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.

***

Editing Frenzy: 2013 365 Challenge #162

A busy day editing and scrapbooking

A busy day editing and scrapbooking

The lovely Pat Elliott has made me doubly happy today. She has reviewed Dragon Wraiths, over on her blog, saying – in her candid way – “There are a few minor editing errors, but you know, they didn’t stop me loving the book. I’d definitely read another by this author.” Big grins.

Pat has also, very kindly, read my chick lit novel Baby Blues and Wedding Shoes, and provided feedback. Despite having no intention of spending time on the novel this year, it galvanised me to work on it today, incorporating the suggested changes (unsurprisingly mostly to do with grammar.)

The frustrating part, for me, is that all three of the main formatting changes suggested by Pat involve reverting back to the way the text was before I began editing it last year! One is to do with commas: I know I don’t really understand commas, so I purchased a book on punctuation and learned as much as I could. As a result I removed a whole heap of the little buggers, figuring it was better not to have them than to put them in the wrong place. Pat’s main formatting suggestion? More commas!

I never quite found the right image for Helen

I never quite found the right image for Helen

The second one is to do with layout: putting *** where the text breaks and there is a shift in time or location. I did that originally, but it looked messy, so I took them out and left just a paragraph break.

I’ve spent today putting them all back in.

They are more important in an ebook, as you have no idea what the pagination looks like. With a print book you can put them in only where it isn’t clear that there has been a shift, such as over a page break.

The third grammar point has me puzzled. Pat informed me (and I trust her judgement) that modern publishing no longer uses double quotes for dialogue. Apparently standard form is now to use ‘ rather than “. This poses a problem. Partly because that, too, would involve changing the entire manuscript back to the way it was originally – before an early Beta Reader told me to use double quotes (preferably smart quotes), as that was standard form.

Sharni, Derek and Maggie

Sharni, Derek and Maggie

It also poses a dilemma for me personally, because I have come to prefer smart/double quotes. A quick flick through the other ebooks on my iPad showed most of them to still use double quotes.

I Googled it, but still haven’t discovered a definitive answer. The best I can tell is that it is a UK/US thing, with the UK using single quotes and the US double quotes. As the majority of my sales are in the US, I think I will leave the double quotes. (Plus, that means less work!) I’m definitely going to keep Googling for publishing standards, though, as Pat raised a point I hadn’t previously considered. Self-publishing is full of hidden pitfalls and, thankfully, lots of lovely people with maps and compasses to help guide the way through!

The final style point was that my writing has too much internal thought in italics. I agree that such is probably the case, and I spent a chunk of today toning it down. It does make me worry about Two-Hundred Steps Home, though, as it’s probably 20% in italics! I’m not sure where it came from as a writing style, but if it is mentioned by other Beta Readers I’ll have to train myself to write a different way. This is the amazing thing about good Beta Readers – they don’t just help you with that novel, but with all your creative endeavours!

All this has a) given me a headache and b) reiterated that I need a copy editor. As I can’t afford to pay for one, that takes me back to my original plan: trying to find an agent to publish traditionally, so I get that stuff as part of the deal. In the mean time, it’s back to the Penguin book on Punctuation and some paracetamol.

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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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The steel light of dawn crept in through the curtains and lit the room. It took Claire a moment to realise where she was and what had woken her at such an ungodly hour. Loud, rasping snores resonated through the room. They sounded as if they were coming from behind her, which wasn’t right.

The acoustics in this place must be crazy. That woman needs to consider getting a single room; I feel like something’s sawing at my skull.

The next thing Claire noticed was how narrow the bed was. She felt precariously close to the edge of the bunk, with only a short rail separating her from a four-foot drop. The third fact permeating her foggy brain, seeping through the thudding pain, was the arm around her waist.

Bugger.

Like a movie on fast forward, the events of the previous evening sped past her eyes in brutal clarity. The gin. The quiz. The random questions she’d got right, to much applause. The congratulatory hugs from the group when they came third.

The Scotsman.

Bugger.

The weight of the arm pinned her to the bed. Claire tried to work out if either of them were naked. As far as she could tell, she was still wearing her t-shirt and pants from the day before.

Phew, that’s something at least.

A brush of warmth against her back informed her that the Scot wasn’t so well clad.

Oh, Christ. This is a single-sex dorm. I’m going to be in so much trouble.

Claire lifted the heavy arm and slid it behind her, holding her breath as the man murmured something unintelligible and rolled over to face the wall. Claire clung on to the foot of remaining bed, not wanting to fall in a heap and wake her room mates.

She peered over the bunk, looking for the ladder, and saw a girl asleep on the floor.

What?

Remembering how unsteady the beds were, Claire flushed as she imagined being in the bottom bunk with any sort of shenanigans going on above.

Crap. Poor woman.

Fully awake, adrenalin pushing the alcohol from her fuddled mind, Claire surveyed the room below. She hadn’t unpacked, so that helped. All she had to do was climb down from the bunk and retrieve her bag and clothes, without waking the girl on the floor or the naked man hogging most of her bed.

With the stealth of a ninja, she moved, one limb at a time. A loud creak filled the room and she stopped, breath held, listening. Ever nerve zinged like a live wire under her skin. She felt she might hear a mouse breathing or the trees growing outside the window. No sound of censorious women could be heard.

Deciding all or bust might be the better option, Claire flipped down from the bed, narrowly missing the sleeping woman. In one movement she grabbed her jeans, handbag, rucksack and shoes. Anything else would have to be marked up as lost through misadventure.

Cheeks flaming and ears ringing, Claire fled the room. Pausing only to pull on her jeans and shoes, she strode along the clean, silent, corridors and headed for the car park.

So much for an extended stay.

With her phone confessing that it was only 5am, Claire was behind the wheel and on her way.

***