Do You need Proof…?

How did it all start for me? Really it shouldn’t be too difficult to remember considering that my first attempt at writing fiction was only a few years ago. My style? It would have to be humorous, and modern, I decided. I would create a character: ‘Derek’, he would be called, and he would…

As it turned out, the easy part was writing a story.

Now, I know that sounds really big-headed but, what I mean is, the story was easy by comparison to the work I would face before the book reached publication, because my original submission of ‘Please… Call me Derek would undergo considerable scrutiny.

I was lucky, compared to many a talented scribe who submits a ‘masterpiece’ and is rejected countless times. Having completed what you know is a ‘marvellous’ piece of writing, but which one publisher after another fails to appreciate, it is a wonderful feeling when at last someone cares enough to say “Yes, we’ll publish it”, and, doing it in the way I did, thankfully you find you are not being charged for the service.

I supposed that I had been accepted because of my story and my writing style. I remember an early comment made by the publisher – your work was well presented – which must have been an influence too. From that, I presumed only a little editing would be required. Grammar and punctuation I considered I knew about, and I’d always reckoned I could spell quite well, and I’d read over my own words many times to ensure no mistakes. Obviously, these skills had been well used to create my impressive tale.

How wrong I was!

It didn’t take long before emails were being received from my editor, progressively identifying my errors. Initially, it was humbling, there seemed to be so many; but then it became challenging; and then the learning process began properly, with excellent guidance coming from an editor who knew the score.

Collaboration was the watchword, with the editor laying down rules, and me, the donkey, doing what was initially hard work, the corrections – in my own style and in my own words – to achieve a higher standard. Initially it seemed a difficult task – now I enjoy doing it.

Samples of errors, many of them repetitive, were highlighted. It was then up to me to ‘proof read’ and correct, as appropriate, throughout the full story. Of course, in going back through the book searching for a particular type of error, I was finding others. This was done again, and then again, and interestingly, without fail every time, I was finding yet something else worthy of improvement – spelling, spacing, phrasing, punctuation, paragraphs…

Becoming more acquainted with spell-check and synonyms was a useful development, although it took a while for me to understand why the coloured squiggly lines kept appearing on my pages; they still can appear when I am writing, but at least now I get the message and am in control. I have found my familiarity with ‘Word’ improving considerably through usage.

In essence, I am doing my own proof reading, and becoming slightly more proficient at the process each time, and enjoying it. With four books now under my belt:Please… Call me Derek’,  ‘Derek’s in trouble’,‘Derek’s Revenge’ and ‘Derek’s Good relations’ and a fifth at the final stages, I should be getting better at it. At least I am not receiving quite so many negative comments from the editor…

However, knowing that every time I read through my own work there is always something else that could read better, it is a comforting feeling to know that in the end, Penny’s expert eye will be checking it too before it is rubber stamped for printing.