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Fame and Fortune as a Writer - the Essentials of Proofreading

Updated on November 1, 2011

Keeping your manuscript from the slush pile ...

You are finishing your breakfast toast and marmalade when the letter scrapes through the letterbox and lands on the doormat with a quiet 'plop'. Filled with excitement, dressed only in your slippers and pyjamas, you pad along the hallway and pick up the letter in your trembling hand. Unable to open it there and then, you scutter back to the breakfast bar and put your mug of tea down. Too heavily. It slops out and onto the worktop, splashing the envelope. You tut and quickly wipe it clean before sliding your right index finger under the easy-open sealed flap on which is printed the sender's address; the publisher to whom you sent your manuscript 2 weeks before. Hands quivering, you let the envelope drop and take a deep breath, imagining yourself at a book launch, the BBC and Channel 4 are their to cover the historic moment where the author of the new best seller comes into the limelight. Dear Sir/Madam, begins the letter, we regret to inform you ...

One of the worst experiences you can have as a fledgling writer is a publisher's rejection.Your first rejection especially. Your initial reaction may be that the 3 years of work that you have put in has created a worthless manuscript. But no, be strong, it may well not be the best in the world but then some of the biggest selling books are far from well written. A lot are positively formulaic. Then the defiance kicks in. You reckon you have written a great book. Damn them all, you think, I'm going to prove them wrong.

You might, or you might not, but at least you can give it a good go. You can always send off your manuscript to a different publisher or even self-publish.

Here are some tips for coping with that publishers rejection letter.

Having decided not to tuck that manuscript or away in a top drawer of your study somewhere, you have admitted to yourself that it is not worthless. As an aspiring writer you have to put yourself out there and anticipate and expect "rejection". No-one is perfect, everyone can
learn and improve, and no-one will ever be fantastic to everyone. If you start to anticipate the fact you might not be accepted by a particular publisher you can analyse why. Some publishers will help you by outlining why they didn't accept your manuscript for publishing.

Anyway, sit and sulk about it for a few minutes, eat the odd biscuit or two and then try to turn the receipt of the letter into as positive an experience as possible:
- Allow yourself to be upset about what has happened. It is indeed disheartening to receive a rejection letter. It is a natural reaction to be put out by this – don't beat yourself up for taking that rejection personally. It isn't.
- Don't let the sulking drag on for too long however. No good can come of this!
- Look at the letter you have received. Have they given you any specific feedback? If they have this is a real bonus! 99% of writers just receive a straighforward rejection letter.
- In the light of the rejection, review your manuscript again. Ask yourself honestly if you would change anything? Then re-write it and go to a different publisher..
- Draw up a list of other publishers or agents that you can submit this or any new piece of work to. Refocus your attention on the next submission - look forward and don't dwell on what has
happened.

One of the common problems is that the editor has seen the same sort of style dozens of times before so it doesn't stand out. So you need to make every word, every phrase really count. If you fluff out your writing, it will be spotted quickly! This is where a proofreader comes in handy. It is easy enough for a new writer to fall into the trap of self-proofreading to save cash, however, spending money on a second and critical pair of eyes can pay dividends in the future. Proofreading by a professional will not only eliminate spelling, punctuation and grammar errors, the proofreader will also let you know where you can alter things to improve your use of the language and to develop a more punchy style that will get you noticed.

But if you do attempt to self-proofread, here are a few 'how to' tips.

Read through the manuscript a couple of times first, that will help you to pick out the most obvious errors of spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Read out your manuscript aloud, yes, that will take an age and you will probably need to re-read each change several times to make sure that the words flow properly after the alteration. This will help you to improve the style. But don't overdo it, don't just change phrases for the sake of it.

Read it backwards! Bizarre sounding as it is, it can help with that final fine tuning. The logic behind it is that it forces you to really concentrate on each word. That should catch any last few typos.

Then, if possible, have a friend or family member read it out to you, that way, you can hear their voice inflection and that can help you to work out is the atmosphere you are trying to convey is indeed being transmitted to the reader. If it isn't, then you are pretty much destined for a rejection. One thing that successful writers have in common is that their words set the atmosphere. However poor their style.

Maybe now you realise why it costs a lot to have a manuscript properly proofread! And maybe now you realise that it really is worth it. Remember, a proofreader has undergone a lot of training as a proofreader and knows exactly what to look for.

When submitting your work, always make sure that you have followed the guidelines from the publisher, for example, did you include the synopsis? Did you choose the best possible extracts to show your manuscript in the best light? Did you include an author biography. As with proofreading, money spent on a publisher pack is usually money well spent. The companies who produce publisher packs are experienced and have the resources to find a list of publishers who are most likely to accept your manuscript and turn it into a viable book that will make you a bit of cash.These companies often offer a submissions service too, they are not exactly agents but they do have some good contacts within the industry. Make sure though that they have staff who have been published ...

So good luck with your career as a writer.

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