Proof it or Goof it

There it was, on the shelf of a book shop. Small, only 80 odd pages, but beautifully
bound, with a simple, nicely designed dust cover, in the right genre and with a story
based in the right locality, too. Its appearance, the quality of its print, suggested it
was produced by a traditional rather than an independent publisher. It matched in
length the long short story or short novel, call it what you want, I’m currently working
on and, I thought, I could submit that to the same publisher when (?if) it’s finished.
OK it cost £12.00 but I had to have it.
You’ve guessed it – there’s a ‘but’ coming.
Unfortunately, when I started to read it, it was obvious almost from the first
paragraph that this publication was not up to the professional standards it promised.
Spelling mistakes, punctuation howlers and geographical errors all detracted from
the work, despite the author clearly having a detailed knowledge of the subject.

It is so easy to make mistakes when you’re being swept along in the creative flow. I
know this only too well, having been a professional writer and editor (journalism, PR,
that sort of thing) for most of my life. I never take the accuracy of my copy for
granted. It’s impossible to avoid typos and other tiny errors completely (I’m half way
through a novel by a very well-known author at the moment in which I spotted an
error a few pages back).
Some suggestions then: why not join a writing group, where others can help you see
the mistakes you can’t see yourself? Or use beta readers, professional proofreaders
and/or copyeditors? A number of reputable providers offer pre-publication services
for authors. Whichever option you choose, do arrange for an independent check of
your writing before you go to press, to help make your book as good as it can be.
You won’t regret it!

Peter Corbett


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