Reading Backwards

I’ve spent the better part of the past two days going through, line by line, the final page proofs of a novel which will be released later this year.

All told, I have read this book ten times. The first time I read it as it was being sent to me in parts – chapter by chapter – from a then un-agented writer with dreams of publication. What a difference a year makes.

I’ve lost count of how many edits it’s been through, but the stack of paper sitting in front of me represents countless hours of hard work and attention to detail.

When I received an email from the author asking if I would help with the final proofreading, I was a bit surprised this would be necessary. As I’ve said, I have read and re-read this book several times, and I’m not the only one. People who actually know what they’re doing – people like published authors, agents and professional editors have read through it as well.

But this was it. The last chance to catch any errors before it goes to press. So, I tried a novel approach (pun intended). I read the book backwards.

It was near perfect. A few very minor typos somehow missed in all the previous readings. I think reading it backwards forced me to read the words rather than the story.

Because when a wonderful story is written, we tend to get caught up in it. We see what we want to see. We’re mesmerized and taken away from the day to day. That’s what a good story should do. Reading it backwards forced me to take a more critical eye to the details, the imperfections I missed while I was following the story.

But it also did something else. It made me see the beauty of the small moments, which when strung together by the pen of a great storyteller combine to make the whole of the book more meaningful and compelling.

Such is life.

Each day we have the opportunity to turn the page. We can look back, recognize the flaws and try to correct them, Remembering our lives are made up of small moments, of different chapters. We can learn to live in the moments as the story unfolds. It’s best not to skip ahead or attempt to find out what lies ahead.

Because our stories are still being written. And the Master Storyteller has already assured me of my Happily Ever After.


Speaking of writers, Part Two of Billy Coffey’s interview by Linda Yezak will be posted on Author Culture today. Y’all should check it out.

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19 Responses to “Reading Backwards”

  1. shrinkthecamel March 16, 2010 at 6:21 am #

    >Reading backwards? That takes a special skill, I'm sure! At work I never hand out a copy of presentations any more, because there are one or two people who immediately skip ahead to see how it ends. Why not enjoy each moment, and watch the story unfolding? Next time I plan to purposefully put the material together in backwards order, so when they skip ahead, they will be at the beginning.

  2. ~*Michelle*~ March 16, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    >How comforting that our lives are written by the Great Author……

    …..and I love the assurance of "Happily Ever After"

    great post!

  3. Billy Coffey March 16, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    >Dang, that sounds like a great book. Snort!

  4. Billy Coffey March 16, 2010 at 9:48 am #

    >But seriously, thanks for all your hard work and all you've done.

  5. Kathleen March 16, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    >It's like turning something upside down to draw it or reading a different version of scripture. Fresh and new again. Loved the metaphor of this post for life.

  6. Marty Duane March 16, 2010 at 11:08 am #

    >What a great thought! That must be one amazing book if you can read it backwards!

    And what an interesting metaphor!

  7. ♥ Kathy March 16, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    >I edited a book for my english teacher when I was in high school and she told me to read it backwards. I like how you made that about life!

  8. Cassandra Frear March 16, 2010 at 11:27 am #

    >I am going to do this with my book when it's time! I love this idea!

  9. Maureen March 16, 2010 at 11:42 am #

    >Excellent post, Kathy.

    Having worked as an editor all my professional life, I can say that having your eyes on the blueline was a right smart move by Billy.

    I hadn't realized until your re-post of Billy's first post for you how amazing his writing journey has been. When I first found him through you, I thought you'd known each other for years and years. What a difference a year makes, indeed!

  10. jasonS March 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    >Great post, Kat. I like this a lot. 🙂

  11. Frisbies Forever March 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    >My FAVORITE post!

  12. Bridget Chumbley March 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm #

    >What an idea! I know that when I'm engrossed in what I'm reading I tend to overlook a lot.

    You and Billy are blessed to have found each other. Great post, Kathy.

  13. Mary Aalgaard March 16, 2010 at 5:50 pm #

    >Did you actually start with the last word and read in reverse, or did you start at the last chapter, then the next to last, etc? I like skipping around when I reread something. And, when I pick up a book, I'll sometime just open a page to see if the inside is captivating. (My mom reads the last page!)

  14. Amy Sorrells March 16, 2010 at 8:46 pm #

    >Wow, what a "novel" idea, katdish! Loved this post. And your heart for writers and writing. You and your gifts of encouragement and compassion are so precious. So glad the Great Author stuck us in the chapters of life together.

  15. Laura March 16, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    >Daggone it. When are we going to get to read it??

  16. katdish March 17, 2010 at 8:01 am #

    >Brad – You should do that. I've never been one to skip to the end. Feels like I ruin the story if I do.

    Michelle – Yes. Somedays I really cling to that Happily Ever After.

    Billy – your self-editing skills made the job much easier, and you're welcome.

    Kathleen – Very much like turning something upside down to draw it. Gives it new perspective.

    Marty – It is an amazing book. I get something new each time I read it.

    Kathy/Cassandra – It does force you to slow down and be deliberate about what you're doing. Such as life.

    Maureen – Sometimes it seems like we've known each other for years, and thanks for your kind words.

    Jason/Frisbies – Thanks, and thanks for stopping by.

    Bridget – Yes. Blessed is a good word. Thanks.

    Mary – Last chapter. I don't think I could read anything THAT backwards.

    Amy – Thanks. I'm very grateful for you, too my friend.

    Laura – November. But I'm hoping to get some info about pre-orders soon. I'll let you know.

  17. JML March 17, 2010 at 9:19 am #

    >Hindsight is 20/20, right? I think it is hard to see everything for what it is when we're going through it. Great analogy, and wow, I'm not convinced I'd have the patience to do that.

  18. Kenny Silva March 21, 2010 at 6:44 pm #

    >What a wonderful reminder to appreciate the individual parts of our own lives. It's the whole 'not being able to see the forrest for the trees' concept. The moments make up the whole. Great post! 🙂

  19. CindyW March 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    >Reading backwards! Hurray! I'm a backward reader too. I've been doing this since college. Nice to meet you.

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