Friday, 21 September 2012

Helen Baggott talking about Proofreading

Do you think it's important for writers who intend to self-publish to get their novels professionally proofread?

Most definitely!  It’s virtually impossible for us to spot our own typos.  By the time an author has planned, plotted and written their novel, they’re so familiar with the content that instead of reading it for errors, they’re almost reciting it. 

Friends and family will be honoured to read it first, but often they won’t be able to overcome their pride and errors will remain.

And if you think a spell checker will do the job of a proof-reader, think again.  The wrong word spelt correctly is still an error – stares/stairs is a favourite.


How did you get into doing this then?

I began writing seriously about 20 years ago.  I won my first short story competition (Writers’ Forum) in the late 80s and since then have continued to write the odd story and have won more competitions – most recently last year.

But it’s non-fiction and publishing that really grabbed my attention.  As well as writing and researching articles for magazines and websites, I’ve also edited a local magazine and that involved proofreading.  I also write reviews for local newspapers and have met some wonderful people, including Julian Fellowes and Mike Leigh.  Thankfully Lord Fellowes had been interviewed before and my stammering questions were interpreted and answered with an Oscar-winning performance.

Of course you can’t write without reading and it occurred to me as I embraced the world of e-readers that writers who self-publish, need to get their books proofread, but on a budget.

They also need to publicise their work and that’s where I can also help.  Once I’ve either proofread a manuscript or given an e-book a final post-formatting check, I write an impartial review – posted on my own site (www.helenbaggott.co.uk), Amazon, Goodreads etc.



Can you tell us about any funny/rude mistakes you've caught? 

Sadly nothing too funny or rude, but there’s always the next one!  Characters can change name or career – a proof-reader isn’t just looking for typos.  A while ago I read a novel with a legal secretary as a minor character.  Within a few chapters she’d morphed into a fully-fledged criminal lawyer, simply because it helped the plot.  That’s sloppy writing.

What’s the most embarrassing error you’ve found?

Sadly it’s my own.  I was rushing to finalise the magazine a few years ago and missed that posterity had been rejected for prosperity.  I still cringe.


You review books too - what would/do you do if you think the book is awful?

Some books are returned with an explanation.  I try to find something positive in everything I read – I’m not interested in shredding an author’s confidence.   At the moment I have about 70 books waiting to be read for review only - I give priority to the proofreading work.  Often an author will contact me first and I have the opportunity to read the free excerpt on Amazon.  I decline the book if I spot too many errors.

Writing should be a pleasurable experience and authors deserve to feel a great sense of achievement – planning, writing, formatting and marketing is a massive achievement.  But if authors expect to sell their work, they should strive to produce something worth buying.

22 comments:

  1. "Reciting rather than reading" describes it exactly! Luckily my daughter and the OH are good at spotting spelling mistakes and typos, but a truly professional once-over must be worth its weight in paperbacks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Friends and family can be very useful, Lizy - especially those with eagle eyes and infinite patience!

      Delete
    2. Often a friend or relative will be so excited for you they won't see a typo. A proof-reader will have their emotions on hold...until they finish the novel and burst into tears (which I have done!).

      Delete
  2. Great interview. Although, was I the only one hoping for funny typos? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nah. I was hoping she'd dish the dirt too, Annalisa. I bet she's seen some gooduns, but is too professional and polite to tell us.

      Delete
  3. I too was looking for typos just because! LOL!!! Thank you Patsy and Helen! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. Thanks, Oscar (you'll notice I'm taking all the credit)

      Delete
  5. Helen is so right about the need to find other eyes for a proofread. I'm very good at self-editing for grammar/punctuation, but I gave my ms to a copy editor friend before I started querying. It was amazing the mistakes she found - like where I'd made up the name of a town and proceeded to spell it three different ways during the course of the novel. Oops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It happens to us all. I'd certainly employ a proof-reader for my own novel.

      Delete
  6. It's definitely worth paying for this service isn't it.

    Thanks Patsy, and Helen :)

    Xx

    ReplyDelete
  7. Patsy, thank you for this opportunity to promote proofreading.

    It's a pleasure reading the work of talented writers. Self-publishing a novel is a big challenge - from beginning to end - and I applaud the effort and dedication it requires.

    The publishing industry continues to evolve, but it will always need authors with that spark of an idea and the commitment to turn it into a novel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really enjoyed reading the blog, Helen, and thanks, Patsy, for giving Helen the chance to promote her services. Perhaps when my trilogy is finished I'll let you have the privilege of reading it! :D

      Delete
  8. Nearly all my friends have proof read my MS, and given their two cents, bless them. But, I've actually had it professionally edited before starting another round of submissions. I've found it a great learning experience and it's given me a lot more confidence.
    I would say that publishing before having work properly proof read is what gives self-publishing a bad name.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't agree more.

      Once a book attracts negative comments it's really too late to make any corrections.

      You can publish a revised version, but the title will always have those bad reviews on Amazon.

      Publishing isn't a race. Even if you need to make some changes at the 11th hour and delay publishing, it will be worth it.

      I've even read novels in which the first sentence has a typo!

      Delete
  9. wow!! good helon must have worked hard and with dedication to get oscar winning award for plagiarism checker and proofreading.After reading this is she is my role model as she make my mind firm for my goal to become best proofreader.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Patsy and Helen - great post and something we can all learn from .. Proofreading is so essential, as well as getting a professional finish, even if we do it ourselves, with some extra advice and helpers .. we can still get it right.

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for commenting!