I started buying books on writing decades ago, hoping to get some insight into this mysterious field of writing. I attend workshops and read writing columns and blogs. I subscribe to writers’ magazines. I belong to writers’ groups. Some bits of information stay in my mind, some slide into the dark recesses of my memory to be pulled out during a crisis (the light-bulb moment), and some I ignore — to my peril.
One piece of advice I read over and over again is to print out your manuscript to proof it.
I didn’t think this was necessary. Being a frugal type, I didn’t want to spend money on a pack of paper and a black ink cartridge for something I’d end up tossing anyway.
But a friend wanted to read the story and her computer was down. I printed it out for her.
Since I had it printed out, I sat down and went over it.
What a difference! Now, my editor friend had kindly proofed it and found dozens of typos and raised a few questions. I thought, after making all the corrections and changes, that the ms. was as perfect as it could possibly be.
Not so. You see, all the changes I made contained typos. I blame spell-check, which gave up trying to red- or green-line misspelling or questionable grammar halfway though my novel. I use sentence fragments because that’s how people really talk, and because — well, because I. Like. Them. Which infuriated spell-check, so it pouted and quit playing.
These typos, that I had not noticed on the screen, suddenly came to life, leaping off the page.
Not only that, but it is hard to sit and read a ms. on a computer screen, so I’d go over a chapter or so, then quit and do something else, and come back later. Sometimes, if things got busy in my non-writing life, much later.
What I discovered by sitting down reading it from beginning to end, that there were places that made no sense, jumps in time that weren’t accounted for, and characters changing goals from one scene to the next without any plausible reason.
Major re-write going on now. (Note sentence fragment.)
From here on out, I will print out the novel and proof it one last time before sending it off. The price of paper and ink is worth it when you consider a seriously messed-up ms. is never going to get past that junior-junior acquisition editor.