8 Things I Learned from my Proofreaders

Me at the Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea. Note my whimsical attire.

I don’t know if you remember, but a few weeks back I wrote a post about my super awesome book editing kick-off party. Three weeks later (also known as yesterday), we had the book editing wrap-up party. Merriment was had, alcohol was consumed, and many suggestions were made about how to make my book the best it can possibly be. A lot of them were very specific to my book, but I thought I’d share some of the more general wisdom here with you.

1. For a traumatic event to be believable, the character’s reaction has to fit the situation. Obviously ever character will react differently to a traumatic event, but never underestimate the impact of a good emotional breakdown. Or several.

2. Use the 5 stages of grief. To remind you, those stages are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The 5 stages of grief are used in everything from high-brow literary fiction to bad TV sitcoms, and there’s a very good reason for that.

3. Blue-raspberry jello tastes delicious with cinnamon sprinkled on top.

4. Check your facts. Otherwise you run into the embarrassing situation of a reader telling you that something you wrote was totally, unbelievably wrong.

5. Your characters can’t take everything for granted. Having your character encounter an enigmatic person or a ridiculous situation and grow accustomed to the oddity is fine, but make sure they are appropriately incredulous at first. Even if it’s something as simple as them asking, “Wait, why are you helping me?”. They don’t even need to receive a response – it’s just human instinct to question what we don’t know or understand. Unless you’re writing about something non-human, in which case you can do whatever the heck you like.

6. Be careful when you write about religion. People get really worked up over religion, and you don’t want to mess with that unless you have a very good reason for doing so.

7.  Too much or too little description of the love interest is bad. You want to give just enough description to let the reader form a picture in their mind of the character, but not enough that there’s no room for them to let their imagination run free. That’s a problem that book-to-movie adaptations run into all the time. A character is way over-described in a book, like: “6 foot 3, short blonde hair, emerald green eyes, straight nosed, full lips, broad forehead, square jaw, muscular, faint scar on the shoulder blade, etc.”, and then fans get all riled up when a hipster brunette is cast in the role.

8. Don’t let conflicting opinions weigh you down. People disagree all the time, and I guarantee that they will find things to disagree about when reading your book. The best advice I can give is to listen carefully to all sides of the argument, then make an informed decision on how to proceed based on your own opinions. This might annoy the people you’re disagreeing with, but ultimately it’s your book, and you get veto power.

Once I get all my proofread copies of the manuscript back, I’ll sit down for the FINAL EDITING ROUND, because I’ve been working on this book for six years now and it’s quite about time that I get it published and move on with my literary life. If anyone has any editing advice for me before I start the FINAL EDITING ROUND, or wants to weigh in on the post, or on my whimsical outfit, I’d love to hear from you!

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10 thoughts on “8 Things I Learned from my Proofreaders

  1. Editing is so necessary, and so difficult to endure. I’ll have to try the cinnamon jello suggestion. Might help to get through it.

    • I haven’t tried the jello myself, as I have a weird phobia of gelatin, but my friends assure me it is quite delectable. The jello, not the gelatin phobia.

  2. Pint Glass Prophet

    Good list. The key thing I’ve learned from my proofreader is, “Stop proofreading your own work, you’ll never get anything right that way.”

    • Haha so true. I have a horrible tendency of “editing” in the form of fixing things that don’t need to be fixed. There comes a point where you have to just stop and let go.

  3. Good point on thorough research (before and after writing; concentrate on the writing as the main dish) as one fact that is wrong can turn a reader off all of your other hard work.

    • Especially if it’s a well-known fact that many readers will pick up on, and that you really should have known if you’d done your research. I once read a historical fiction set in the 1700s, and they were talking about the theory of evolution (Darwin was 1800s). I was like … whaaaaaaaaaaat?

  4. These are all great tips–thanks. 🙂 Now that I’ve discovered you, I’ve gone through and creeped on all of your posts–hope you don’t mind!
    But anyway, the last point is especially important. In fact, I usually think it’s the mark of success if you get differing opinions on something! If everyone hates it, well… obviously that’s bad. But if everyone loves something, you also feel a little uncertain. (Or maybe that’s just me? I dunno. I feel like at least one person is lying to me, or the thing they all like isn’t THAT important anyway.) But when some people like it and some people don’t, I feel that’s more realistic. It’s like if the book was in a bookclub, and they’d all have a great discussion out of why they liked and disliked it.
    …Does that make any sense? xD ❤

    • Lol yes, that makes sense. And you may stalk my blog all you like, so long as I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to find you standing over my bed watching me sleep ala Edward Cullen. 😀

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