I began my newspaper career in the 1970s, as a copy runner at the Liverpool Echo. It was the days of hot metal, typewriters, Chinagraph pencils and shouts of “Copy up!”
We sent typewritten sheets through suction tubes, from the subs room to the comps, and although I was just a tiny cog, I felt very much a part of putting the paper to bed.
The previous two paragraphs contain many processes and phrases that will sound unfamiliar to a whole generation of readers. Which is why they’re so important. Authenticity is a vital ingredient to any novel – even if absolutely everything is made up, the reader needs to believe in it if they’re to engage with your work.
Research and more research, checking and more checking – both are vital parts of an author’s toolbox. But familiarity can leave room for mistakes – and that’s where a new set of eyes is so important. Historical novelists have a particularly tough job and so do their editors and proofreaders, whose job is to keep things on the straight and narrow.
How many times have you hit the send button on an email or Tweet, then spotted a glaring error and kicked yourself? As a reviewer and a plain and simple book reader I’ve seen things to make me cringe – and I’m sure you have too. Even after a book has been checked by countless pairs of eyes, errors can still slip through the net and you wonder if it was even checked in the first place. Recently I started reading a novel which mentioned Coco Channel perfume. At first I thought it was a pun, then after it was mentioned three times in the first few chapters, I realised it was a spelling mistake, pure and simple. How did this get through? I’ve no idea but it was just one example of errors in a book that was riddled with them and eventually, in frustration, I gave up reading it and moved onto something else.
Cutting out the proofreading process is false economy, and error-filled text will lose you readers and probably garner unfavourable reviews too. In a world filled with new book releases and unknown authors, surely you want your work to be seen in the best light?