Proof reading? Let Hazel help you

A facebook colleague recently introduced me to a nifty little add-on for Word that has proved to be invaluable when proofreading and editing.  Honestly, I don’t know how I coped without it in the past.

I’m your typical destitute author and because of this, I do my own proof reading and editing.  Actually, I prefer to do it myself and even if I was rich I’d probably still do it.  One of the methods I employ to help me is to read aloud, as this brings a lot of mistakes to your notice that would pass you by when reading silently.  When mother is visiting me on her regular trips up from Cornwall, I read it to her.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a facebook colleague and he told me he finds it helpful to have his computer read his book to him.  When I heard this I was like, “huh?” and he then told me about Wordtalk.  Now, you’ve all no doubt been using this for decades, I’m always the last to know but just in case anyone hasn’t heard of it, it’s fantastic.  It’s an add-on to Word that you can download here.

It will appear on your Word taskbar as Add-Ins.  Click on that and you’ll get the Wordtalk controls.  I have the option of an English speaking chick or an American gal and once you get used to her monotone voice, you will find it amazingly helpful.  For instance, it is programmed to pause slightly at a comma, so I notice right away if I’ve missed one as she drones on forever without taking a break and it sounds totally unnatural.  Put the missing comma in and she takes a breath at just the right place to make your sentence sound just right.  When I read this same sentence aloud myself, I will naturally put this pause in, even without the comma there because subconsciously I know what I meant and how it should sound.

I’m finding that I’m catching a lot of spelling errors and duplicated words that I would skim when reading it myself.  Being a non human without a human  brain to interpret what is meant, all Wordtalk can do is reproduce what is written exactly as it is written, mistakes and all.  This makes the errors much more obvious and easy to correct.

There are some things it can’t cope with and there doesn’t appear to be a way to add to its vocabulary.  For instance, in dialogue I sometimes have my characters say “umm,” when they’re not sure about something.  The Wordtalk gal (Hazel or Zina) doesn’t recognise umm as a word so she speaks the letters individually, “you em em.”  There are a couple of other words I’ve noticed so far that she pronounces strangely but that may be due to differences in English and American English spelling.  It’s not a huge deal though, it’s quite amusing actually.

If you haven’t tried it, download Wordtalk and give it a go.  I recommend it highly.

First of my brand new space opera series to be out soon

I’ve been away from blogging for a while (yeah I know you didn’t even notice I was gone) due to the demands of editing and formatting.

Now that The Lilean Chronicles series is complete, I have the first volume in a brand new space opera series coming out very shortly.  I’ve recently completed the final edits and spent several hours yesterday formatting for smashwords, KDP and then battled with the paperback formatting.  Formatting for paperback always gives me grey hairs but as I do more and more, I get to win the battle more quickly each time.

It’s those damn headers and footers; I  hate them and they hate me.

I’ve found out through trial and error that it’s all down to where you have section breaks and where you have page breaks.  I put all the front matter (title page, copyright notice, dedication) as one complete section with page breaks between the pages and a section break at the end.  Then I put all the chapters as a second complete section, with page breaks at the end of each chapter and a section break after THE END.  Any endpapers (coming soon etc) goes as a third seperate section.

Headers and footers are only required in the actual chapters.  You don’t have page numbers or the book title at the top of the page for instance, on the front matter or the end papers.  I’ve always found that Word keeps putting headers and footers on my front matter when I put it on the chapter section, but then when I remove them from the front matter, they also disappear from the chapters, ARGH..!

Then I happened to find out that the headers and footers have ‘same as previous’ on them by default, which means Word automatically makes them the same as the previous section.  So, if you want them in the chapters, Word will also put them in the previous section (the front matter) because it defaults to ‘same as previous’ all the time.

With me so far?

What you have to do is turn off the ‘same as previous’ thing and then it will just put the headers and footers in the current section.

You must also make sure that the page numbering is also set to start at number 1 (it defaults to 2 sometimes) and that you unclick ‘continue from last section’ and then click ‘number first page’.

It all sounds very complicated and it is, far too bloody complicated but I am determined to get this.  It only took me a couple of hours battling this time.  Hopefully when I release my NaNoWriMo novel in July, I’ll get it right first try.

Now that the formatting is done I just have to wait for my cover art guy to do his bit, although I just found out he has the flu so he may not be well enough to do this one.  I plan to publish within the next two weeks so if he isn’t well enough I’ll be doing it myself.  Thankfully he’s taught me so much over the last four books that I feel pretty confident I can do a front cover without a problem.  I’ve been doing digital fan art for ages and this particular cover is a simple design; just one complete photo with text for the title and author name.

I hope he’s recovered by July as my NaNoWriMo novel cover is quite a complicated one..!