to her dorm room, passing a tiny dorm that felt like a broom cupboard, with painted stone walls and a sink just inside the door. Her heart sank, and she hoped her dorm had a little bit more space.

When she reached her room, Claire felt her cheeks lift in a smile. A bed. A proper bed, with no-one asleep above me. Glorious.

The room had a sloping ceiling, with a dark beam across the heads of the two single beds. Curtains framed a small window that might otherwise have been mistaken for a photograph. Claire went to take in the view, and felt herself relax. Wooded hills lured her out to explore. Flexing her sore shoulders and conscious of the bruise on her thigh from her tumble, Claire laughed ruefully.

“Thanks for the invitation, but I think I need something more gentle today. Kim won’t forgive me if I turn up to her wedding covered in bruises or with a plaster cast on.”

*

Boots laced onto sore feet, Claire decided to follow the footpath from the hostel to the glaciated crag and the Cerrig y Glesiad Nature Reserve. A few hours watching buzzards and admiring the view and she could cosy up on the sofa with her book. She hoped they still lit the wood-burner, even though it was nearly May. Huddling into her coat, Claire thought it didn’t feel like spring, never mind halfway to summer.

Claire stopped, as the path turned from the horizontal and headed skywards. She looked up at the sharp climb and groaned. Time slowed, while she contemplated the path and tried to reach a decision.

After some time, her ears picked up a new noise in the near-silence. A scuff, followed by a cough. She turned her head, and saw a man walking up behind her. Trying to ignore the lump of ice that dropped into her stomach, Claire forced herself to breathe.

This is a footpath. There are bound to be other people walking. Not everyone is trying to mug you.

She made herself smile in greeting at the newcomer, and wondered if she could pretend she’d just come down from the hillside and was heading back to the hostel.

“Morning.”

The man smiled, revealing even, white teeth. “Well, hello. I didn’t expect to meet anyone along here. You coming or going?”

“Undecided.” The word was out before Claire had time to consider.

The stranger laughed. “Bit steeper than you expected?”

Claire bristled at the hint of sarcasm in the man’s rich voice, She took in his well-worn boots and hiking clothes and knew this man thought she was a tourist.

“Just aching from my hike over at Talybont Reservoir yesterday. It turned into a bog-trot and I have bruises on my bruises.”

As she watched, his face shifted almost imperceptibly from disdain to respect. He gazed up at the climbing path and shrugged.

“View will be amazing. Why don’t you just climb to the top and take some pictures? They serve excellent local beer at the hostel, assuming you’re staying there? You can curl up with a bottle and ease your aches away.”

Without waiting for an answer, the man gave her a nod and continued on the path, reaching out to steady himself on the rock as he began to scramble up.

Oh, what the hell. Claire ignored the screaming protest from her back and her thighs, and followed the man upwards.

***

15 thoughts on “Proofreaders and Professors: 2013 365 Challenge #175

  1. Dragon Wraiths was pretty clean on edits I think, and I’m sure Baby Blues will be too by the time you’re done with it! I don’t think it would be a major job!

    I hear you on the making comments on people’s novels. I find it really hard to do too, and you never know how people will react. I’m on the fence about editing really. I like having it for my books, but I’m not stressed by finding a few errors in other’s books. I’d usually rather have the chance to read the book than have missed out on it because they couldn’t afford an editor! Story is more important than grammar (for me).

    • I wondered if I should take down my review on Reckless Rescue, as it’s more a beta reader comment than a review. I will, if you want.

      Baby Blues isn’t as clean as DW, I don’t think, because it’s been written and rewritten so many times. DW came out pretty much fully formed in a short time period. I’m hoping having a proof reader will help me identify my grammar weakness (as you did with the commas before names in dialogue thing!)

  2. I know of a good and sympathetic editor who is much closer to your price range. My e-mail should pop up in your comments admin thingy after I’ve said this so if you’re interested, ping me an e and I’ll put you in touch.

    Cheers

    MTM

  3. If you do decide to go down this route, definitely get them to do a sample proof, that way at least you’ll get an idea of their competence. If your book is anything like your blog post, then that’s a good thing. It looks very clean.

  4. Dragon Wraiths had a couple of minor errors, it wasn’t littered with! If anyone sprinkles errors like sugar on pancakes, I’d be peeved as a reader. I’m sure you’ll mop up most of yours on your own run through. I recently read a pro writer’s book and found more errors in there than in DW. Don’t beat yourself up on the editing front. If you can afford it, do it. If you can’t, put it away for a while, then go through it with a fine toothcomb. You’ll be fine.

    • Thanks, Pat. Having got a bunch of people prepared to proofread for my budget, I’m going to do it, if only to learn about one more element of the writing experience. It’s already had a positive effect, as I’m finally pruning the word count, and I have an external deadline to work to, which suits me. I wonder if I’ll ever feel comfortable paying editor rates though (none of the proofreading samples so far have commented on a shift in POV mid scene – I guess that’s more editing than proofreading). I know you pay for it one way or another – with the traditional route I’d pay for it through a lower royalty rate I guess – but it’s a scary sum of money to risk. I’m impressed with anyone who has that much faith in their ability to recoup the cost!!!

  5. I read Baby Blues for enjoyment, not scrutiny. But I found no typos, at least none that jumped out. The grammar was not bad, I believe, or I would have noticed since I was a legal secretary and fairly detail oriented.

  6. I’m so glad Kristin wrote those posts about book reviews! Now I have a link to share when someone asks me to do them because I’m not comfortable with the idea at all. It’s like a cook reviewing a friend’s restaurant. They know too much and have too much at stake to be trusted. 🙂

    Anyway, like others have said, I’m surprised that you are so concerned about proofreading, as your posts and your story read very clean and I’m a stickler for these things I’m told. (I will, and have, stopped reading a book because of poor grammar and excessive typos.) Blogging has helped me learn to catch errors in my own writing as well–most of the time before they post!

    • My concern about proofreading comes from reading Catherine Caffeinated. She has very strong opinions about self-published authors publishing without using professional editors and proofreaders. I think she has a ring of hell reserved for them! I knew I couldn’t afford it, so ploughed on regardless (much to her disapproval) I didn’t mind until my errors in Dragon Wraiths were included in a review. I want to succeed or fail on my writing rather than my inability to place a comma or know English from American spellings! But after all this fabulous feedback, I am tempted to save my money! That said, the blog is very closely edited because it’s done in short chunks and put through WordPress’s great grammar check! Maybe I just need to proofread each chapter in WordPress! Hehe

      • I might have to check out Catherine Caffeinated! I totally agree with her sentiments about publishing without the benefit of professional editing. (And I do love my coffee. 🙂 )
        Yeah, and WordPress’s grammar check has taught me a lot too.

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