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Writers: Clean your manuscript with these enema tricks

There are mistakes in every book, but there are tricks to avoid some pesky problems. For instance, I’m in the midst of proofing This Plague of Days. In Scrivener, I do a quick and easy

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

Society collapses around a strange autistic boy with a deep love of odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father The plague is coming. Buckle up.

search for odd mistakes that creep in. Here are a few things I plug into the search box to search and destroy:

1. Hit the space bar twice and eliminate those pesky double spaces that find their way into your ebook (and look like chasms on a kindle.)

2. Put “the the” in the search box. Take one out unless it shows up as “the theme…” It’s startling how easy it is for the human eye to skip over a brain stutter like the the.

3. Search “awhile”. Change it to “a while” when appropriate. Here’s when it’s right to do so.

4. “Exact same” = A redundant expression we use in spoken language and in the excited flurry of our first drafts. Excise from later drafts.

5. Search “..” Double periods appear occasionally, usually from an edit you did instead of a typo. 

The fewer mistakes you give your editors, beta readers and proofers to find, the fewer mistakes they will miss.

When you get all your revisions back and make your changes, do these searches again (and whatever common mistakes you discover you are prone to.) After the edit, the act of going back to make corrections often introduces mistakes. This is especially true if you’re working with extensive edits using Track Changes. It’s often helpful to bump up the text size so you can better understand where all the little red lines are pointing for edits. I prefer Scrivener and recommend it for writing, editing, compiling and publishing.

Also check the copy again once it’s published. I have had some file management issues in the past with Scrivener where I published an earlier draft, not the final draft. It was frustrating and embarrassing, but fortunately it was easy to fix quickly. Now that I’m aware of that potential, I’m extra paranoid so things keep getting better. Editing and proofing these little details can be arduous but, like a 10k run uphill, you’ll feel great about your work when it’s done.

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Filed under: Books, Editing, getting it done, grammar, publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

8 Responses

  1. Good stuff, Robert!
    Also worth checking if punctuation falls within speech / quotation marks by searching for ‘. and “. or ‘, and “.
    Some other copy edit searches we use are with special characters:
    “^p ” (note the space after the p) which will find leading spaces on new lines
    “^p^p” which will find unintentional blank lines
    “^t” which will find any tabs used instead of indents
    Also good to check for “-” hyphens versus “^=” en-dash or “^+” em-dash, depending upon the “house style” you’re adopting.
    And ellipses styles need to be consistent too. Helps to write down the rules you choose.
    We all have our own idiosyncratic repetitive mistakes 😉

  2. Thanks Robert, very useful tips. 🙂

  3. Jack Durish says:

    If ever anyone wondered how many people dreamed of being an author, the answer is now clear. Amazon has been overrun by a mob of such dreamers. Unfortunately, few want to pursue the craft of writing. It’s hard work. It’s tedious work. The devil is in the details. The errors you mentioned (and many others that we could mention — misused homonyms, improper punctuation, repeated use of pet phrases, etc) are like speed bumps to readers. Fortunately, book lovers oft seem forgiving until these errors pile up like a chain reaction wreck on the highway of your story line.

  4. Chazz says:

    Well, not *my* storyline, but yeah, I see what you’re saying. I do think writers worry about these issues much more than readers who have no aspirations to write. Perhaps that’s why they are so forgiving.

  5. Derek says:

    Very useful tips for proofreaders. Thanks!

  6. […] Writers: Clean your manuscript with these enema tricks (chazzwrites.com) […]

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