Friday, November 4, 2011

Weeding Your MS

Question: How many times do you read your MS before it's complete? 

Answer: As many as it takes until there are no mistakes.

I've heard the answer to that question many times. But the problem is, I really didn't hear it. Because I had "thought" mine was perfect. My novel has been read numerous times by myself, as well as different people. Once again... I thought I was done. But being the perfectionist that I am, I decided that that I would do "one more" read. Lately, I've read far too many books in print with mistakes. I didn't want mine to be one of them.

What I found were better words, redundant sentences, a couple wrong words... I'm for I, an for and, etc. Incredulous little things that I thought had been previously weeded out. 

The fact remains there are some things that the eye passes over. But not all eyes. There will be someone out there who sees the error. Mine won't be one of them. 

How many times will I read my book? I will read it through the entirety until there is not one mistake found. Can we over edit our book? Perhaps. But mostly I think we can only make it better. 

Don't give up too soon. That "one more read" is the easy part in the realm of all that you've put into your work. If you can slowly read it, and not find one thing... you're done.

How many times have you read your book? 

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. I don't know how many times I've read my book, but I'm still tweaking it. At one point, I thought I was close to finished, until I disected it again at the word level, and I still managed to trim extra baggage.

  2. We can always read it one more time, but sometime it has to be called done or we'll never make it to the next step. I've decided this is when I start to read it again, get about 1/3 of the way through and realize I can't stand to read it one more time and that I haven't even been paying attention to what I have read. You can still pick it up months or a year later, be able to read it again and find ways to improve it, but what have you lost in that time by not moving forward?

  3. I thought about this a lot after your comment, Karlene, and tried to remember what the work was like when I knew someone with a proofreading job years ago. I think that's the key at the stage you're talking about, because if someone proofreads your ms. they're not reading the story, they're only reading for proper word usage and spelling. Could be, that's what we need at the end of the process, when our story is done.

  4. Stina, I know exactly what you mean. I'm so glad I'm not alone on this. :) Thanks for the comment.

  5. Kristie, excellent point. I think that the final read through when we're done is no mistakes. Yes, we can always make it perfect... but those little nagging errors are what need to be found. And that, I think, we cannot read enough.

    Thanks so much for your comment.

  6. Linda, Yes! That is the answer. We need to have that one final read through to pick up the errors when the story is complete.

    I also believe that the better the story is, the harder it is for people to catch all the mistakes on the first read through because they are into the story.

    So maybe that final read through should be by someone who is intimate with the story. I'm taking this task on myself.

  7. I've lost count of how many times I've read mine! You're right though, I catch something nearly every time. I agree with Kristie though, at some point we have to say we're done. I'd combine that with Linda's suggestion. When we think we're done, that's when we need a fresh set of professional eyes.

  8. I lose count too. And then, you know, it becomes so familiar to you--the story--that your eyes glaze over--even when you've put it away for a month. You still come back and are too familiar with it.

    I'm lucky to have an editor at Copperhill, because they are doing a second edit of my #2 book. I believe the second edit is being done by a second person as well. But, yes, we try very hard to weed things out. I like using the edit/replace option of words or phrases I know are my big problem area. I'm thinking of having the next one printed out so that I can catch things I can't catch on the screen.

    Good post,Karlene!

  9. I'm in the midst of giving mine "that final read". It's been finished for over a year, and I edited it within an inch of its life thinking it was done. Just the other day I found this, "The red filiments of the toaster glowed red in the darkened pantry." ARGH!!

    Needless to say, I'm not done.

  10. Thanks for your comment Heather. I think there's a point when we don't change anything that isn't technically incorrect... and that set of professional eyes is essential.

  11. Lorelei, Thank you for the great comment. And... printing is essential. I've got this version printed and am reading with focus and slowly. Amazing what I'm finding that so many eyes...including my own... missed. Signed, said sighed. Huge error. Oooops. Back to reading. On paper. Slow. Loud. We can do it!

  12. Anne, I'm smiling now. I know what you mean. I just found the mess was scattered everywhere. Then a couple sentences later, the desk was over turned and papers were scattered everywhere. Oh... there is more. I recommend when you find anything... and change it, to print and do one more read. That's what I'm doing... again. Thanks for the comment.