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Clear Writing – No. 5

PROOFING!  Proofing.  proofing?

One of the hardest professions in the world is to become a successful writer. The lingering difficulties we fight against are criticism, proofreading, and our self-esteem, which can be our greatest nemesis.

Let me address each issue one at a time.

First, let me say to each of you that we often forget how to make failures work for us. Each time someone offers you good advice, and I emphasize good advice, we get so caught up in our failures that instead of using the opportunity this advice affords we have a pity party.

Please don’t hear me say that you shouldn’t be disappointed or that you should suppress healthy emotional reactions. But to stay in a state of pity because things didn’t go right the first time is to rob you of victories just over the horizon.

Criticism, however, has to be good criticism. Too often, I find editors, especially those we pay hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars, don’t always spell it out for us. They leave too much to the imagination. But don’t think for a minute you and I are off the hook because of this. Our writings are our responsibility, no matter what.

Keep things in perspective. The purpose of criticism is to get your writing from Point A to Point B. Without it, you are planted at the ground level forever. Your adherence to criticism quickly places you in the pool with the big guys. So, the next time you are critiqued, have a tantrum for twenty-four hours then get back to work. Determine if the criticism is valid, and if so, don’t forget to implement appropriate changes.

Proofreading seems to be the easiest of the three, but the most flawed. After you’ve submitted a manuscript, how many times have you gone through it an hour later and found a host of mistakes. All of us have committed or will commit this infraction at some point. IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD! However, to commit this infraction with a great deal of consistency is considered lazy. Your manuscript is the only piece of material that represents who you are as a writer. The editors, literary agents, and publishers have no other way to evaluate your capabilities as a writer than your manuscript. Are you really willing to submit a manuscript you haven’t spent twice as much time proofing as you did writing it?

Self-esteem issues can cast a writer into a state of depression. All writers have hit the walls of depression at some point in their writing career. Self-esteem can be described by one word: CHOICE. We either choose to stay in the ring and FIGHT! or we throw in the towel.

I have self-esteem crashes at least twice a day. Some are worse than others. I’m constantly picking myself up off the floor. Why? Glad you asked. I keep getting up because I’m passionate about writing. There are three things I LOVE in this life. My God. My family. And writing. I have waited too long to be in this position to let go now. I have raised my children, pampered my husband (he’s such a big baby), and I serve God no matter what state I’m in. Some people work an eight-hour job. Some people work half a day and make millions. A few have inherited their monies and don’t have to do anything but whine about having nothing to do. YOU AND I WRITE. We are no more or less important than anyone else. If we don’t write, we’d do something else. Trust me, we’d be miserable doing something else, but we’d be doing something else just the same.

Each of us has to develop good proofreading skills. We don’t wake up one day with this ability sharp and ready to go. This skill must be practiced over and over again until we develop a sharp eye for it.

With that in mind, I’ve taken sentences from a short story I wrote several weeks ago and used them as examples. I hope these examples will help you better proof your work.

Example 1:  She took her time and examined each dark portal as best she could until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

Correction:  She took her time and with care examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

After I thought this sentence through, I realized with care means the same thing as “She took her time.” How redundant. So I changed it to read:

Correction:  She took her time and examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.

OR you can say:  “With care she examined each dark portal until she spotted a mysterious man going in and out a door on the first floor.”

Notice how the word count decreased in this sentence. When you are making feverish attempts to pare down your wording, these are the things you look for in your writing. ALSO notice that I left out “in and out of a door” on purpose. OF isn’t necessary, so I purposely left it out.

Example 2:  We could use you in a supervisory role.

Correction:  We need you in a supervisory role.

Example 3:  Earlier, he couldn’t get warm; now he felt hot.

Correction:  Earlier, he was cold; now he felt hot.

Example 4:  Katherine exhaled slow and easy as she rested against the seat. When she looked at him again, he had joy in his eyes.

Correction:  Katherine looked at the joy in his eyes.

Don’t forget to jot down frequently used words and phrases that you used in your manuscript. Do a word search and reword these sentences.

Happy Writing! . . . and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!!!

Go out on a limb and share with us the mistakes you’ve made with your manuscript. Also, share tips that you think we can all benefit from.


  1. Karen Jones says:

    Need advice, my first book was all over the place. It’s Okay I’m still work in progress.


    • dcomeaux says:

      Karen, I’d be happy to help you and share all that I know. You can either send me a copy of your book or you can type up the first chapter. I’ll go through it and share all that I know. Let me know if this works for you.

      Love you!


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