We have all seen the test where we are asked to read a paragraph of text and to count the number of times that we see the letter F. Nine times out of ten (completely made up statistic - too tired for research) we get this wrong. The reason being that our brain registers the soft 'eff' sound in most words, but not the hard 'vee' sound in the word OF. We fail to see what is staring us clearly in the face. The same problem is encountered in a variation of the test where we are asked to look for the letter 'V'. This time we will overstate the answer for the same reason.
The lesson to be learned is that we cannot trust our eyes (or ears). Sometimes we see things that are not there and sometimes we fail to see things that are. We do this all of the time. Our brain is constantly filtering an enormous amount of information and whenever it can, it will use shortcuts. When it comes to editing a book, this can be a particularly awkward problem.
Many think that a writer is too close to their work to accurately self edit and they are probably right. A second (and third, fourth etc) pair of eyes is essential. The problem is, that all of our brains work in much the same way. A proofreader or an editor is just as likely to read words that are not actually on the page, because their brain can so accurately predict what will be written that it subconsciously fills in any blanks in a sentence.
There is however, a way to get around this problem and that is to proofread your text backwards. Obviously, I am not talking word for word. sense no make would that Because. You need only take it one paragraph at a time, starting from the final paragraph. This will still make grammatical sense, it will just not make any sense from a story telling perspective. Your brain will not have enough information to make its usual subconscious predictions. In short, for the first time you will be able to approach your manuscript completely objectively. Of course, this does not help when it comes to spotting plot holes, but purely from a spelling, punctuation and grammar perspective, there is no better approach.
I have recently finished my final backwards check on my second novel, Stealing Asia, and hope to have it available for download and purchase by next weekend. I revealed the basic cover a while ago, but have since made one slight adjustment and that is to add a little text under the main title. It is very rare for a trade book to have only the title and author name as text and to do so looks a little bare (again, this is down to the expectations of our pesky brains). By adding text (it does not even matter what. A tagline, sales boast or as I have done - an also by this author) it makes the cover appear more professional and therefore, more legitimate in the eyes of the reader.
If you found this post interesting, why not sign up to join my blog using one of the tools on the sidebar to the right. You can also check out my two self published novels The Outback and Stealing Asia. Both are available as ebooks and paperbacks.