How I Write: Three

In my previous two posts, I discussed beginning the first draft and revisions. Now I am going to discuss finalizing the piece.

Once I think my piece is perfect (with a certain self-awareness, knowing the piece will never actually be perfect), I have a few options. If I’ve planned well, I will have an extra day or two before I want to publish the piece. I put the piece aside for a day and come back to it. After some time away, it’s much easier to find sentences that read oddly. I clean these up, then read through for small word changes. Last of all, I look for typos. I force myself to read through the piece five times without changing a word before I deem it adequate for publication. This all sounds weirdly methodical, but I’ve done it so many times that it’s second nature by now.

Take my “read it five times” commandment both seriously and not seriously at all. Seriously in the sense that you should read what you’ve written with painstaking accuracy and at an excruciating pace to ensure you haven’t overlooked an error. But not too seriously either. Don’t belabor the process, thinking, “I’m halfway through my second read . . . I’m not even close to finishing this. I hope I don’t find an error and have to read this five more times. God help me.” If you think like this, your mind will beg you to hurry up and you’ll miss typos right before the finish line.

So you read and re-read again and again until you are certain your piece has no errors. And then you’re finished! You’ve gone through this laborious but hypnotic and exciting process — and, if it’s a blog post, you publish it. It’s perfect.

And yet, it isn’t. I’ve gone through this process before and, reading later, found three typos in a 500-word piece. It is absolutely absurd that the mind cannot accomplish a task as simple as writing a blog post with no typos. It’s absurd, but it happens, and this proves to me how necessary this sometimes tedious process is. If I truly believe there are no typos in a piece and I find three later on, how many more typos will there be when I say, “I’m pretty sure there are no typos in this piece?”

Write a brilliant piece full of typos, and you’ll look unprofessional. Now excuse me while I re-read this post five, nay, ten times to make sure I haven’t mucked up!

Look out for the last post on how I write, coming up soon! It’s the most important one in the series.

20 thoughts on “How I Write: Three

  1. I use a program called “Natural Reader.” It’s a text to speech software program and you can get a free or a paid version–I have the paid version. You can have male or female voices and it’s available in American English, British English (my favourite) French, Spanish and other languages. I print out what I want to check, and then listen to the program read it to me while I follow along with a highlighter. Because someone is reading it to you, you hear what is actually written and see something different, and voila! The typos stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.

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  2. I have published a book and there are still typos… One of my least favorite mistakes is to repeat the same word in the same paragraph. Somehow my brain just doesn’t see it. Great advice as always. I now have a regular magazine gig and have to check more than five times.

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  3. This is one of the things I took into consideration when deciding how to (self) publish my first novel. Some companies charge if you have to make amendments after publishing, and whilst I didn’t want to think I could get that far and still have something to correct, I felt safer to have the option. Low and behold, my second novel needed to have three typos fixed within a few days of publishing. Reading 68,000 words over and over, which I did, left me seeing stars for days. My husband read it and found three or four that I had missed (before publishing), but the published typos were actually picked up by my mum, so a second and third set of eyes is much more likely to spot them.

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    • Wow, that’s really interesting. Honestly only having 3 typos in a 68,000-word manuscript is pretty stellar in my eyes. After I turned in my thesis, my teacher suggested I re-read it again for typos and I found at least one hundred. Embarrassing!

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