Doing a final read through

I’m about 100 pages into a final read through of the novel.  This is the fifth(?) draft of the novel, although, quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter which draft it is.

So, let’s see what I’ve done so far:

Draft 1: What I thought was the novel.  (Wrote it from scratch.)

Draft 2: The actual novel.  (Read the first draft, hated it, added about 40K words and rewrote most of the rest.)

Draft 3: My edits to the novel to clear up any issues I noted in Draft 2. (Read the second draft, redlined it, added those edits into the new draft.)

Draft 4: Edits based upon beta feedback.  (Took beta feedback and added character descriptions or cleaned up individual sentences.)

Draft 5: Clean-up edits for grammatical issues that I’m only going to notice if I specifically look for them and name changes.  (Used the find function to locate potential grammar issues and used replace to change some names.)

First, what are the grammatical issues I went looking for in Draft 5?

1. Misuses of “as”

I wrote about this in a prior post.  Everyone has their own opinion on the use of “as.”  I think it’s fine sometimes.  I use a lot of Joe was doing x as Mark did y.  I don’t mind those.  Some would.  I think the bigger issue is if Joe was doing x as he did y and you need to know about y before he can be doing x.

The fix for misusing “as” is to break it into two sentences or use an “and” instead.

To me, there really is a difference between using “as” instead of “and” or instead of creating two sentences.  But I looked at each use of “as” and tried to clean up any that weren’t really necessary.

2. Filtering

I talked about this one in a prior post, too.  I searched for each use of wished, wanted, wondered, thought, saw, realized, knew, could tell, and heard.  I kept some of them and rewrote some of them.  Again, I think it’s ok to use them sometimes, but there were points in my writing where the story was strengthened by removing that filter.

3. Labeling emotions

I looked for situations where I labeled someone’s feelings.  He did x “in anger” or “in frustration” or “with relief” or “with happiness.”  I did a word search for these specific constructions, so I’m sure there are other constructions I used that I missed.  (Another reason for the final read through.)  But I only had two of these.

4. Saidisms

I looked for saidisms that seem to be particular issues for some people.  Hissed, laughed, barked, etc.  One of the lists I have says that you shouldn’t use “replied” or “continued” either.  I do use those, but I didn’t have an issue with the spots where I used them.  I did read through each one, though, just in case.

5. Extraneous words

It doesn’t really bother me, but it seems it does bother some people when you use “stood up” instead of “stood” or “sat down” instead of “sat.”  So, I looked for those.  I also, in the earlier read through tried to find extraneous “that”s or “of”s.

6. Throw away phrases

I tend to have characters say, “Well,…” so I went through and eliminated a lot of those.  Other phrases like that are “of course,” “after all,” etc.

7. There was / It was

I looked at each “there was” or “it was” to see if I could change them.  Again, sometimes I think this is the proper construction to use, so I didn’t twist myself into knots trying to avoid these.  But I did stop on each one and ask if I thought it could be changed.

8. Consistency issues

I have a religious text in the novel, so I had to look for every reference to the text and make sure it was capitalized “appropriately.”  (It’s quite possible my reading of the Chicago Manual of Style is different from my eventual editor’s reading and I didn’t get this cleaned up the way they will ultimately be.)   I had a few titles and such that I checked for consistency as well.

So, if you notice from the steps above, the last time I read the novel from start to finish was after I finished the second draft.  I’ve made a lot of small edits since then.  A sentence change here, a paragraph there, a whole new first section of the first chapter.  And it would be easy to just accept those changes and be done.

But the novel has to flow together as a whole, which is why I needed to do this final read through.

For example, I tweaked the first chapter and in so doing, one sentence in the fourth chapter needed to be changed, too.  But I didn’t see that until I started my read through.

And some of the sentences I “fixed” now don’t read well with the overall tone of the chapter, so I have at least one that I’m changing back.  The sentence itself is grammatically correct, but within the flow of that section, it just doesn’t work.

This is also the point for catching stupid little errors I didn’t see when I had track changes on.  For example, a double period where I’ve deleted a sentence.  Or an extra space where I deleted a word.

I think it’s essential to do this final sit down and read the entire novel once again.  I’m pretty damned sick of it at this point.  I kind of don’t like it anymore.  It reads a little flat to me.  But I have to remind myself that that’s because I’ve been living and breathing this thing for a while now.  Which means I have to refrain from deciding to rip the whole thing apart or throw it away.

I’m just polishing the edges at this point, not trying to craft a new vessel.  (Don’t ask.  I’m bad at analogies sometimes…)  It is what it is, I’m just trying to make it a little prettier.  (And seriously hoping I’m not polishing a turd.  Thanks to my great grandma for that random image…)

Anyway.  I learned this in my “professional” life.  Do a final read through.  No matter how many people have seen it, no matter how many rounds of edits and drafts, you need to read through one last time.

Of course, after I enter in these edits, I don’t think I’ll have it in me to read the novel again.  Not right now.  But I will run spell check at a minimum.  And then, is it possible?  I’ll be DONE!

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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6 Responses to Doing a final read through

  1. Dave Higgins says:

    Well done for pushing through to this point.

  2. Keri Peardon says:

    When I stopped to count, I think I did a total of 10 read-throughs w/ edits before I published my book. (And what’s the first thing my husband does when he reads through the printed copy? Finds a typo!)

    If you’re self-publishing, you’ll have one or two more read-throughs after you format for print and e-book to check the formatting.

    One thing that makes clean up a little bit easier is find and replace. You can search the entire document for two spaces and replace it with just one (all manuscripts/books should only have one space after a period). You can also search for two periods and two commas and replace with just one. And if you’re formatting for e-book, you can search for tabs (which must be replaced with indents) and all the other things that Smashwords tells you you can’t have in your book.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Keri – Any chance you’ve written a post about the process of getting your book ready for self-publishing? I’m not going that route (at least not initially), but would love to link to it in a post if you have written something up.

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