Process improvement should be the goal of any organization concentrating on excellence. In endeavoring to produce quality content, we have naturally learned some things since the dark days of 2011. Then, my first novel went to beta reading with a number of embarrassing errors. Worse, some of those survived to publication.
Why did those initial stumbles happen? Insufficient proofreading was one reason, certainly. I once utilized an editing plug-in for MS Word whose interface sometimes introduced separate mistakes when used to correct the initial problems. Currently, edits are applied manually, sans visual interference from any busy-looking overlays. They are backed up with additional procedures which, for my third novel Killing Doctor Jon, finally produced a nearly perfect release candidate draft.
The following is a revised summary of the quality control procedures here at Single Candle Press. These processes take place in collaboration between the SCP Lead Editress, any outsourced contractors we might utilize, and myself:
A. Write a great novel. This seems self-evident advice, but frankly is ignored far too often Not everyone has the talent, the vision, or the diligence to produce an adequate result. Be honest with yourself, and listen to the opinions of others. What follows is too much effort to waste on substandard prose. Refuse to be part of the Tsunami of Crap.
B. Seek help. You cannot accomplish as good a result solo as you will achieve with multiple sets of eyes and an editor whose experience and interpretations differ from your own.
C. The content edit: An initial evaluation is made at a normal reading pace through the draft one chapter at a time, evaluating the plot and identifying any areas needing clarification or rewrites before more detailed attention is applied to the manuscript.
D. Research: This involves the confirmation of anything (fact, name, event, date, likelihood etc.). Continuity and time synchronization issues are resolved. Any potential snags that remain unresolved are diagnosed. Following the first two phases, any deficiencies identified are addressed before the heavy lifting begins in the following stage.
E. Primary editing or the main edit is undertaken chapter-by-chapter and one scene at a time. Focus is on grammar, paragraph structure and achieving a varied sentence structure. Before starting, the scene is scanned for paragraph structural variety. Changes are applied in economical fashion. Within a paragraph, sentence structure also scanned in similar fashion to assure structural variety. Grammar is edited following standards from the Purdue OWL, then grammarbook.com, then the Chicago Manual of Style. When in doubt, avoiding reader confusion wins out.
Initially, this took place on double-spaced hard copy. That technique allows the pass-through of too many errors—particularly when it comes to proper comma usage—thereby slowing progress in later proofreading stages. The reason for this is that the red ink of the markups makes the final read-through much more difficult, as discovered once we transitioned to MS Word’s Track Changes feature. Track Changes also doubles the page-per-hour output of the editor.
F. Word checks are completed scene by scene. Word use, compound words, and word combinations involving hyphen or comma use are confirmed. Definitions and spelling are checked if necessary.
G. Evaluation and read-through is done in one sitting of the entire chapter at normal reading speed. A scan is conducted for repeated words or ideas. Final edits are marked and addressed. As with each draft and stage, a properly titled copy of the manuscript is retained as is and marked DO NOT MODIFY to act as a backup. Entire scenes can be and have been selected and deleted accidentally here while conducting word counts.
H. The title is then given an audio proofread in text-to-speech software. This technique is excellent for exposing any need to substitute words to avoid repetition or to smooth presentation. And, yes, it also catches errors that “brain fill” has let slip past previous efforts.
I. Electronic formatting follows, allowing a device emulator proofread. This stage was initially omitted and resulted in the embarrassment mentioned in regard to my first title. DEP allows us to review the manuscript in a different font and page layout, and that will sometimes highlight a needed change unnoticed in word processing screens.
J. Paperback formatting follows, with a review of the entire hard copy proof. Think all errors are gone by this stage? Guess again. Differing the layout can again show one new areas to address.
K. Beta reading emphasizes error reporting via [anomaly] near [searchable phrase] and includes the return of a feedback form. Here, we can hope for a clean read.
L. The final, most intolerable phase of editing is correcting discovered post-publication errors. I’m proud to report that, in the months since the release of Killing Doctor Jon, this step has so far proven unnecessary. Should an error be found in the future, past experience tells me that I can have it corrected and the new version uploaded to all major distributors within an hour. Let’s see the Big Six pull that off.
Three titles and forty-nine five-star reviews later, I am beginning to think that we are on to something. Jon’s Trilogy has amassed 98% of the Amazon stars available in customer ratings, and I know that quality assurance is part of the reason why. My readers have said as much.
Choose to Love. -DA