I appreciate my beta readers, critique group, editors, and proofreaders. They help me spot things that are hiding in plain sight in my manuscripts. I can read and reread chapters and miss mistakes. Here are some steps I use when I’m self-editing to make sure that I catch as many of these little gremlins as possible.
Always run a spell check after any edits are done. This gets rid of most of the run of the mill typos.
I keep a list of words that I overuse (e.g. was, were, that, just). I do a search and destroy for these.
Every time there are major edits, I print out a copy of the WIP. I find more errors when I proofread on paper than when I do reading the on-screen version.
Sometimes, I’ll use a particular character’s name or the corresponding pronoun too many times (especially in the same paragraph). When I print the WIP, it’s easier to spot repetitive words.
I check character names (especially if I changed a name during the editing). Look for alternative spellings of names too (e.g. Marcia/Marsha; Steven/Stephen). I write two series with female sleuths, and I’ve been known to use the wrong character name in the WIP. I do a quick search to make sure I didn’t make that mistake again.
Create a chart of all your character names and locations. This helps me keep names straight, so I don’t have three Bob’s in the same book. It also helps me keep details like eye and hair color straight.
I reduce the page view to 25% on my document and check chapter lengths. In the early stages, I’ll end up with a four page chapter and one with twenty page. This helps to keep them about the same length.
During major edits, I reread the first and last paragraph in each chapter to make sure that it grabs the reader. At the end of chapters, you don’t want the reader to decide that it’s a good stopping point. Make them read past their bedtimes.
Go through your WIP and look for mundane dialogue. It’s hard, but you need to cut it. It doesn’t move your story along.
What works for you when you’re proofreading? What would you add to my list?