Self-Editing is Hard

Yesterday, I posted about writing being hard. Today, let’s discuss the concept that Self-Editing is hard.

When you write, it’s an attempt to take a concept from inside your head and communicate it to other people. Some writing fails because the complete thought doesn’t make it to the page. Other times, errors can slip through because a draft reads the way you want to say the concept, and not how it is actually written on the page. Editing too quickly after writing can exacerbate that problem.

Case in point. In yesterday’s post, I had two errors. Since I have the blog set up to automatically add a link to the post from my author Facebook page, my uncle read it. Now, my uncle is a career newspaper man–writer, editor, columnist, you name it. He spotted the two errors right away and had the decency to PM the mistakes to me so I could correct them. (They have since been fixed.)

Thing is, I followed my usual procedure of proofreading by previewing the post and correcting errors as I read. I missed two of them because the human mind is good at filling in holes. I read the words even though they weren’t actually on the page. Human brain defeats itself!

In my experience, the best approach is to walk away from the work for several hours minimum; overnight is better. Best is to put the work away for a few weeks so the copy seems like somebody else’s work. That isn’t always possible. Blogging is akin to newspaper work in the sense that the work is usually delivered not long after it is written. For prose fiction or essays for print publication, the lead time is far longer and you can afford to let the work age before editing (procrastination aside).

I have heard a number of authors, including specifically Tobias Buckell, who proofread galleys from back to front so the story doesn’t interfere with the proofread. I have done this on occasion, and it works pretty well. It may not be good for blogging, though, because often you may still be finalizing the flow of the text itself. And, who wants to spend that much time on a blog post? But, sometimes it’s necessary.

I’m interested in hearing about any other techniques people use specifically on blogs to proofread and catch errors before (ore even after) posting.

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