One of the best things that has ever happened to me is becoming a published author. I love getting to share all the people inside my head with the people outside my head. I enjoy creating characters, inventing plotlines, throwing in a few twists, and seeing a book to completion.
Of course, in the writing process, completing a book doesn’t mean it’s finished. It’s only the start!
As I write a novel, I share chapters with my critique partners and get their feedback. Is it believable? Does the plot make sense? Are the characters multi-dimensional? Is the conflict strong enough? Based on their suggestions, I tweak as I go along. Finally, the day comes when I’ve “finished” the book.
The first thing I do? Put it away. Let it ferment like wine. Don’t think about. Start something new. Then a few months later, I take it out and read it from start to finish. It’s easier to find discrepancies that way. Once I’ve re-read the manuscript and polished it to perfection, it goes off to my editor.
Then the real fun begins.
First, if I’m lucky, she offers me a contract (Woo-Hoo!). Then comes the editing process where she makes suggestions for me to implement to make it the strongest book possible. I think about the dedication. Work with my cover artist. Finally, I receive the final version which I need to proofread before signing off on it.
That’s the part I can’t stand.
I’ve always been a fast reader. In elementary school, I would finish reading assignments long before my classmates did. While my husband pours over the sports section, I’m able to read the entire Sunday paper. I’m fortunate that I comprehend what I read at a quick rate. It helped me immensely during college.
But to proofread a manuscript, I have to SLOW DOWN!
I know you’ve received one of those emails or seen one of those items on Facebook. At a glance, it looks like gibberish. Then you start reading it, and you actually can read it. It might be missing every vowel, or it might have words that only have a few letters—yet your eyes flow over the material and not only do you read it, but it makes sense.
That’s because our brains are programmed to fill in what’s missing. It’s one of the cool things about being a human being. But it’s absolutely awful when you’re trying to proof a lengthy novel!!!
Recently, I received the final versions of two of my Soul Mate Publishing books. Though they are being released three months apart, both of them wound up being at the proofreading stage right around the same time. I spent two days reading through one and another two days reading through another. And I mean SLOWLY—like molasses dripping—reading. Sure enough, if you read aloud, you can catch when an “a” or a “to” has been omitted. But to me, it was like gnashing teeth. I felt like a racehorse reined in, only allowed to trot along instead being given my head and running all-out.
Yet I know this final step of the process is important because it helps put the best version of my product out there for my readers.
It got me to thinking of other things that I do in fast-forward. Walking. Reading. Watching TV. Eating. Sometimes I’m moving so fast through something, I don’t enjoy it as much as I could—or should. So this “slow down and proof” lesson can be applied other places, as well. I tried it on my morning walk recently. I still walked fast. After all, I’m walking for my health, so I don’t want to go at a snail’s pace. But I took time to stop and take a couple of pictures and enjoy things a little more along the way.
I tried it with the next book I read. Oh, I still read quickly, but I took time to go back and re-read a few passages that moved me. I enjoyed them all over again!
I can’t do it with every meal, but I do think we Americans could learn from our overseas counterparts and take a little more time to savor what we’re putting in our mouths when we eat. Since the brain can’t signal that the stomach is full until 20 minutes after it is full, maybe this would help us from being such over-eaters.
Maybe there is something, after all, to the old saying: Stop and smell the roses. So not only will I continue to slow down when I proof a final version of a manuscript, I just might linger over other things in life, too!
Lauren Linwood’s next release is the western historical romance Ballad Beauty, due out March 25.