Archive - editing RSS Feed

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.