NaNoWriMo is now well and truly over, and I am sure my die-hard follower/followers are desperate to know if I completed the challenge. But as I'm on the subject of followers, I would like to start by thanking everyone who has commented on my blog thus far. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained in the knowledge that there are some of you out there and I'm not engaging in the blogging equivalent of 'talking to myself in a darkened room'.
Now, back to the novel. I did, indeed, complete the challenge and I have a rough first draft of Birchlands (precise word count 50,679 words - give or take) languishing somewhere on my laptop.
So what happens next?
The blunt answer to that question is nothing. Or, at least, nothing for a while. The manuscript will continue to languish on my hard drive until at least April Why? Well, I hope the following discussion of proof-reading will explain. But once I have finished the re-writing/editing process and completed the second draft, I will let you know how you can read it - should you wish to do so.
As far as 'Writers Blog' is concerned, I can announce with some delight that it will continue to be a regular feature of the RA CPD website, but will become a more general forum for the development of effective writing. To that end, the first topic I am going to cover is proof-reading.
But don't worry. For those that enjoyed the creative writing element of my blog, you can follow the link below and monitor my progress as I write and publish a crime thriller called in six parts:
Mark Twain said, 'In the first place, God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers.' It seems that he had very little patience for mistakes in written work, but soon realised - like the rest of us - that he wasn't as perfect as he had hoped. For the mere mortals amongst us, I include the following top tips for proof-reading adapted from http://grammar.about.com
Ten Tips for Effective Proof-reading
There's no foolproof formula for perfect proof-reading every time. As Twain realized, it's just too tempting to see what we meant to write rather than the words that actually appear on the page or screen. But these 10 tips should help you see (or hear) your errors before anybody else does.
1. Give it a rest.
If time allows, set your text aside for a few hours (or days, or months) after you've finished composing, and then proof-read it with fresh eyes. Rather than remembering the perfect paper you meant to write, you're more likely to see what you've actually written.
2. Look for one type of problem at a time.
Read through your text several times, concentrating first on sentence structure, then word choice, then spelling, and finally punctuation. As the saying goes, if you look for trouble, you're likely to find it.
3. Double-check facts, figures, and proper names.*
In addition to reviewing for correct spelling and usage, make sure that all the information in your text is accurate.
* (a proper name, or proper noun, should begin with a capital letter, as in London or John).
4. Review a hard copy.
Print out your text and review it line by line: re-reading your work in a different format may help you catch errors that you previously missed.
5. Read your text aloud
Or better yet, ask a friend or colleague to read it aloud. You may hear a problem (a faulty verb ending, for example, or a missing word) that you haven't been able to see.
6. Use a spellchecker.
The spellchecker can help you catch repeated words, reversed letters, and many other common errors, but it's certainly not idiot proof - and I should know! Type the following into a Word document if you don't believe me: 'I don't know weather to go home today or tomorrow'.
7. Trust your dictionary.
8. Read your text backward.
Another way to catch spelling errors is to read backward, from right to left, starting with the last word in your text. Doing this will help you focus on individual words rather than sentences.
9. Create your own proof-reading checklist.
Keep a list of the types of mistakes you commonly make, and then refer to that list each time you proof-read.
10. Ask for help
Invite someone else to proof-read your text after you have reviewed it. A new set of eyes may immediately spot the simple errors that you've overlooked.
Right, are you ready to put your newly-developed proof-reading skills to the test? Try catching and correcting the five common errors in the following paragraph:
How to Build a Fire in a Fireplace
Though "experts" differ as to the best technique to follow when building a fire, one generally excepted method consists of first lying a generous amount of crumpled newspaper on the hearth between the andirons. Kindling wood is than spread generously over this layer of newspaper and one of the thickest logs is placed across the back of the andirons. This should be as close to the back of the fireplace as possible, but not quiet touching it. A second log is then placed an inch or so in front of this, an a few additional sticks of kindling are laid across these two. A third log is then placed on top to form a sort of pyramid with air space between all logs so that flames can lick freely up between them.